July 6, 2006

Feast of St. Maria Goretti

Today (July 6) is the Optional Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, who was murdered 104 years ago.

Her attacker was Alessandro Serenelli, a nineteen-year-old friend of the family.  Serenelli had become a regular user of pornography.  As it always does, the pornography had secretly poisoned his perception of every female he met -- including eleven-year-old Maria.  She tried to avoid his harrassment for several weeks, until July 5, 1902, when Serenelli finally got her alone.

Serenelli was big, but Maria was fierce, and she refused to stop screaming.  He tried desperately to gag her, but she kept saying, Do not touch me.  This is a sin. You will go to hell.  Furious at her refusal and panicked by her screams, Serenelli pulled out a nine-inch blade and stabbed her repeatedly before fleeing.

Maria lived long enough to receive Viaticum.  Before she did, she announced that "for the love of Jesus, I forgive Alessandro.  I want him to be with me in Paradise."

Serenelli was sentenced to thirty years in prison.  As a prisoner, he was worse than ever.  But in 1910, Maria appeared to him in a dream, offering him a gift of white lilies.  With the dream came the grace of conversion.  He served the remaining 22 years of his sentence as a model penitent, and upon his release, he went immediately to Maria's mother to beg her forgiveness and receive Holy Communion at her side.

Maria was canonized in 1950.  Her own mother was present at the canonization -- the only time in history that this has happened.  Also witnessing the event, as a testimony to God's mercy, was a humble old man named Alessandro Serenelli.