One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Saint Maria Goretti (1890-1902).

She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the older and somewhat backward members of the class.

On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it,” she cried out. “It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger.

She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack.

Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother.

Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.

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  1. My grand-daughter, Agnes Maria, was born on June 17. It was a difficult pregnancy, and she will have some disabilities. We pray daily for Saint Maria Goretti and Saint Agnes to intercede on her behalf.

  2. St Maria Goretti, please intercede to our Lord Jesus for my teenage daughter, Amanda Rose, that she be healed from polycystic ovarian syndrome and type 1 diabetes.

    Thank you

  3. first time when I heard about Saint Maria Goretti, I felt sick to my stomach, 2 wks later, today I can pray for her intercession. thanks for the opportunity provided by ucatholic.

  4. thank you for the clear story – have known about, but nice to know the facts in a simplified way that is understandable – had never known of Aless. dream about her.

  5. She was also the Only saint to have Her Mother there when Canonized, she is from Corinaldo Italy, (ancona). The town was going to kill the man that hurt her and she said, No dont, I forgive him, and want him in heaven with me. thats why she was sainted, Because she pretty much saved his life.

  6. Happy Feast Saint Maria Goretti – please intercede to Jesus for all my nephews, nieces and their children to lead a holy life and may they be filled with His Grace – Amen.

  7. Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us. Instill the virtues of modesty and chastity and restraint in our young people. Not everyone needs a university degree to attain wisdom, as you did at such a young age. To recognize and condemn the sin and yet love the sinner. Teach us how. Heal us. Amen.


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