Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Maria Goretti (1890–1902)

Saint Maria Goretti (1890–1902)

Patron saint of chastity, rape victims, girls, youth, teenage girls, poverty, purity, and forgiveness

Feast day: July 6

Saint Maria Goretti was fatally wounded while fending off a rapist at the age of 12. She was born in Italy to a peasant family that was too poor to send the children to school. Maria never had the chance to learn to read or write. After her father’s death, she assumed responsibility for keeping the house, while her mother and siblings worked in the fields. One day an 18-year-old neighbor, Alessandro, made sexual advances. When Maria resisted the attempted rape, the young man stabbed her numerous times. She died at the hospital the next day.

As she lay dying in her bed, she forgave Alessandro “for the love of Jesus.” Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years for his crime. He remained unrepentant until one life-changing night when he had a dream that Maria gathered up flowers and gave them to him. Upon his release from prison, Alessandro went and begged forgiveness from Maria’s mother.

When Maria was canonized in 1950, Alessandro was among the crowd of 250,000 who gathered to celebrate in Saint Peter’s Square. We celebrate Maria for her heroic commitment to the value of chastity and for her forgiveness of Alessandro. This is not meant to imply that women who are violently attacked should resist their attackers until the point of death. But Maria’s commitment to defending Christian values serves as an inspiration for courageously following Christ in our lives.  (From The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, Third Edition [Saint Marys Press]) 

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