St. Maria Goretti was born in Corinaldo (Ancona, Italy) on October 16, 1890, the eldest of five children of a family of farmers who for business reasons was forced to relocate to the area of Ferriere Conca in the Pontine Marshes, at Nettuno (Rome). Especially after her father’s death due to malaria in 1900, Maria became the precious and irreplaceable support of her mother in household chores that included the education of her sisters and brothers. Additionally, she attentively and loving cared for children of the neighbouring families when the adults left the house to work in the fields.
Maria grew up loving virtue and with horror toward sin. She persistently asked her mother to make her First Communion which she on June 16, 1901. It was the Eucharist together with daily prayer that gave the young girl the strength to face martyrdom on July 5, 1902.
Not wanting to offend God by sin, he vigorously and willingly opposed the insane sexual demands of Alessandro Serenelli, a young 19-year-old neighbor, who threatened her at knifepoint. With savage fury, Maria was fatally wounded by fourteen stab wounds and was left to die in a pool of blood. The next day she died in the hospital of the city of Netunno, having forgiven her slayer. “For the love of Jesus, I forgive him”, said the heroic girl, “and I want him to be with me in Paradise”. The murderer was released from prison in 1928. He asked forgiveness of the mother of the little martyr and was reconciled with her on Christmas night.
Pope Pius XII declared Maria Goretti “Blessed” in 1947 and in 1950 he canonized her. Present at the canonization was her mother, Assunta, her two sisters and her brother, and also her murderer, Alessandro Serenelli. The body of the young martyr is venerated in the Shrine of the Madonna delle Grazie in Netunno, a destination for many pilgrims and devotees. The Shrine is entrusted to the pastoral ministry of the Passionists who prepared her for First Holy Communion and oversaw the process of her beatification and canonization.
O God, author of innocence and lover of chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we, too, may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.