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St Maria Goretti
Virgin and Martyr (entered heaven this day in 1902)
Did you know that you don’t have to die in defense of the faith in order to be a martyr? Well, it’s true. The martyr’s crown also goes to those who are killed in defense of a Christian virtue. That’s what happened to today’s saint. Barely a teenager in years at the time of her martyrdom (she was 12), but already a young woman in body and mind, Maria was one of five children who helped their widowed mother make scrawny ends meet. They lived in a poor cottage southwest of Rome, Italy. Maria had caught the lustful eye of a neighboring 18-year-old named Alexander, who had frequently and unsuccessfully propositioned her, much to his ire. (Maria had not mentioned anything about these encounters because she did not want to smirch Alexander’s reputation.) One hot day in July she was doing some sewing upstairs in the cottage when Alexander arrived and barged in, beckoning her as usual. As usual, she refused. He forced her into a bedroom and threatened her, while she struggled to get free and tried to scream for help as he gripped her throat. He tore her dress and grappled her to the bed, but she continued protesting and vigorously resisting, promising to die before committing such an act and warning him that he was endangering his soul. His anger thoroughly aroused, he began madly stabbing her with a long dagger, and when she fell to the floor crying out that she was being killed, he made a final blow and then fled. She died in the hospital almost 24 hours later, having forgiven her assailant, welcomed with loving simplicity her last Holy Communion, and expressed great concern over what would happen to her mother and their family. When neighbors began reporting miracles resulting from her intercession, the Church started an investigation that resulted in bringing to light Maria’s exemplary virtue and faith, and eventually led to her beatification in 1947, attended by her mother and three of her siblings, and her canonization in 1950.
This little girl died in defense of her chastity, a virtue held so dearly by our Lord (the inventor and true champion of sexuality, by the way) and so important for the health of family life, upon which in turn depends the health of society at large. I daresay that you should start up a spiritual friendship with this young saint – you may need it, considering how powerfully the unchaste influences running rampant these days affect even the most well-meaning young men and women.
Oh, by the way, Alexander was sentenced to thirty years in prison. For the first few he remained irascible and unrepentant, but later he had a dream in which St Maria Goretti appeared to him. She was tranquilly gathering up flowers, which she then graciously offered to him. He was so changed by that supernatural gesture of charity that he ended being released early for good behavior. So you see, true love not only waits, it saves.
Your devoted Uncle, Eddy