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The Catholic Defender: The Saint Maria Goretti Story

One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write.

When Maria made her First Communion not long before her death, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class.

On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature.

A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, 18-year-old Alessandro, ran up the stairs.

He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it,” she cried out. “It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger.

Maria was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family), and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack.

Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother.

Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her 82-year-old mother, two sisters, and her brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at Maria’s canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.

The following is written by K.V. Turley

"The relics of St. Maria Goretti are displayed for veneration on Sept. 25, 2015, during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Maria Goretti was born on Oct. 16, 1890. She was also born into poverty. At that time her peasant parents were like so many others then living in remote parts of Italy. Hard work in even harsher conditions allowed them to feed themselves and those they loved, but little else.

The Gorettis loved all their seven children — these were their most precious possessions. In Maria’s case, by all accounts, she was easy to love, a sweet-natured child.

The family moved, and then moved again, this time in 1899 to the Pontine Marshes. Economic necessity dictated each move; it was never their choice, but then these were people of a class with few choices. The new home the family established there was to be shared with others — another poor farmer and his adolescent son, Alessandro.

Life continued to be hard, work equally so. The family barely survived. Then tragedy struck: Maria’s father died. There was no time for mourning — not publicly, anyway. Maria’s mother took up the role of the family’s provider and went to work as her husband had done before. Maria was now also handed a role, that of carer for the younger children.

She did not complain, even if she was barely 10 years old. Perhaps, it was not so surprising after all for this little girl to have undertaken such an adult role. Her childhood was to be unlike many others. It was pointed out later that in her 11 short years she had never owned any form of doll as a toy.

She had little by way of education. Poverty was to be her teacher. At that time her social class had at least some of the fundamentals — reading, writing, basic arithmetic; she did not even have these. It was to be of little consequence though except that is in one regard: Holy Communion. Until she could demonstrate an understanding of the sacrament and its theology, even if in its most basic form, she would not be allowed to receive. The resolve she was to show in overcoming this is touching.

This 11-year-old child convinced her mother of her ability to both complete her many chores and also to go to the priest in a nearby village for instruction, walking there and back alone. Soon she achieved her goal. The local parish priest commented later on how well Maria had learned her lessons and how deeply she understood what was being entered into.

She was to receive Holy Communion only a handful of times during her life. Yet her ardor for the Blessed Sacrament was fervent, her preparation meticulous, her conduct impeccable both before and after. She was older than the other children who were also present to make their First Holy Communion at the church. She was dressed differently too. Whereas the others were resplendent in their white dresses, Maria’s mother could not afford such luxury.

Instead, the child was to wear jewelry previously given by her father to her mother on their wedding day. For the first and last time in her life the child wore jewels as she processed into the church where she would receive an altogether richer prize than even that which she wore. On that day, May 29, 1902, and unknown to anyone then watching, another “jewel” was being raised above her head, one with which she was soon to be crowned. The “jewel” in question was a mystical one, however — the crown of martyrdom.

In an altogether different sense, there was another who watched her every move. Who would try to be alone with her; who would say strange things to her; who would invite actions that even in her innocence she knew to be wrong. But still he persisted; still, she resisted. No one knew of her anguish. No one knew of his devilish intent. It was only a matter of time, he reckoned, and awaiting his opportunity, sat alone in his room reading things and looking at images that further poured oil on the infernal fires already raging inside his fevered mind. Alessandro was right — it was only a matter of time, and it came in the middle of a hot July day in 1902.

Alone with no one around, he threatened her with a knife. She showed no signs of yielding to his demands. He stabbed her repeatedly. He left her to bleed on the kitchen floor. She cried out and was found by her mother. Neighbors were called and she was taken to a local hospital.

She died slowly and painfully of her wounds. As she did so, she identified her killer, and forgave him. A priest gave her the Last Rites. Police arrested Alessandro. He denied everything. Soon after, he was tried and imprisoned, the charge of murder being proven.

That should have been the end of the matter. The victim laid to rest; the killer found, tried and jailed.

Nevertheless, that was not to be the case. In fact, what happened next was even more curious still, as now the principal players were to be reunited once more, and in a most unlikely manner.

On Christmas Eve, 1937, a presbytery door was knocked. The widow housekeeper, as she was by then, as usual went to open it. On that cold December night, she found herself looking into the eyes of the man who had killed her daughter. Those eyes reawakened memories of the wounds inflicted on that now distant summer day, wounds she had carried with her for almost 36 years. Now he was stood in front of her against the backdrop of one of the darkest nights of the year, but also one of the holiest. He asked to speak to her. Reluctantly, she bade him enter …

The story he told was extraordinary. Sent to prison, he showed no remorse. For years he would have nothing to do with anyone, preferring to remain in his prison cell, filling his mind with the same poison that had prompted his evil actions in the first place. Both warden and chaplain despaired. There appeared no hope for a soul such as Alessandro, existing now as he did in his own private hell. From a very different place, however, there was one who had never stopped praying for him.

One night, bathed in light, she appeared to him. It was his victim, before his eyes once more. She was dressed in white and in her hands held lilies. She offered one of the flowers to him …

This was the vision he recounted to the prison warden, who was as surprised at the change in this prisoner in front of him as much as in what he said.

Now, Alessandro confessed all, and he begged forgiveness for his crime. In a short time, he became a model prisoner — obedient, helpful, hard-working. Just like some years previously a child had been with her mother on the Pontine Marshes. And like his victim — or was it through her gift — he returned to the practice of his faith. More than that, he became devout. Unconvinced, those in charge watched for this new man to falter, to return to his former self. He never did. In fact, despite being in prison he was freer now than he had ever been.

That night, as Midnight Mass commenced at the shrine of the slain child martyr, knelt side by side were her mother and her murderer. Both had carried the Cross, if in very different ways. Both had known suffering, and both had had their lives changed forever through knowing Maria Goretti. Both now watched at the altar as the candles were lit in remembrance of the Child, and of the Light that had come into the world … a Light the darkness could not overpower."

Pope Pius XII once wrote, “It is often said almost with passive resignation that fashions reflect the customs of a people. But it would be more exact and much more useful to say that they express the decision and moral direction that a nation intends to take: either to be shipwrecked in licentiousness or maintain itself at the level to which it has been raised by religion and civilization.”

It does not take long for anyone today to see how the Western culture has declined attacking religion, family, and society. Young people imitate whom they admire and they grow towards those whom they imitate.

Why is the media silent concerning the dangers of sexually transmitted disease, why does the media support left wing agendas such as abortion and homosexuality?

Yet, we see an attack on religious faith in America.

Little Jacitna of Fatima quoted the Virgin Mary saying, “Fashions will much offend our Lord. People who serve God should not follow the fashions”. Jacinta also said, “The sins which cause most souls to go to hell are the sins of the flesh”.

This was given to her by the Blessed Virgin Mary who appeared to the Children of Fatima.

When you do a study about domestic violence, especially violence directed towards women, they become a random statistic.

Every 2 minutes someone is sexually assaulted in the United States, 44% of them under the age of 18. 80% under the age of 30. After watching a few episodes of ID, this is a horrific problem that is essentially a spiritual problem. People are in essence walking dead.

There is something to say about the effect of pornography and immodest dress. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27).

One of the greatest role models in the early 20th century was a young girl named Maria Goretti. She was a 12 year old girl who was brutally murdered by Alessandro Serenelli.

Maria Goretti’s Father had a lumber business with a partner, who had a son, Alessandro Serenelli, who was 20 years old at the time of the murder.

Maria’s Father had died and her Mother tried to hold up the business when Alessandro began to make sexual advances toward Maria, each time refusing him.

On July 5, 1902, Alessandro attacked Maria while she was at home. He tried to sexually seduce her but she refused crying, “No, no, Alessandro, God does not want it. It is a sin. You would go to hell for it”.

Maria had always been drawn to her Catholic Faith, she loved the Lord Jesus Christ. Alessandro stabbed her 14 times and left her there to die. Maria lived through the night and when the Priest asked her what she thought of Alessandro, her last words were: “I forgive him”.

Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison when after 8 years he received a vision of St. Maria gathering lilies in a field. She turned to him and the lilies became radiant and she gave them to him. There were 14 lilies representing her 14 stab wounds.

This so much affected his life that he became a model prisoner and was released from Prison after 27 years time served. Pope Pius XII canonized St. Maria in 1950 with a huge crowd at the Vatican. Alessandro was among the vast throng who were there to honor St. Maria Goretti.

Pope Pius XII gave a stern warning to the world that has proved to be prophetic. The Pope warned that in the latter half of the 20th century, to be a Christian you would have to be a living martyr because the attacks on the family and faith will be so strong.

A great example of this can be seen at the New Hampshire Primary (2012) where former Senator Rick Santorum was speaking before a group of supporters when Gay Activists began to chant him down. Because Rick Santorum is a dedicated Catholic, the media has gone after his Catholic values.

The Obama administration waged war against the Catholic Church in America. Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, another Republican Candidate for President of the United States (2012), referred specifically how the State of Massachusetts because of the Obama mandate for Homosexuals, took away the Catholic Church’s ability to help adoption of children because the Church does not recognize Gay parents.

Even though the Church had helped thousands of Children find homes, more than 50% of any other agency. The attack on religious liberty by the Progressives in our Country is tearing at the fabric of our society.

Unfortunately, many 12 year old girls today admire the likes of Lady GaGa, Madonna, who are far from modest. St. Maria Goretti should be a role model that encourages young people to follow and serve Our Lord Jesus Christ and His holy Catholic Church.

Consider the following two questions,“Girls, have you, in any manner whatsoever, made immodest use of your bodies to draw to yourself attention from the opposite sex?

Boys, have you, by subtle means or otherwise, sought to induce a girl to sin? If so, you have made yourself an instrument of destruction to any soul you have tempted to sin gravely, since grave sin causes a soul to be lost forever (unforgiven-unconfessed in Confession). You have made yourself an actual companion of Satan, who has vowed to destroy every soul, every temple of God, he possible could”.

St. Paul warns, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

In repeating what Pope Pius XII said, “It is often said almost with passive resignation that fashions reflect the customs of a people.” And remember little Jacinta’s warning, “Fashions will much offend our Lord. People who serve God should not follow the fashions”. Jacinta also said, “The sins which cause most souls to go to hell are the sins of the flesh.”

Plato once said, “Musical innovation is full of danger to the State, for when modes of music change, the laws of the State always change with them.” Plato’s Republic: The Theater of the Mind, America is not innocent, we knew what the effect of the Democratic Party and the Obama Administration would be. As a nation, we have chosen the direction our Country is following. We are turning farther and farther away from our Judeo/Christian roots. The President Trump Administration is giving hope this is being redirected, but it will take a generation and the Holy Spirit.

Remember Alessandro, years later, after serving as a Capuchin Monk, would say, “I am an old man, almost eighty, nearing the end of my days. Looking back over the past, I realize how, as a youth, I set out on the wrong road, the way of evil, which led me to ruin. I was persuaded to believe-by what I read in the press, or saw in shows, or noticed in bad example of some-that many young men follow that path without giving it much thought. And I, too, did not let it bother me. There were around me those who believed in and practiced goodness and virtue, but blinded by the brute force which pushed me onto the way of evil, I committed, at the age of twenty, the passionate crime which today fills me with horror just to remember. Maria Goretti, now a saint, was the good angel that Providence had sent before my steps to save me. I still bear, imprinted on my heart, her words of reproof and pardon. She prayed for me. She interceded for me, her murderer. Thirty years in prison followed. Had I not been a minor, I would have been condemned for life. But I accepted my well-deserved sentence, resigned to expiating my sin. Little Maria was truly my light, my protectress. With her help I conducted myself well and tried to live honorably when society again accepted me among its members. The sons of St. Francis, the Friars Minor (Capuchin) of the Marches, with seraphic charity, have received me among them, not as a servant, but as a brother. I have been living with them since 1936. And now I serenely await the moment of my being admitted to the vision of God, of again embracing my loved ones, of being near my angelic protector and her dear Mamma, Assunta. Those who read this letter will, I hope, take from it the lesson of fleeing evil and of always following the good, even from childhood. Let them realize that religion, with its precepts, is something one cannot affort to do without. It is a true comfort and the only secure way in all the circumstances of life, even the saddest. Peace and goodness. Alessandro Serenelli.”

There is so much that Alessandro says in his farewell letter. Some people seem to have to learn the hard way, if they ever learn at all.

One thing that Alessandro says that is so true, we are to avoid evil, to flee from it. 1 Peter 5:8-10 warns, “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world (The Catholic Church) undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To him be dominion forever. Amen."


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