Born: October 16, 1890
Died: July 6. 1920
Feast Day: July 6
Patron of: Rape Victims
Maria Goretti is one of the youngest martyrs in Catholicism. She was strongly devoted to God and was the daughter of a farmworker near Anzio, Italy. When she was 12 years old, she was raped by Alexander Serenelli, who was the son of her father’s partner, who lived with her family. When she refused his advances, Serenelli stabbed Maria to death.
Now, you may think that is the end of the story. But years later, Serenelli received a vision from Maria, saying taht she forgave him for his crime. Because of this vision, Serenelli reformed his life.
To me, Alexander’s reformation is a true miracle. I remember being told by a professor that rape was the worst thing you can do to a person, and I agree. I don’t believe that the victim is ever at fault. No one “asks” for rape by how they dress or their actions. I have heard people who’ve been raped say they feel vulnerable and that they have difficulty moving past it. That is why I think Maria can be a role model. Forgiving those who have harmed us can be difficult, but Jesus called us to love everyone, even our enemies. Loving those who love us back is easy, as He said. Yet when Jesus was mocked, scourged, and crucified, he did not retaliate. Now, does this mean we should not defend ourselves? Hardly. Non-violent self-defense is permitted and expected. Loving everyone is a challenge, but our reward is great.