Today, we commemorate the life and death of Saint Maria Goretti, a very popular saint especially in Italy. She lived at the end of the 19th century and at the age of twelve was stabbed by a neighbor who was attempting to sexually assault her. Maria later died of her injuries but not before she forgave her attacker. What makes her short life so remarkable is the Christ-like way she responded to the reality of dying and to her attacker. Where does spiritual maturity such as this come from?
I remember my first visit in 1964 to Nettuno where her shrine dominates the small seaside community. While there were many visitors, I was impressed to see the large number of young people who clearly found in Saint Maria Goretti a witness to virtue and an example of a relationship with God that seemed to transcend her youth and lack of extended formal education.