On July 6, 1902, 11 year-old Maria Goretta died after being stabbed the previous day by a 20 year-old acquaintance who was trying to sexually abuse her. During the attack she was heard to scream, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” As a result of her resistance, Alessandro Serenelli stabbed Maria 14 times. What makes this story so incredible is that during the 20 hour period in which Goretti clung to life, she forgave and prayed for her attacker. After being sentenced to prison, Serenelli experienced a vision of Maria, smiling and surrounded by lilies. At that moment, he felt peace and began to live a constructive life. After being released from prison, he moved into a Capuchin monastery and worked in the garden as a tertiary. In 1950, he attended Goretti’s canonization ceremony along with her mother.
St. Maria Goretti’s willingness to forgive serves as a powerful reminder of the necessity of forgiveness in the life of a Christian. Who knows what would have happened if Maria refused to forgive her attacker. It’s quite possible that her act of charity saved Serenelli from eternal damnation.
When Jesus instructs us to forgive others, He doesn’t mention any exceptions. Is there someone that you need to forgive?