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St. Maria Goretti | Defender of Purity

St. Maria Goretti Patron Saint of Purity

St. Maria Goretti, a name synonymous with unyielding faith and courage, is one of the youngest saints the Catholic Church has ever canonized. Her story, though tragic, continues to inspire millions around the world because of her undying fidelity to Jesus Christ, including forgiving the man who murdered her.

The Life of Saint Maria Goretti

Born Maria Teresa Goretti on October 16, 1890, in Corinaldo, Italy, Maria was the third of seven children in a poor farming family. Her father, Luigi, instilled in her a deep love for God and the Catholic Church. Sadly, when Maria was only nine, tragedy struck. Luigi succumbed to malaria, leaving Assunta, Maria’s mother, to struggle financially to support the family.

Despite the hardship, Maria’s faith remained strong. Described as cheerful and intelligent, she readily took on household duties, caring for her younger siblings while her mother and older brother worked in the fields. Her strong work ethic and devotion to her family were testaments to her upbringing.

How did St. Maria Goretti die?

In 1900, the Goretti family shared a small house with another family, the Serenellis. Alessandro Serenelli, the teenage son, became fixated on Maria, making repeated attempts to assault her. Around 3 p.m. on July 5, 1902, while her mother and brother were away, Alessandro attacked Maria in a hayloft. When Maria fiercely refused his advances, he stabbed her multiple times. Though mortally wounded, Maria clung to life for a day, forgiving Alessandro before succumbing to her injuries on July 6, 1902.

Indeed, even as she lay dying from horrific wounds, Maria defied the natural impulse for vengeance, stating remarkably, “I forgive Alessandro.… I will meet him again in heaven.” Her act of mercy transcended earthly justice, defying the expectations of a world consumed by retribution. Maria’s unwavering commitment to Jesus and the Great Commission he gave his Church (Matt. 28:18–20)  enabled her, even in the face of unthinkable violence, to heroically maintain her purity and intercede for her assailant. St. Maria Goretti serves as a powerful inspiration for all who face moral challenges, reminding us that true strength lies not in retaliation, but in the relentless defense of our convictions and the belief in the transformative power of forgiveness, including even for our worst enemies (Matt. 5:43–48)

What is St. Maria Goretti is the patron saint of?

St. Maria Goretti is the patron saint of youth, chastity, and forgiveness. She is often depicted holding lilies, a symbol of purity. Her story reminds us to hold fast to our faith, even in the worst of circumstances.

Modesty, Purity, and True Love Are Connected

When is St. Maria Goretti’s feast day?

The story of Maria’s faith and her heroic defense of her purity spread like a divine wildfire. The Church opened her cause for canonization in 1934, and a repentant Alessandro testified to Maria’s holiness during the proceedings. Ven. Pope Pius XII beatified Maria on April 27, 1947. Just three years later in June 1950, before a crowd of 250,000 in St. Peter’s Square, Pius XII declared Maria Goretti a saint. Maria’s mother Assunta was providentially present at her daughter’s canonization.

The Catholic Church celebrates St. Maria Goretti’s feast day on July 6, the day of her martyrdom. Parishes around the world hold special Masses and devotions to honor her courage and faith.

What are some devotions to Saint Maria Goretti?

St. Maria Goretti’s relics are enshrined in the Basilica of Our Lady of Grace and St. Maria Goretti in Nettuno, Italy. Many pilgrims visit the basilica each year to seek her intercession and draw inspiration from her life as a disciple of Christ.

Many prayers and devotions are dedicated to St. Maria Goretti. One of these devotional prayers includes a novena, which is a nine-day prayer.

A popular prayer provides:

O St. Maria Goretti, lily of purity,
who, rather than stain your soul by sin,
chose to shed your blood,
look with pity upon me, a sinner.
Obtain for me the grace to imitate
your angelic virtue and like you,
to prefer death to sin.
Amen.

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