Maria Goretti (1890-1902) is a virgin martyr of the Roman Catholic Church and one of the youngest saints to be canonized. Born on October 16, 1890, in Corinaldo, Italy, she was the third of seven children born to Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. The family was forced by poverty to give up their farm and move to the village of Le Ferrière in the diocese of Albano. When she was eleven, Maria died from the wounds inflicted by her neighbour, Alessandro, as she fought off his advances. She forgave him before dying on July 6 in Nettuno, in the region of Latium, Italy.
Beatified on April 27, 1947, Maria was canonized on June 24, 1950, in the presence of more than 500,000 people. Owing to the huge crowds, this was the first canonization to be held outside Saint Peter’s Basilica, in Saint Peter’s Square. Assunta attended the ceremony with Pope Pius XII, and this was also the first time a mother had ever attended the canonization of her child.
Maria’s skeletal remains are contained in a wax statue in the crypt of the Basilica of Our Lady of Grace in Nettuno, south of Rome. In 2002, on the 100th anniversary of her death, Pope John Paul II underscored the importance of remembering this “martyr of purity.” In art, Maria is represented as a young girl holding a bouquet of lilies and dressed in farmers’ clothes. Both lilies and white garments are traditional icons of virginity in Catholic iconography. Her feast day is celebrated on July 6, and she is the patron saint of chastity, rape victims, girls, youth, and forgiveness.
In 2012, for the first time ever, the enshrined relic of Saint Maria Goretti left Italy for an overseas pilgrimage – to Canada. Parishes that had adopted Maria as their patron saint were chosen to receive her, including Lantier, on May 28. That year, the 1949 film Heaven over the Marshes: The life of Saint Maria Goretti was shown in Quebec.