Saint Maria Goretti (1890–1902)
Maria Teresa Goretti was born in October 1890 to very poor Italian famers. Her father died when she was nine and she watched her baby sister while her mother worked in the fields. They lived near another family who had a 19-year-old son named Alessandro.
One day while she was home sewing, Alessandro tried to get eleven-year-old Maria to commit a sin. She shouted, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it!" When she wouldn’t do what he wanted, he stabbed her fourteen times. Maria’s mother found her and took her to the hospital, but she was injured so badly the doctors couldn’t save her even though they tried with surgery. She died the next day, after saying she forgave Alessandro and wanted him to be in Heaven with her.
Alessandro was put in jail for many years. When he was finally released, he went to Maria’s mother and asked forgiveness. She said that if Maria could forgive him as she was dying, she would too. The next day they went to Mass together and received Communion. Alessandro became a lay brother in a monastery where he worked as a receptionist and gardener until he died in 1970.
Both Maria’s mother and Alessandro were present on June 24, 1950, when Pope Pius XII declared Maria a saint. At the canonization, Pope Pius encouraged the crowd of nearly 500,000 people, most of them young, to ask God for help in resisting sin, just as Maria had done.
Discuss: What helps you to resist sin?
The Power of Forgiveness
Divide the class into four groups. Assign each group one of the following quotes about forgiveness. Have each group present and explain their quote to the large group.
"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." –Mahatma Gandhi
"Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer, and forgiveness." –H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it." –Mark Twain
"You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well." –Lewis B. Smedes