Homily for July 6, 2017
Born on October 16, 1890 in Corinaldo, in Italy, her farmworker father moved his family to Ferrier di Conca, near Anzio. When he died of malaria, Maria’s mother had to struggle to feed her children.
Maria’s mother, brothers, and sisters worked in the fields while she cooked, sewed, kept the house clean, and watched her youngest sister Teresa. Though the family’s circumstances were extremely difficult, they were very close and loved God.
On July 5, 1902, Maria was sitting outside the steps of her home sewing a shirt. As she concentrated on her sewing, her neighbour Alessandro, surprised her and grabbed her from her steps.
When he tried to rape her, Maria cried that it was a mortal sin and warned he would go to hell. When Alessandro persisted, she fought him and screamed, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!”
At her words, Alessandro began to choke her and she said she would rather die than submit. Upon hearing her words, Alexander pulled out a knife and stabbed her eleven times. When she attempted to reach the door, he stabbed her three more times then fled.
Teresa woke to the sounds of her sister’s cries and began to cry. Maria’s family returned home and found her bleeding on the floor. They quickly took her to the nearest hospital in Nettuno, where she underwent surgery without anesthesia.
Unfortunately, her wounds were beyond the surgeon’s ability to help. Halfway through the surgery, the man asked her, “Maria, think of me in Paradise.” As she lay on the table, she looked up at him and said, “Well, who knows which of us is going to be there first?”
She did not realize how terrible her situation was, and the surgeon replied, “You, Maria.” She said, “Then I will think gladly of you.” She also mentioned concerns for her mother.
The next day, Maria forgave Alessandro and said she wanted to see him in Heaven with her. She died that day while looking upon an image of the Virgin Mary and holding a cross to her chest.
Shortly after Maria’s family discovered her, Alexander was captured and questioned. He admitted Maria was a physical virgin as he was unable to assault her and he was sentenced to thirty years. He also admitted he had attempted to persuade her to accompany him to bed on several occasions in the past and had attempted to rape her before.
Maria Goretti was beatified by Pope Pius XII in a ceremony at Saint Peter’s Basilica on April 27, 1947. Three years later, on June 24, 1950, Maria was declared a saint and Alessandro was present in the St. Peter’s crowd to celebrate her canonization.
Saint Maria is called a martyr because she fought against Alessandro’s attempts at sexual sin; however, the most important aspects of her story are how she forgave her attacker – her concern for her enemy extending even beyond death – and the miracle her forgiveness produced in his life.
That Maria Gorretti would not consent to sin despite the pressure from Alesandro shows how much faith she had in God. Her faith can be likened to the faith of the young men who brought the paralytic to Jesus on a stretcher through the roof of the house where Jesus was.
Again for accepting to die rather than sin, Maria Goretti gave the only thing she had for the sake of God which was her very life. Abraham was tested by God and he was willing to sacrifice the only thing he had – Isaac.
Like Maria Gorretti, Abraham and the four men in today’s Gospel passage, we need to pray for an increase in Faith and total commitment to God with all our hearts, minds and bodies.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give me purity of thoughts, words and deeds and the grace to treat my body as your temple. Amen.
It is well with you.
God bless you.
(Thursday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Genesis 22:1-19 and Matthew 9:1-8).