16 October 1890 – 6 July 1902
Patron of youth, young women purity and victims of rape
Her feast day is July 6
She was born on the eastern side of Italy to a farming family, but increased poverty forced the family to move to the western side of the country when she was only six. Her father died of malaria and her mother had to struggle to feed her children. When she was nine the family had to share a house with another family, the Serenellis. Maria took over household duties from her mother, while her mother and the rest of her family worked in the fields.
In 1902 an eighteen-year-old neighbour, Alexander, grabbed her and tried to rape her. When Maria said that she would rather die than submit, Alexander began stabbing her with a knife.
She was taken to hospital, but died after forgiving him. He was promptly arrested, convicted and sentenced to thirty years in jail. Alexander was unrepentant until he had a dream that he was in a garden. Maria was there and gave him flowers. When he woke, he was a changed man, repenting of his crime and lived a reformed life.
When he was released after 27 years he went directly to Maria’s mother to beg her forgiveness, which she gave. “If my daughter can forgive him, who am I to withhold forgiveness,” she said. He later became a lay brother in a monastery, eventually dying peacefully in 1970.
Maria was beatified in 1947, and declared a saint in 1950. Alexander was in the St. Peter’s crowd to celebrate her canonization. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950 for her purity as a model for youth. Her mother attended both ceremonies.
She is called a martyr because she fought against Alexander’s attempts at sexual assault.
However, the most important aspect of her story is her forgiveness of her attacker – her concern for her enemy extending even beyond deathRead more…