Today’s Saint

Daily Journey with the Saints

July 6 | Does Forgiveness Work?

Saint Maria Goretti

A.D. 1890–1902

Today, we have a very difficult story about a very beautiful soul. It tests the very limits of the human capacity for forgiveness.

Saint Maria Goretti proved forgiveness was possible in any situation. She proved forgiveness transforms the world. 

Maria was born into a poor family in Italy. Her father had died when she was nine, and they could not afford their own home, so they shared a house with the Serinelli family. 

On July 5, 1902, Alessandro Serenelli (a 20-year-old man who lived in the house) attacked Maria with the intention to rape her. She refused, and he threatened to kill her. According to testimony, she fought him and screamed, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it!" Then, Serenelli stabbed her. 

Her mother found her on the floor and took her to the nearest hospital. Maria went into emergency surgery, but it became clear that she wasn’t going to make it. She woke up during the surgery and one of the doctors said to her, “Maria, think of me in Paradise.” Maria answered him, “I will gladly think of you.”

From her hospital bed, she prayed that her mother would be all right. And then she did the unthinkable: She forgave Serenelli, her murderer. “For the love of Jesus, I forgive him, and I want him to be with me in Paradise.” 

And then, Saint Maria Goretti passed into Paradise.

Serenelli would have received life in prison, but since he was not yet 21, he was sentenced to 30 years. He was bitter and not sorry for his actions—until one day. It was 11 years into his jail term, and all of a sudden he had a vision of a garden. There was a young girl playing in it, dressed in white. He realized it was Maria. She brought him lilies, but he didn’t want to take them. Maria urged him to take them, and finally he did. When he took each lily, it transformed into a white flame. Maria repeated her forgiveness for him, and then disappeared.

Serenelli’s life changed that day. He repented, turned back to God, and became a model prisoner. After he finished his jail term, he went to the house of Maria’s mother, and begged her forgiveness. She told him that if Maria had forgiven him, then she had to forgive him too. And so she did. Serenelli went on to become a Franciscan lay brother. He was present when Pope Pius XII canonized Maria as a saint.

Forgiveness transforms lives. Forgiveness transforms the world.

Your capacity for forgiveness is greater than you know.


I will forgive, no matter what.

This reflection is brought to you from book title.

Feast Day: July 6

Feast Day Shared By: Blessed Mary Theresa Ledóchowska and Blessed Benedict XI

Patron Saint of: Youth, Young Women, Purity, Forgiveness, and Victims of Rape

Also Known As: The Little Saint of Great Mercy

Symbols: Lilies

Canonized: June 24, 1950

Canonized By: Pope Pius XII

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