Yesterday, we celebrate the memory of St Maria Goretti, a remarkable girl whose simple faith enabled her to gain the crown of being a virgin and a martyr. We are privileged to have her for a brief chat about her life and her faith.
JF: Thank you St Maria for this honour of chatting with you on this particular day for you and for the Church. Would you please tell us a bit about your life?
St Maria: Well, I was born in 1890 at Corinaldo, a small village, some thirty-miles from Ancona. I was one of the five children of my parents Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. My father raised us up by being a farm-labourer.
JF: And did you stay in that same village all your life?
St Maria: No, in 1896, the family moved to Colle Gianturo, near Galiano. But we didn’t stay there for long. We had to move to another place called Ferriere di Conca, close to Nettuno in the Roman Campagna.
JF: I assumed your father might have found work there, so you move?
St Maria: Not exactly, because once we got to our new place of residence, my father was stricken with malaria and shortly later, he died.
JF: Oh I’m sorry to hear that.
St Maria: It was indeed a sorry situation for all of us. As a widow, my mum had to take up his work to the best of her ability.
JF: I can sense that. I can surmise it must have been a very hard struggle for her.
St Maria: Certainly. Every small coin and bit of food had to be looked at twice.
JF: Did you and the rest of your siblings help her to cope up in some ways?
St Maria: We did. In fact I kept on encouraging her to go on, cheering her up to keep up the faith and live.
JF: I assumed by doing just that, your family had coped up quite well of the loss of your father.
St Maria: To some extent yes. But for me, I had to overcome severe trials of faith in my time.
JF: For example, like what?
St Maria: One hot afternoon in July 1902, I was sitting at the top of the stairs in the cottage, mending a shirt, when a cart stopped outside and Alexander, our 18-year old neighbour came running up the stairs.
JF: What was he up to?
St Maria: He seduced me to go to bed with him. But I refused to abide with his evil plan. Knowing that he couldn’t get me, he seized me, pulled me in the bedroom and shut the door behind him.
JF: Were you the only one in the house then? Did you try calling for help?
St Maria: I struggled and tried to call for help. But he strangled me, so my call for help could not really be heard well. But I indicated to him, as I gasped from his strangulation, that I would rather be killed than submit to his evil whims.
JF: Which he brutally did?
St Maria: Yes, he pulled my dress and started to strike me with his long dagger. I sank to the floor, as I continued pleading him to kill me rather than abusing me. I could still recall him plunging his dagger into my back and ran away.
JF: Had there been a witness for this terrible assault to you?
St Maria: That I could not be certain of. But I thought some people might have seen the crime. I could not remember there was an ambulance fetching me, but there must have been, since I woke up in the hospital.
JF: And did you think at that time that you would never really recover from what happened to you?
St Maria: I knew that I would never survive. What held me back was that I was terribly worried of my mother’s welfare as she continued to raise my other siblings.
JF: But you did something remarkable there in the hospital there as well.
St Maria: Well, I received with such joy and welcome the holy viaticum.
JF: And you also expressed your forgiveness to your murderer.
St Maria Goretti disclosed that she was really afraid of Alexander who had made some advancement to her prior to the incident. But she didn’t tell this to anyone, lest she could cause trouble with his family. Twenty-four hours after the assault, Maria Goretti died surrounded by her mother, the parish priest of Nettuno, a Spanish noblewoman and two nuns.
Her murderer Alexander was sentenced to 30 years behind bars, and showed no regrets at all. But one night he dreamed that Maria Goretti appeared gathering flowers and offering them to him. That changed him personally. He was released from prison after serving 27 years there. The first thing he did then was to go and seek Maria’s mother and asked for her forgiveness.
Pope Pius XII beatified here on April 27,1947. The beatification ceremony was such a remarkable event since the Pope appeared on the balcony of St Peter’s later, accompanied by the then 82-year old Assunta Goretti [Maria’s mum], her two sisters and her brother. Three years after she was beatified, she was canonized as St of the Catholic Church by the same Pope, before the biggest crowd ever assembled for a canonization.