For those of you who have never heard of St. Maria Goretti, let me tell you a little bit about her....
Goretti was born Maria Teresa Goretti on October 16, 1890 in Corinaldo, to Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. She was the third out of six children.
Before the age of seven, her family had become so poor that they were forced to give up their farm, move, and work for other farmers. They ended up sharing a house with another family which included Giovanni Serenelli and his son Alessandro. Soon, Maria's father Luigi became very sick with malaria, and died when Maria was just nine years old.
On July 5, 1902, finding eleven-year old Maria alone sewing, Alessandro Serenelli came in and threatened her with death if she did not do as he said; he was intending to rape her. She would not submit, however, protesting that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin and warning Alessandro that he would go to Hell. She desperately fought to stop Alessandro from abusing her. She kept screaming, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it!" Alessandro at first choked Maria, but when she insisted she would rather die than submit to him, he stabbed her eleven times. The injured Maria tried to reach for the door, but Alessandro stopped her by stabbing her three more times before running away.
Maria's little sister Teresa awoke with the noise and started crying, and when Serenelli's father and Maria's mother came to check on the little girl, they found the bleeding Maria and took her to the nearest hospital in Nettuno. She underwent surgery without anesthesia, but her injuries were beyond the doctors' help. Halfway throughout the surgery, Maria woke up. She insisted that it stay that way. The pharmacist of the hospital in which she died said to her, "Maria, think of me in Paradise." She looked to the old man: "Well, who knows, which of us is going to be there first?" "You, Maria," he replied. "Then I will gladly think of you," said Maria. The following day, twenty hours after the attack, having expressed forgiveness for her murderer and stating that she wanted to have him in Heaven with her, Maria died of her injuries, while looking at a very beautiful picture of the Blessed Mother.
Serenelli's imprisonment and repentance
Alessandro Serenelli was captured shortly after Maria's death. Originally, he was going to be sentenced to life, but since he was a minor at that time the sentence was commuted to 30 years in prison. He remained unrepentant and uncommunicative from the world for three years, until a local bishop, Monsignor Giovanni Blandini visited him in jail. Serenelli wrote a thank you note to the Bishop asking for his prayers and telling him about a dream, "in which Maria Goretti gave him lilies, which burned immediately in his hands."
After his release, Alessandro Serenelli visited Maria's still-living mother, Assunta, and begged her forgiveness. She forgave him, saying that if Maria had forgiven him on her deathbed then she couldn't do less, and they attended Mass together the next day, receiving Holy Communion side by side. Alessandro reportedly prayed every day to Maria Goretti and referred to her as "my little saint." He attended her canonization in 1950.
Serenelli later became a lay brother living in a monastery and working as its receptionist and gardener until dying peacefully in 1970.