Goretti, Maria, St.

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Martyr; b. Corinaldo (Ancona), Italy, Oct. 16, 1890;d. Nettuno (Roma), Italy, July 6, 1902. Maria, or Marietta as she was familiarly known, was born of poor, pious parents. Luigi, the father, moved with his family to Colle Gianturco in the region of the Pontine marshes and in 1899 to Ferriere di Conca, where he lived as a tenant farmer on the estate of Count Mazzolini. In 1900 Luigi died, leaving his wife Assunta with six small children. While the mother labored in the fields, Maria took care of the household. She never had the opportunity to attend school and was unable to read or write. The pious young girl received her first Communion May 29, 1902. The neighboring Serenelli family had a son Alessandro, aged 19, who sought in vain to seduce Maria and threatened her with death if she revealed his designs. On July 5, 1902, Alessandro entered the Goretti home with a dagger during the mother's absence. Maria repulsed his advances and told him: "No, God does not wish it. It is a sin. You would go to hell for it." The youth then stabbed the girl repeatedly. She died the next day in the hospital at Nettuno after forgiving her murderer. Many miracles were reported at her tomb. For some years Alessandro was noted by the prison authorities for his surly, brutal disposition. When he eventually repented, he attributed his conversion to the intercession of his victim. After his release from prison he worked to advance her cause for beatification. Maria was beatified April 28, 1947, and canonized June 24, 1950, at a ceremony held (unprecedently) in St. Peter's Square and attended by some 250,000 persons, including the saint's mother. Maria's remains repose in the church of Our Lady of Grace in Nettuno.

Feast: July 6.

Bibliography: m. c. buehrle, Saint Maria Goretti (Milwaukee 1950). a. macconastair, Lily of the Marshes: The Story of Maria Goretti (New York 1951)

[m. c. buehrle]