Maria Goretti, her mother, and siblings struggled to make ends meet. They lived in Ferrier di Conca, Italy. Maria was responsible for cooking, cleaning, and taking care of her younger sister while the rest of her family was out working. Despite their struggles, the family was tight-knit and loved God.
In 1902, when Maria was only 11, she was sewing when her neighbor and close family friend, Alessandro, came into the house. This 20-year-old was impurely attracted to her and been making crude comments to her for a couple of months. Previously, he tried to steal her virginity and threaten to be violent towards her if she did not agree. She was extremely careful to avoid being alone with him, in fear of what he might do to her. On this day however, Alessandro knew that her family would not be home for a while and went to try to pressure her again.
When he tried to rape her, she screamed that it was a mortal sin and that it is not God’s will. Tired of hearing that, he began choking her. Young Maria said that she would rather die than submit to his wish. Alessandro pulled out a knife and stabbed her fourteen times, and fled.
Her family found her bleeding and rushed to the closest hospital where she underwent surgery without anesthesia. At one point, her surgeon asked her to think of him in paradise. Maria, not knowing how bad the injuries were, said they didn’t know who would go first. When the surgeon said it would be her, she graciously agreed to think of him.
Shortly after her surgery and close to death, she forgave Alessandro and said she wished to see him in heaven.
Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prision. Maria appeared to Alessandro in his jail cell about six years after her death. She handed him 14 lilies one by one, which is the flower of purity. He was filled with the Holy Spirt and vowed to change his life. When he was released from prision, he was a new person. First he went to Maria’s mother and begged for her forgiveness. She said if her daughter could forgive her killer than she certainly could too. He lived the rest of his life as a humble, Franciscan lay brother and saved many souls though his past sins.
Alessandro and Maria’s mother were both at the ceremony to declare Maria Goretti the youngest canonized saint in the Catholic Church. More than half a million people came to the ceremony in 1950, which was the largest canonization up until that point in time and had to take place outside of St. Peter’s Basilica because of the vast amount of people.