St. Maria Goretti was born in Corinaldo, Italy, on October 16, 1890. Her father was a farmer and died of malaria when she was young, leaving his wife to support their six children.
Maria took care of her younger siblings while her mother worked. She prayed the rosary every night for the repose of her father’s soul. Her grace, maturity, and cheerful obedience were well known.
On July 5, 1902, a neighboring farm hand, Alessandro Serenelli, tried to rape Maria. He had harassed her many times before, and Maria had repeatedly rejected his advances. This time, Alessandro locked Maria in a room and tried to force himself on her.
Maria fought back, telling Alessandro, “No, this is a sin. God does not want it!” She warned him that this would be the path to hell. When Maria declared that she would rather die than submit, Alessandro angrily stabbed her 14 times.
Maria was found bleeding, and rushed to the hospital. As she lay dying, she forgave Alessandro, saying, “Yes, for the love of Jesus I forgive him…and I want him to be with me in Paradise.”
Although the doctors tried to save her, she died two days later, at only 11 years old.
Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was unrepentant until one night, eight years into his sentence, when Maria appeared to him. She was dressed in white, and gathering lilies in a garden. She turned to Alessandro with a smile and offered him the flowers. Each lily he took transformed into a white flame, and Maria disappeared.
After this, Alessandro converted and was at peace. When he was released from prison three years early, he begged forgiveness from Maria’s mother, which she granted.
Alessandro moved to a Capuchin monastery and worked in the gardens as a tertiary for the rest of his life. He was one of the witnesses who testified to Maria’s holiness during her cause of beatification, citing his crime and his vision in prison.
Many miracles were attributed to Maria after her death. In 1950, she was canonized by Pope Pius XII, and became the youngest Catholic saint officially recognized by name. Maria is the patron saint of purity, rape victims, young women, and youth in general.