A Model of Forgiveness: St. Maria Goretti’s Story

A Model of Forgiveness

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:44

St. Maria Goretti is easily one of the most beloved Saints of our times. At just 11 years old, she wasn’t “too young” to be a Saint, setting an example for all of us to stay strong in our faith. If you know her story, you probably look up to her for her purity or chastity. While she expresses these virtues beautifully, I also admire her for her forgiveness. At the most difficult time in her life, she forgave someone who was seemingly impossible to forgive

Maria’s Life and Death
St. Maria Goretti lived near the end of the 19th century. She was a poor Italian girl whose faith was incredibly strong for her age. She lived in poverty and never received an education, but her trust in God was profound. She always had faith that God would provide for her, and she always followed his will.

When Maria was eleven, a boy named Alessandro Serenelli tried to rape her. She bravely fought back and exclaimed “God does not wish it!” Outraged, Alessandro stabbed Maria several times. She died about a day later, but before she passed away, she expressed her forgiveness towards Alessandro. Not only did she forgive him for assaulting and attacking her, but she hoped that he would repent and be in Heaven with her someday. “I want him with me in Heaven forever!” she said.

Alessandro’s Conversion
Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. While he was there, Maria appeared to him in a dream, which was the catalyst for his conversion. When he was released from prison, he implored Maria’s mother to forgive him, and they attended Mass together. Eventually, Alessandro joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, and when Maria Goretti was canonized in 1950, he was present at the ceremony.

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Forgiving Our Enemies
Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Especially during the final moments of her life, St. Maria Goretti took this teaching to heart. How many times have we failed to forgive others? Sometimes because of the hardness of our hearts or the severity of the offense, forgiving can seem impossible. A year or two ago, someone hurt me so badly and I couldn’t get over it. I would be reminded of him and how he broke me, and I’d fall into despair, dwelling on pain that haunted me. Recently, I learned to look to St. Maria Goretti. In my brokenness, I’d pray “help me to forgive him for doing this to me,” and at least in my heart, I was able to reconcile with him. With her help, I was able to forgive him and I found peace.

It might seem trivial, but when we forgive others, we’re able to witness to them and help them encounter Jesus. Like Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli, Our forgiveness can lead to radical conversions and changes of heart. My prayer is that we can soften our hearts towards those who hurt us and genuinely wish their good. No matter what someone does to hurt me, I would rather them be in Heaven than in Hell, and our actions can help them be with our Heavenly Father forever.

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