Friday, July 6, 2007

St. Maria Goretti - Virgin & Martyr

While working at home Thursday, I left EWTN on and was very much pleased with the 60 minute program, Fourteen Flowers of Pardon.

This documentary went through the virtuous life and death of St. Maria Goretti, and the many miracles worked through her.

Maria Goretti was not even twelve years old when she was viciously stabbed 14 times after refusing the advances of a 18-20 year old neighbor, Alessandro Serenelli (each resource varies on his exact age). He made two prior sexual advances without success.

The little girl had quickly built up virtue and wisdom, especially after her father died of malaria. Neighbors said she was obedient and always willing to do the most mundane of chores without complaint. She was devout, stopping in at the nearby parish to pray before the Blessed Mother on her way to the store to get things for her mother. It was on one such trip that she was approached by Alessandro. She boldly told the man who wanted to attack her virginity,

"No, it's a sin! I will not do it!"

On July 5, 1902 the little girl was mortally wounded. After getting stabbed 14 times, Maria Goretti died the next day, on July 6 after much suffering. During that time, this child of God prayed for her attacker and granted him forgiveness before she died.

Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but was unrepentant until he saw Maria in a vision years into his incarceration, in 1910. She presented him with 14 lilies, which he said turned into white flames. Following this vision, he asked to meet with the bishop where he finally told the truth - that the little girl had never given in and that she had boldly protested his advances. This marked the beginning of one of the greatest miracles - the conversion of Alessandro Serenelli.

After serving 27 years he was released and went to the mother of Maria to seek forgiveness. Assunta Goretti said that if Maria had forgiven him, and he was forgiven before Christ, then she had nothing to hold over him. She too forgave Alessandro (both pictured at right). At one point, Assunta Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli approached the Communion rail together. He provided testimony leading to her beatification. While it is known for certain that Maria's mother was present at her canonization, accounts differ as to whether Alessandro was there or not.

Alessandro went on to eventually join a Capuchin monastery as a third order member. On his death bed in 1970 he wrote,
"I ask pardon of the world of the outrage done to the martyr Maria Goretti and to purity. I exhort everyone to keep away from immoral shows, from dangers, from occasions that can lead to sin."

There is something noteworthy here, and that is an apostolate based on Alessandro Serenelli called the Serenellians, which is dedicated to those who suffer from sexual addictions. They use his example and words to help reform their lives. Think about television today with all of the sexual content. Even the suggestive outfits worn by actresses today can make it very difficult for people to use self-control. Just going through a check-out line with cover photos on many popular magazines can be a source of temptation. Add to that the availability of porn on the web. Alessandro Serenelli nails it by saying it is necessary to "keep away" from it all. For some people, it is necessary to turn off the TV, or to stay off the internet.

There were many miracles attributed to St. Maria Goretti for her canonization. She is the youngest canonized saint ever. According to a priest-witness who was present in St. Peter's square, Pope Pius XII was moved to tears as he asked the crowd if they were ready to immitate this saint's life. The footage in the movie was spectacular, as were the many still photos of the family and people involved.

In addition to the documentary which aired yesterday, another is being broadcast today at 6:30 PM EST entitled, Love's Bravest Choice. This docudrama will last 30 minutes and you can catch it on EWTN live TV right on the internet, if you do not have cable or get it locally.

References (recently edited with additional links):

St. Maria Goretti bio at

Alessandro Serenelli bio at

St. Maria Goretti at Catholic-Forum

St. Maria's Messenger (Magazine for girls 10-teens)

St. Maria Goretti - a role model for youth (by Pope John Paul II)

Sermon of Pope Pius XII from St. Maria's Canonization Mass

Writings of St. Maria Goretti and of Alessandro Serenelli

St. Maria Goretti - Pray for us!

Te Deum Laudamus! Home