St Maria Goretti

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Martyr. Born in Ancona, Italy, in 1890, Maria was the eldest daughter of a peasant family, known for her cheerful and devout nature. When she was just ten her father died. Two years later, a young neighbour, Alessandro Serenelli, became obsessed with Maria and started constantly pestering her. One day he tried to rape her. When she fought him off he stabbed her several times. She was taken to the hospital, but she died the next day, after forgiving him.

Her murderer was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was 20 at the time. After eight years he underwent a religious conversion and repented of his crime. When he was released from prison 27 years later he was a changed man. He visited Maria's mother begging forgiveness, which she readily granted.

On Christmas Day 1937 Allessandro received Holy Communion side by side with Maria's mother. In 1950 Maria was canonised as a martyr for the Christian life. Alessandro became a lay brother in a monastery, eventually dying peacefully in 1970. He is often cited as an example by those campaigning against the death penalty.

Maria was beatified in 1947, and canonized in 1950. Her mother attended both ceremonies.