6th July - Born in 1890 at Corinaldo, a small village in Italy, Maria Goretti was one of five children. The early death of the father left the widowed mother with a very needy family. The moved from place to place and finally settled as tenant farmers at Nettuna, in the marshy areas of central Italy.
Maria was a cheerful child and was an encouraging help to her mother. Her devotion was simple and in keeping with her age, but the courage and fidelity she showed in walking the long distance to the nearest town to learn her catechism indicated her solid character.
The greatest test of her life was swift and sudden but not unannounced.
A young man of eighteen, as he had on two previous occasions, attempted to lead Maria into sin against
chastity. The childlike virgin of twelve, with the fortitude of a martyr, cried out that she would rather die than commit sin. It was an echo of what she had previously said to her mother: "a thousand deaths rather than commit one sin".
To the passionately angered young man she protested, "God does not want it. It is a sin. You will go to Hell".
But in the madness of his frustration, he struck at her savagely with a dagger and left her dying.
Brought to the hospital in the nearby town, she died surrounded by the parish priest, her mother and the nuns. She forgave her assassin and with great peace told those surrounding her bed, "It is Jesus I am soon going to see".
Years after her death, her attacker was converted in prison and was the chief witness for her beatification, which took place on 27th April, 1947. Her mother, Assunta Goretti, was present at the beatification as well as the canonisation which took place three years later.
Reflection - The early education of a Christian sets the foundation. This is particularly true in matters of modesty and chastity. Nowadays when physical pleasure is shamelessly advertised, and natural modesty belittled, the courageous and heroic act of Maria Goretti should be an inspiration to all to preserve chastity at all costs.