Maria Goretti’s greatest witness is forgiveness, priest observes

Nettuno, Italy, Jul 7, 2014 / 06:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following St. Maria Goretti’s feast day, the rector of the basilica where her body resides stated that her willingness to forgive is her most prominent testimony, and that her virtue is an example for family life.

Maria’s greatest witness is “Forgiveness. Many people come saying I left to forgive, with the example of Maria Goretti. These people that are leaving, go with a great lesson from the child Saint,” Fr. Giovanni Alberti told CNA July 7.

Fr. Alberti has been the rector of the Basilica of the Mother of Grace and of Saint Maria Goretti in Nottuno, Italy for the past six years, and is an assignment he refers to as “a great responsibility and a call to live with great simplicity.”

Marked with a large procession beginning at the basilica where her body rests in Nettuno and lasting roughly 6 miles to the house where she grew up, the Saint’s July 6 feast was celebrated with particular by local inhabitants, with 4,000 people attending the procession.

Born in Nettuno’s neighboring city of Corinaldo, Italy in 1880, St. Maria Goretti was the eldest of six children, and was killed at the age of 11 as a martyr of chastity when resisting a rape.

Coming from a poor family, Maria assisted her mother in housework and in caring for her 5 younger siblings following her father’s death.

In 1902 a neighboring farmhand, Alessandro Serenelli, 19, who had made previous inappropriate comments and sexual advances toward her, attempted to rape Maria in her house. When she refused, Alessandro stabbed Maria 14 times.

After being found bleeding to death, she was rushed to the hospital in Nettuno, where she forgave Alessandro, saying “Yes, for the love of Jesus I forgive him…and I want him to be with me in paradise.”

While in prison several years later, Alessandro converted after having a dream in which Maria appeared and handed him 14 white flowers that burst into flame, representing the 14 wounds he had inflicted upon her, which signified the flames of forgiveness. After being released from prison he became a Capuchin tertiary, and attended Maria’s beatification alongside her mother.

Speaking of Maria’s continuous example today, Fr. Alberti explained that those who come to the basilica in Nettuno receive a great lesson in forgiveness because “today we have many conflicts, also social.”

“We have situations of rupture in the family, in marriage. So this element of forgiveness, this teaching of Jesus is coming out, we say, decisively to change the rapport of the people, also of the family.”

“To know that there is a Saint who forgave the one that killed her, is becoming an important resource in forgiveness, more than the other aspects,” he noted, describing how there “is not just one aspect” of her holiness, but many.

“There is also that of the dignity of women, the respect of women, of a sexuality that is healthy and balanced. Then there is faith in God, there is prayer, there is her devotion to Mary, her devotion to the Eucharist, and there is forgiveness, and her testimony of eternal life.

Referring to her desire to have her killer with her in paradise before her death, the priest stated that “It’s a testimony of a life after life. For a child of 11 this is enormous. These are very great things.”

Observing how Maria could not go to church or school often due to the fact that they lived far away from any parish, Fr. Alberti explained that “she had a school in her family,” because hers was “A family marked and full of virtue, full of, we say, resources.”

“She was truly the child of a family…The family is also fundamental and irreplaceable, in this aspect.”

Margarita, a 68-year-old volunteer who assists the community overseeing the basilica as well as helps in the English translations for pilgrims, told CNA July 7 that little “Marietta” is “very dear” to her because she was born in Nettuno and has known the Saint all her life.

“I knew Marietta since I was a little girl,” she said, adding that “the name of Marietta was always present.”

Recalling an accident she had on a horse when she was 3 years old, Margarita recounted how when she went to the hospital to get stitches on her face, the doctor said that it was a miracle she wasn’t injured worse, because if the horse had been more aggressive she would have died.

“So in the family everyone used to say oh this is a miracle of Saint Maria Goretti, she was protecting Margarita,” the volunteer observed, stating that “I used to go around and tell everyone that I received a miracle from Saint Maria Goretti.”

“So as you can see she is very dear to me, and I do whatever I do for her, in her name, with great joy.”

Margarita also revealed that the diocese of Nettuno is planning to bring Maria Gorett’s body to the United States for a monthlong tour in 2015.

“We are organizing with someone from the States,” she said, noting that “Already Cardinal Dolan from New York knows about it,” and “he’s very enthusiastic.”

Stopping in 9 different dioceses, the volunteer noted that among the places the child Saint’s body will go are “New York, Los Angeles, Huston, Toronto in Canada and others. Also in New Jersey because there is family of Maria Goretti in America.”

The dates of the tour, she observed, are still being discussed, however tentative dates could be Jan. 25 – March 1, 2015, due to the low tourism traffic in Nettuno during that time.


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