6 July: Feast of St Maria Goretti – Model of Purity for the Young…& Porn Addicts?

6 July: Feast of St Maria Goretti – Model of Purity for the Young…& Porn Addicts?

On June 24, 1950, Pope Pius XII stood before 500,000 people gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.

“Young people,” the Pope asked the crowd, “are you determined to resist any attack on your chastity with the help and grace of God?” 

“Yes!” echoed the response of thousands of young Catholics.

Despite the celebration and joy, sixty-six year old Alessandro Serenelli stood crying in the middle of the crowd. He may have stuck out in the crowd of young people promising, but he played a part in the life of the young woman whose canonization the Church was celebrating.

He had murdered St. Maria Goretti in 1902.

On a hot day in July, Maria was home watching her little sister Teresa and repairing one of Alessandro’s shirts. Their families lived in the same house as poor Italian tenant farmers Alessandro returned from threshing beans and Maria fought back, telling Alessandro that what he wanted to do with her was a mortal sin, and she didn’t want his soul to go to Hell. “No! It is a sin!” she screamed. “God does not want it!”

He tried choking her, but when she said she would rather die than let him commit a mortal sin, he stabbed her fourteen times and ran away.

Maria lived for 24 more hours before dying at a local hospital. Before she entered into Heaven, she said she wanted Alessandro to join her in Heaven and she forgave him.

Alessandro couldn’t have cared less about Maria’s forgiveness. During the trial he was unrepentant, and admitted to attempting to rape Maria several times before killing her because of her refusal. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, escaping a life sentence only because he was a minor when he committed the crime.

For three years, Alessandro said nothing to the outside world from his prison cell. But when a local bishop, Monsignor Giovanni Blandini visited him in jail, Alessandro told him of a strange dream he had. He was in a garden, and so was Maria. She handed him a bouquet of lilies, which burned his hands.

He woke up a changed man. He was released from prison 27 years after Maria’s death and his first visit was to Maria’s mother, Assunta. He begged her for forgiveness and she told him, “If my daughter can figure you, who am I to withhold forgiveness?” The two went to Mass together the next day and received Holy Communion side by side at the altar rail.

Alessandro repented of the murder and prayed to Maria every day, calling her his “little saint.”

Alessandro became a lay brother with the Capuchin Franciscans and worked in the monastery as a gardener. He died in 1970. In a testimony given shortly before he passed away, Alessandro reflected on his past and his encounter with Maria Goretti.

“My behaviour was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried,” he wrote. “There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life.”

In the early 1900s, pornographic photos were sold near the train stations. Pornography was readily available to Alessandro, and it twisted his ideas of the sexuality and chastity.

“I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life.”

Although the Catholic Church has not opened a case for the canonization of Alessandro, his story of overcoming the effects of pornography is inspiring in today’s world. Our modern, hyper-sexualized culture encourages sexual immorality yet Alessandro’s life stands as an example of repentance and bears witness to the beauty of chastity.   Source

Comment: 

I received an email from a home-schooling mother today, giving me the link to the above account of the life of St Maria Goretti, and saying she had read it to her two youngest children who loved it.  Sometimes, believe it or not, this saint is not only seldom, if ever, mentioned to young people in Catholic schools but, in at least one case known to me for certain, teachers have been actively discouraged from using it in lessons, lest girls think they should risk death…    In other words, better to go along to get along.  What thinkest thou? 

Comments (18)

  • Lily Reply

    What a beautiful story – I love Saint Maria Goretti and I’m appalled that children in Catholic schools are not taught about her. They bleat on about making everything “relevant” – well, who could be more relevant to youngsters these days than Saint Maria Goretti and her attacker?

    I do think there is a case for opening his Cause as well now. As it says in the article, his story of how pornography played a part in how he lived and came to murder Maria, and his later repentance is surely a very striking conversion story which could help thousands of porn addicts and boys who have never been taught the important of self control for the sake of purity.

    July 6, 2021 at 3:53 pm
    • Laura Reply

      I agree about the Cause for Alessandro – the Pope said at Maria Goretti’s canonisation that she was a necessary model for young people at that time – how much more so is that true nowadays! Also, apart from St Joseph and St Aloysius, there aren’t that many models of purity for boys and young men, so this would be an excellent role model, especially those tempted to porn.

      Happy Feast everyone!

      July 6, 2021 at 8:11 pm
    • editor Reply

      Lily,

      Yes, the story of Maria Goretti is a beautiful story, indeed. Agree, too, about the importance of using her bravery to teach about purity in Catholic schools. And, indeed, non-denominational schools where young people – in my experience in the sector – are very open and receptive to such edifying life-stories.

      July 6, 2021 at 11:48 pm
  • Catherine Reply

    Happy Feast Day.

    July 6, 2021 at 3:58 pm
    • editor Reply

      Happy Feast, Catherine, and everyone!

      July 6, 2021 at 11:46 pm
  • Josephine Reply

    Happy Feast Day to everyone on the CT blog!

    I love Saint Maria Goretti and have often prayed to her.

    I agree about Alessandro Serenelli’s Cause being opened. He is a wonderful example of a grave sinner turning back to God – and after the intercession of the very person he had murdered! It’s an amazing story.

    July 6, 2021 at 4:54 pm
    • editor Reply

      Josephine,
      .
      Agree about Alessandro – given that addiction to porn is a major issue in these times, his is a worthwhile Cause to pursue.

      July 6, 2021 at 11:45 pm
  • Antoine Bisset Reply

    I took her name at my Confirmation. Somewhat unusual, but I’ve usually walked by myself.

    July 6, 2021 at 6:20 pm
    • Laura Reply

      That was a lovely choice of Confirmation saint. I don’t think it’s all that unusual for boys to choose “Maria” at Confirmation, probably mostly Our Lady, right enough, but it was great that you had a young saint noted for her purity as your model.

      July 6, 2021 at 8:13 pm
    • editor Reply

      Antoine,

      I agree with Laura – it’s not unusual for boys to take Maria as their Confirmation name, and I think it speaks well of any young lad who would choose such a beautiful saint, famed for her love of purity, as his Confirmation role model. I’m sure that has been a source of much grace in your life.

      July 6, 2021 at 11:43 pm
  • editor Reply

    N O T I C E . . .

    Some of you will remember Christina who used to blog with us until poor health prevented her from doing so.

    I’ve just had a call from her asking if bloggers would pray for her son, Andrew, who is gravely ill following major heart surgery.

    Andrew is lapsed from the practice of the Faith, so Christina is naturally very concerned and upset. I promised her that we would all remember him in our prayers, noting that this, the Month of July, is the Month of the Precious Blood of Our Lord.

    We pray for a very special, merciful grace for Andrew at this critical time.

    Jesus mercy! Mary, help!

    July 6, 2021 at 8:01 pm
    • Athanasius Reply

      Editor

      I have kept in reasonably regular touch with Christina, though less so since my furlough from work. I had no idea about Andrew’s health but will certainly pray for him.

      July 6, 2021 at 10:46 pm
      • editor

        Thank you, Athanasius. She was extremely upset on the phone so we didn’t speak for long and her only response to my enquiries about her own health was that that doesn’t matter, only Andrew. Poor Christina.

        July 6, 2021 at 11:39 pm
  • Laura Reply

    I will remember Andrew in my prayers – that is a worry when a lapsed soul is facing death. It is a thought, this being the month of the Precious Blood, that was shed to save us.

    Saint Maria Goretti, too, who was so merciful towards her attacker, might be invoked to seek a special grace for him at this time.

    July 6, 2021 at 8:08 pm
    • editor Reply

      Laura,

      Thank you for that – yes, invoking today’s great saint is a very good idea.

      July 6, 2021 at 9:52 pm
  • Theresa Rose Reply

    I too, will will keep Andrew in my prayers. May Saint Maria Goretti pray for him too.

    Saint Maria Goretti is a Saint for todays’ young. It is through her that her attacker Alessandro repented and he received her forgiveness. And her mother could do no less than forgive him too.

    She is a Saint for today especially when so many of the youth are attracted to pornography with all its dangers. Her story and the conversion of Alessandro.

    July 6, 2021 at 9:53 pm
    • editor Reply

      Theresa Rose,

      Thank you for your promise of prayers for Andrew.

      Yes, both Maria’s story and Alessandro’s are – paradoxically – messages of inspiration for today’s youth.

      July 6, 2021 at 11:41 pm
  • Michaela Reply

    Sorry, I missed this thread on the Feast but I love St Maria Goretti and I agree that her attacker’s Cause should be opened given his miracle conversion and repentance.

    Belated happy Feast everyone!

    July 7, 2021 at 10:49 am

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