Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

July 6, 2009

St. Maria Goretti

My apologies to my confirmation saint, Maria Goretti, for a quick, late night post on her feast day.  

The traditional "snippet" of her life: 

Born in Corinaldo, Ancona, Italy, on October 16 1890; her farmworker father moved his family to Ferrier di Conca, near Anzio. Her father died of malaria and her mother had to struggle to feed her children.

In 1902 an eighteen-year-old neighbor, Alexander, grabbed her from her steps and tried to rape her. When Maria said that she would rather died than submit, Alexander began stabbing her with a knife.

As she lay in the hospital, she forgave Alexander before she died. Her death didn't end her forgivness, however.

Alexander was captured and sentenced to thirty years. He was unrepentant until he had a dream that he was in a garden. Maria was there and gave him flowers. When he woke, he was a changed man, repenting of his crime and living a reformed life. When he was released after 27 years he went directly to Maria's mother to beg her forgiveness, which she gave. "If my daughter can forgive him, who am I to withold forgiveness," she said.

When Maria was declared a saint in 1950, Alexander was there in the St. Peter's crowd to celebrate her canonization. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950 for her purity as model for youth.

She is called a martyr because she fought against Alexander's attempts at sexual assault. However, the most important aspect of her story is her forgiveness of her attacker -- her concern for her enemy extending even beyond death. Her feast day is July 6. St. Maria Goretti is the patroness of youth and for the victims of rape.

I originally chose Maria Goretti for her namesake, as I had many female, Italian role models by her name in my own family after whom I wanted to model my life.  In all honesty, I did not give much thought to her in the beginning stages of my adult faith life, although I was conscientiously growing in my religious practices and devotions.  However, a few years ago in prayer, I suddenly *knew* out of the clear blue, that it was St. Maria Goretti who had been interceding for me for a decade to maintain my virginity for the decade or so after my confirmation.  It was as if she let me know, in a moment of prayer about my life and my purity or heart, that it had been she who had been responsible for me.  Since that time, I have begun to appreciate her role in my life even more, and I am drawn to ask for her prayers for victims of sexual assault in my circle of family and friends.  She has so much to offer those who will draw near to her, and she is definitely a kindred spirit of the Magdalene Sisters in heaven! 

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