Courageous Saints: St. Maria Goretti


Bego Maria Goretti 1 titleI knelt in prayer less than a foot away from the relics of St. Maria Goretti, overwhelmed by the immensity of mercy from such a small child.

Bego Maria Goretti 2I’ve gone on my share of pilgrimages — some tinged with a little sadness, others so joyful I could barely stand it, but this pilgrimage to visit St. Maria Goretti touched me deeply in an unexpected way. I think it stirred my heart and challenged me unexpectedly.

Maria died a martyr’s death, murdered violently by a young man, Alessandro, who attempted to rape her. Her cries appealed to his soul, “It is a sin! God does not want it!” While the rape was thwarted, he fatally wounded her, stabbing eleven-year-old Maria over a dozen times. She survived into the next day, long enough to describe the scene with her assailant, Alessandro Serenelli, and to forgive him.

Alessandro served a thirty-year prison sentence for the murder. Upon his release, he sought Maria’s mother, Assunta, to beg for forgiveness. She forgave him, explaining that she could not withhold what Maria had already freely given him. So many feels this morning as I knelt close to St. Maria’s remains!

Copyright 2015 Maria Morera Johnson. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2015 Maria Morera Johnson. All rights reserved.

How could Alessandro face Assunta? How could Assunta offer her forgiveness? It is, for me, the action of the Divine Mercy, Christ Himself, who forgives us and asks us to do the same.

A growing devotion to the Divine Mercy in recent years, a visit to Cuba and meeting Pope Francis,Missionary of Mercy, and now, venerating the relics of St Maria Goretti, on this Pilgrimage of Mercy, well…I am certain that I will be entering into the Year of Mercy with an open heart.

Read her entire story, including the amazing account of how both her mother, Assunta, and her assailant, Alessandro, attended her canonization: Pilgrimage of Mercy: St. Maria Goretti.

Bego Maria Goretti 6

Copyright 2015 Maria Morera Johnson. All rights reserved.

If you have a chance to visit this moving display, you owe it to yourself to go. If it didn’t come to your town or you missed it, I’d like to offer one of my readers the pair of holy cards distributed at the church. One card is a prayer for Alessandro Serenelli, and was touched to the letter he wrote to the world. The other card, of St. Maria Goretti, has a prayer and was touched to her relics, making it a third class relic.

Leave a comment if you’d like a chance to receive this lovely reminder of the gift of mercy. I’ll select the recipient on November 5 with a random drawing.

Copyright 2015 Maria Morera Johnson.
Photos copyright 2015 Maria Morera Johnson. All rights reserved.


About Author

Maria Morera Johnson, author of My Badass Book of Saints, Super Girls and Halo, and Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped Me Grow in Faith and Love writes about all the things that she loves. A cradle Catholic, she struggles with living in the world but not being of it, and blogs about those successes and failures, too.


  1. I really enjoyed your article, esp. since we just made our own pilgrimage to venerate the little saint. Truly, a heroic girl, and so far advanced in her holiness at such a young age. A great saint to emulate. I am so thankful she’s making this tour.

    Please do not enter me in the drawing as I have the holy cards.

  2. I have been praying to St.Maria Goretti for the past 10 years on a daily basis. She is a model of purity. My daughter chose her as her patron 5 years ago. As a teacher I also present my students to her. I wish my country would be blessed with a visit of her relics.

  3. I won’t be able to go on the pilgrimage as there aren’t current plans to go to the western states. I’m touched by St. Maria Goretti’s story and her forgiveness to Alessandro.

  4. St. Brigid's Girl on

    What a beautiful story you share. I’ve always admired this saint’s unfailing courage and love. Her story has been a double-edged sword for me though because when I was young, an 11 year old in my circles was kidnapped, raped and murdered along with another teenage girl. It was such a sick, twisted, ugly situation throughout the entire ordeal from the time of her disappearance to the uncanny posthumous letter admitting the crime by one of the perpetrators.

    I don’t know what went through the girls’ minds in the last hours of their lives and I don’t even want to try to surmise it. But I am grateful that St. Maria had the opportunity to forgive and that her assailant became a child of God. I can only hope that those men who ended my friend’s life and made all of us miserable by their choices have repented and become children of God. That is truly the best outcome for the situation. It strikes utter terror in my heart (I can literally feel it in my chest) to think that they are anything less.

    St. Maria’s relic traveled to my city recently, but I didn’t go. Instead I prayerfully kept her spirit of Forgiveness and Mercy with me throughout my day. Maybe one day, should I have the opportunity again, I will be able to go. Until then I keep the memory of my friend and the courage of this saint together in my heart.

Leave A Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.