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Toronto Catholic District School Board

 
The Life of St. Maria Goretti  
 
 Modified from an article by
 Omar F. A. Gutierrez  on Jul 6th, 2011 
 
 
Maria Goretti, affectionately called Marietta by her family, was born in Corinaldo in 1890 on the Eastern side of Italy. She was one of five children of Luigi and Assunta Goretti. In 1896 the family began to move around a bit, finally settling on the opposite side of Italy, near the port town of Nettuno which sits in the shadow of great Rome. One year after they settled, Luigi (Maria’s father) contracted malaria and passed away.  This left poor Assunta to raise her five children in the new and strange town of Ferriere. Thankfully, she had Maria to help her.
 
Though a good deal of her life before her martyrdom is seemingly veiled – we normally only hear about the end – there is actually a great deal to note. Maria Goretti was afraid that her father’s soul would remain in Purgatory for too long, so she prayed constantly. This habit of prayer led to long, practiced meditation on the Paschal Mystery. The rosary was constantly tied around her wrist since, and she could not go long without praying it. Maria was a diligent daughter who cared for her mother and helped with the other children.
 
With their father gone, it was up to Assunta to work the fields. Maria, only nine years old, cooked and cleaned as a mother would. When there was work to do, she would not go and play, but would rather stick to the chores of the home. We also know that this was not done begrudgingly but rather in a spirit of zealous love for Christ Jesus. It was from Assunta that Maria learned never to sin “at any cost.”
 
Maria was also a girl of strong will. The age for reception of first communion was eleven in those days, and Maria insisted on receiving. Her mother, however, was dead set against it since there was no time for preparation, no money to pay for the proper dress and veil, and no way that Maria could read or write well enough to learn her catechism. Undaunted, Maria found a way and received first communion in May 1902 just a few weeks before her martyrdom. The whole town pitched in to get her the proper attire.
 
Now, when the Goretti family had first moved to Ferriere, Luigi Goretti, Maria’s father, had partnered with Giovanni Serenelli to help share the cropping labor. Giovanni had a son named Alessandro and lived with him next to the Goretti’s. Although they had separate apartments, they shared a common kitchen.  Luigi Goretti was soon to regret this partnership with the Serenelli’s as Giovanni was a drinker and prone to loud and immodest language.
 
Alessandro was the typically depressed young teenager. His mother had died in a psychiatric hospital while he was young. Following his father’s footsteps, he drank too much. Although he was once Catholic, he had fallen away. Alessandro became quickly attracted to eleven year old Maria Goretti and but was unhappy that she did not feel the same way about him. Despite his persistence, Maria did not give in to temptation. This angered Alessandro and one day, on July 5th 1902, his anger got the best of him and he stabbed Maria then ran away.
 
When Maria was found, she was taken to hospital in Nettuno and watched over by the parish priest there, a Spanish noble woman, two nuns, and her mother. In the remaining hours of her life, Maria could only think of where her mother would stay and how she would make out. She forgave Alessandro saying, “Yes, I forgive him and want him to be in Paradise with me some day.” 
 
Alessandro was taken to prison and and sentenced to thirty years in prison. For eight years of his thirty year sentence he was unrepentant. However, one night he had a dream about Maria in which she handed him 14 white lilies. Then she said to him “Alessandro, as I have promised, your soul shall someday reach me in heaven.” And with those words, Alessandro lost the bitterness of soul that had plagued him since youth. He now hoped. He awoke a completely changed man.
 
Alessandro remained in prison for twenty-seven of the thirty year sentence. He was released early due to good behavior. When he left, he traveled to Corinaldo to see Assunta and begged her forgiveness. Following Maria’s example, Assunta forgave him and took him into her home.
 
On June 24, 1950 Pope Pius XII canonized Maria Goretti and she became a saint. It was the first time in history that a mother of a saint was present at her child's canonization.