Remembering Saint Maria Goretti

At the Shrine of St. Maria Goretti, Nettuno
In every age, the saints of God have proven that they were God’s servants by their lives of faith and purity of soul. During my time in Rome recently I had the opportunity to visit the shrine of St. Maria Goretti, where she is buried and where many pilgrims come to ask the intercession of this child-saint.

The story of St. Maria Goretti is the story of a martyr-saint and a young one at that. It does not make for easy reading. In 1950, she was canonized in a ceremony attended by twenty-five million people, including her mother, the first mother ever to see her child canonized, and Alessandro Serenelli, her killer. Her feast day is the 6th of July so I thought it would be good to share her story on this day. The Holy Father observed during her canonization that Maria longed "to ascend to heaven by the only road that leads there, which is religion, the love of Christ and the heroic observance of his commandments." 

The shrine is found at Nettuno, about is 40 miles south of Rome, near the town of Anzio (site of the World War II Allied invasion). It was a pleasant train journey of under an hour to get there. Upon our arrival,my priest friends were able to celebrate Mass in the crypt where St. Maria was buried so this was a special grace for us. Mass was said in English and some of the Italian pilgrims joined with us, happy to be able to attend the celebration. Around the walls of the crypt are told the story of this young saint, presented in a very artistic manner through mosaic and stone carvings. After Mass we took some time to visit the museum which houses some of the personal belongings of the saint and her family. A stop was made to the gift shop to pick up some little souvenirs where we were greeted by a very friendly sister who was happy to meet us and know that we represented four different countries!

Maria Goretti is an excellent model and intercessor for today's Catholic youth, confronted by a sea of immorality poured out on the world by the modern media.  She offers children and young people a refuge, protection, a serene spirit and the deep joy of the pure of heart. Maria Goretti is often invoked as the patron saint of teenage girls and youth.

Few lives of the saints have touched the hearts of people as much as Saint Maria Goretti. Maria had a deep love for God, respect for her body, tremendous courage, and Christ -like forgiveness. Her life spoke louder than any words at the age of twelve. Our age needs heroic role models for youth who are caught in a destructive "culture war" in which no values are considered worthy of belief or commitment. Catholics have been warned about the powerful intellectual currents threatening all Christian values involving the dignity of the human person, and especially the dignity of women.The virtue of chastity lived in every state of life (single, married, priesthood, and consecrated religious) enables the person to live by the Holy Spirit. In a world we are constantly bombarded with images and messages which seek to steal our gaze away from Jesus and what is holy and wholesome in our lives, let us ask this young saint and indeed all the saints to intercede for us.