Maria was born in 1890 in Italy. Her father died of malaria ten years later. By the time she was twelve, Maria helped her mother on the farm, in the house, and with the care of the other children. She never complained because they were so poor. In fact, she cheered up her mother and was a great comfort to her. She went to Mass regularly even though it meant a two-hour walk. Maria also received the Sacrament of Reconciliation as often as she could.
A young neighbor, Alexander, tried a few times to make Maria sin against purity. She absolutely refused. She did her best to avoid him. July 5, 1902 was a hot summer day. Maria was alone in the cottage mending clothes. Alexander came again to try to make her sin. Maria refused once more. He attacked her and dragged her into an inner room. Maria managed to keep saying, “No, no! What you are doing is a mortal sin. God doesn’t want it. If you do this, you will go to hell.” And she struggled as much as she could. Alexander panicked. He stabbed her furiously with a dagger he had made. Then he ran away.
Maria was taken to a hospital, where she died about twenty-four hours later. During her last hours, she forgave her attacker. Her only worry was for her mother. With great joy, the girl received Jesus in Holy Communion. Then she went to heaven. Alexander was sent to prison. For eight years he refused to repent of his horrible crime. Then one night he had a dream or a vision of Maria offering him flowers. From that moment on, he was a changed man. When he was freed from prison after twenty years, his first visit was to the Goretti home. He asked Maria’s mother for forgiveness. Then Alexander spent the rest of his life as the gardener in a nearby monastery.
Maria was declared a blessed by Pope Pius XII on April 27, 1947. The pope appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s with Maria’s eighty-two-year-old mother, Assunta. Three years later, on July 25, 1950, the same pope declared Maria a saint. He called her “a martyr of holy purity.”