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Saint Maria Goretti – A True Testimony of Pardon
Saint Maria Goretti
A True Testimony of Pardon
At 11 years, 6 months and 20 days, Maria Goretti, known as Marietta…went to the sky, forgiving her murderer, Alessandro Serenelli. The young girl, although fragile in figure, had a strong soul.
Born in Corinaldon, Italy on the 16th of October 1890, at 9 ½ years of age her father died of malaria, leaving her mother alone and with children to bring up. Worried about how she was going to cope, Marietta would often assure her mother “Do not worry, the Lord will look after us. You will see, we will do it. You take the place of father in the fields and I will try look after the house.”
Growing up, Marietta understood very well the presence of God in her life and would often quote her father’s phrase “God sees and provides.” She took care of her brothers and sisters, showing great love and compassion for her siblings.
“With all my heart, I forgive him. I want him with me in Heaven.”
Birth house of Saint Maria Goretti
From a young age Marietta had a longing to make her Holy Communion but her mother would remind her how young she was and of the fact that she could neither read nor write. A determined Marietta began to attend lessons, which she did with great zeal and would return home after each lesson and recount to her siblings what she had learned.
Sanctuary of Madonna dell’Incancellata (where the young Marietta would come to pray)
The day of her communion soon arrived but the morning began dramatically with her young brother crying as she did not have nice shoes. She responded to Angelo, “Angelo, don’t worry. The Lord does not look at our shoes, he looks at our hearts.” Marietta understood the important thing was not how we dress ourselves but rather how we dress our heart, how we welcome others and how we welcome God. Holy Communion for Marietta was a Heavenly experience.
Her family shared the same house as Giovanni and Alessandro Serenelli, father and son, both of whom were hardworking people. Being 8 years his junior, Marietta was like the young sister Alessandro never had, however as the years went by Alessandro began to look at Marietta in a different way and was not shy in letting his thoughts and feelings be known to her. Marietta on the other hand rejected his advances declaring to Alessandro that “God did not want this. It is a sin." A persistent Alessandro however ignored the words of Marietta and continued to make advances on
her. Marietta each time would become even more adamant and determined however, even though upset by the situation she remained silent about the behaviour of Alessandro, for fear that he would gain a bad reputation within the community.
On the afternoon of the 5th of July 1902 whilst working, Alessandro spotted Marietta alone sitting on the steps of the house. Using the occasion to seize the opportunity, Alessandro entered the house, found a spear and dragged Marietta into the house.
Maria Goretti – family home
Alessandro, although a grown man of 20 years, was forced to use all his strength however the young and fragile Marietta fought to keep him off, declaring to him “No Alessandro, you will go to hell, you will destroy yourself.” Marietta from her heart wanted the best for Alessandro and did everything to try to make him realise that what he was doing was bad. Alessandro finally grabbed the spear and hit her fourteen times.
Marietta attracted the attention of her young sister Teresa and was taken to the hospital in Nettuno where she endured a two-hour operation, without anaesthetic.
The only words that left Marietta’s mouth was her request for the invocation of Our Lady. As soon as the operation was over her mother Assunta would ask the doctor if Alessandro had succeeded in what he had wanted to do however the doctor assured her no.
During the visit of her mother to the hospital the following day Marietta, always concerned about her siblings asked if they were OK and reassured her mother that she was feeling a little better.
Before dying, Marietta’s confessor came to see her. He asked her if she had forgiven Alessandro. Always wishing the best for Alessandro, she declared “With all my heart, I forgive him. I want him with me in Heaven.” Marietta died just after 3pm. So just like Jesus, she forgave before dying. It was clear that Marietta was a saint.
Sanctuary of Saint Maria Goretti, Nettun
Alessandro was condemned to 30 years in prison. The first three years were particularly difficult for him, as he realised more the fact that he had murdered a child! At the end of the third year Marietta appeared to him in a dream, carrying lilies and offering the lilies to Alessandro. She had fourteen lilies, just like the fourteen times he had stabbed her. At this point he understood that Marietta had forgiven him - so much so that he was completely transformed.
Upon his early release from prison, due to good conduct, Alessandro went immediately to Marietta’s mother and family to ask their forgiveness. The mother told him she too had forgiven him.
Alessandro wanted to change his life. He applied and joined the Capuchin community and would spend the rest of his life in the convent. In his final years he experienced poor health and was transferred to the infirmary in Macerata where he died in 1970 aged 88 years. He always said that the pardon of Marietta had saved him, it had transformed him.
Years later his remains were transferred from Macerata to Corinaldo, where Maria Goretti was born, and where can be found the remains of her mother Assunta. Alessandro Serinelli is proof that it is possible to turn the page. This is the message of hope. Maria Goretti is a real testimony of pardon.
Canonisation of Saint Maria Goretti with Maria’s mother, Assunta.
Maria Goretti was beatified by Pope Pius XII at St. Peter’s Basilica on the 27th of April 1947 and three years later was declared a saint. Present at the canonisation ceremony was her mother, Assunta - the first mother ever to attend the canonisation ceremony of her child.
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