St. Maria Goretti is the youngest saint.
Maria was born into a poor family near Ancona, on the east coast of Italy. By the time she was 6 years old her family had lost everything, and her father moved them near Nettuno, about 40 miles south of Rome in hopes to establish a viable living situation for his family of seven.
They were yet so poor that they were forced to share a dwelling with another family. Unfortunately, Maria’s father died from malaria when she was 9 years old. It fell to Maria to raise her younger siblings, cook and do other household chores while her mother worked in the fields.
At some point during this period, the son of the other family in the dwelling, 20-year-old Alessandro Serenelli, developed a fixation for Maria. He would say crude things to her and made several attempts to molest her. She successfully avoided his advances but never told anyone because he had threatened her life.
When she was 12, Alessandro tried to force himself on her and again she fought him off saying, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!”
Enraged, Alessandro stabbed her several times then fled. When her mother found her, she was rushed to a nearby hospital, but the wounds got infected. The doctors were amazed she was alive. She briefly regained consciousness and her last words were, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli … and I want him with me in heaven forever.”
Alessandro was apprehended and admitted the attack but said that Maria successfully rebuffed his advances and died a virgin. He remained unrepentant for the crime until, while in prison, he had a dream that he was in a garden and Maria gave him some lilies thate immediately burned his hands. Upon his release from prison 27 years later, Alessandro begged forgiveness from Maria’s mother. He said, “If my daughter can forgive him, who am I to withhold forgiveness?”
Maria is considered a martyr because she died attempting to preserve her chastity. More importantly, she forgave her attacker, which, as Alessandro experienced in his dream extended beyond her death.
Maria was beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1947. She was canonized in 1950. Alessandro was present in St. Peter’s Square for the ceremony and later became a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini from: “Who is St. Maria?” (2015). In Pilgrimage of Mercy Tour of Major Relics of St. Maria Goretti. Retrieved from https://mariagoretti.com/who-is-st-maria/ and St. Maria Goretti (2020). In Catholic Online https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=78