Friday, July 06, 2007

Virgin, Martyr

Near the beaches of Italy, just 35 miles southwest of Rome, lies the shrine containing the holy body of St. Maria Goretti, the youngest saint in the Catholic Church. A person of innocence and a lover of chastity, St. Maria Goretti was murdered at the age of twelve while defending her purity. Her story is well known around the Catholic world: the saint shed her blood in order not to betray the Lord and to protect her assailant from committing a mortal sin. Born in 1890, St. Maria Goretti was a pious girl who prayed the rosary often, and possessed a special affection for the Virgin Mary, and was greatly devoted to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. On July 5, 1902, while her family was working in the fields, a 19 year-old neighbor named Alessandro attacked Maria in her house as he tried to fulfill his wishes. However, as she resisted to protect her purity, she exclaimed, "It is a sin--you will go to hell!" He then stabbed her 14 times, leaving her for dead. Her road to sanctity culminated just shortly before her death on July 6, as she forgave her murderer when she said: "Yes, I forgive him. I want him to be with me in Paradise." Although Alessandro remained unrepentant for many years thereafter, Maria later appeared to him in a dream while he was in prison, offering him white lilies, which subsequently led to his repentance and conversion of heart. He later testified for her beatification. St. Maria Goretti’s mother and Alessandro both attended her historic canonization in 1950.