Today we celebrate the feast of St. Maria Goretti, the Little Saint of Great Mercy. Her story reminds us that we are never beyond hope, that no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. By forgiving her murderer and praying for his conversion, she not only kept herself from falling into sin; she reached out and helped a man who had been deeply corrupted, showing mercy to the person who, it would seem, deserved it the least. No one would have blamed her if she had been unable to forgive this man, whose evil actions led to her excruciating death and ultimately tore apart her family. But she not only forgave him; she desired his conversion, saying that she wanted him with her in Heaven. She appeared to him after her death, expressing her mercy toward him. And her murderer, Alessandro Serenelli, who had been utterly unrepentant and vicious even in his imprisonment, was converted overnight—a miracle whose impact would play out over the course of his lifetime.
Maria held fast to virtue even at the cost of her life, knowing that the joys and sufferings of this world are fleeting, that what truly mattered was preparing her eternal soul for Heaven—as well as Alessandro’s soul. She desired Heaven not just for herself, but for everyone, even sinners, even the very man who brutally murdered her. Even when he was at his very worst, she still understood that he was a human being, a child of God, meant for a life much greater than the one he was living. Not only that, she still believed there was hope for him, because she trusted in the boundless mercy of God.
Great miracles and graces have come as the fruits of Maria’s sacrifice. Let us call upon her for help in our own lives: to be fortified in virtue and purity, to be merciful and forgiving toward those who have wronged us, and to humbly appeal to God’s great mercy, which covers all our sins.
Heroic and angelic St. Maria Goretti, we kneel before you to honor your persevering fortitude and to beg your gracious aid. Teach us a deep love for the precepts of our Holy Church; help us to see in them the very voice of our Father in Heaven.
May we preserve without stain our white baptismal robe of innocence. May we who have lost this innocence kneel humbly in Holy Penance, and with the absolution of the priest, may the torrent of Christ’s precious Blood flow into our souls and give us new courage to carry the burning light of God’s love through the dangerous highways of this life until Christ our King shall call us to the courts of Heaven. Amen.
Image: Giuseppe Brovelli-Soffredini, painting of Maria Goretti / PD-US