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440 • Part III. Christian Morality: The Faith Lived

grown in virtue and grace throughout her childhood. She also had a

great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, which she received for the first

time in May of that same year.

Alessandro began stalking Maria and making suggestive advances

towards her, advances that she always unhesitatingly refused. Ultimately,

her refusal sparked him to take matters into his own hands.

On July 5, 1902, Maria—who was not yet twelve years old—was peace-

fully stitching and caring for her little sister, Theresa. Alessandro, who was

eighteen years old, grabbed Maria’s arm, dragged her into the kitchen,

and attempted to rape her. She fought him and pleaded with him to stop,

exclaiming that what he was attempting was a sin forbidden by God. Her

resistance infuriated Alessandro who, after failing to choke her into sub-

mission, stabbed her fourteen times.

Maria was taken to a hospital, where she suffered for an entire day.

Upon gaining consciousness, she fixed her gaze on a statue of the Blessed

Mother that was at the foot of her bed. Before receiving


, she for-

gave Alessandro for what he had done and expressed the desire that he

might join her in heaven. She died of her wounds on July 6, 1902.

Alessandro Serenelli was soon apprehended, convicted, and sen-

tenced to thirty years in prison for his crime. Eight years into his sentence,

Maria appeared to him in a dream. In that dream, Maria gathered lilies,

which she then handed to him. The lilies took on a radiance that assured

him of her forgiveness. This vision led to a conversion, which brought him

into reconciliation with God, the Church, and the Goretti family.

Pope Pius XII canonized Maria Goretti on June 24, 1950. Her mother

Assunta and her murderer Alessandro Serenelli were both present. St.

Maria Goretti has been named the Patroness of Modern Youth. Her love

for her attacker—shown in her forgiveness of him—and her spiritual and

physical purity of heart serve as a model for all Christians. Her purity exem-

plifies the Ninth Commandment.