Maria Goretti


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St Agnes (d. c. 305)


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virgin and martyr. Born near Ancona, the eldest daughter of a peasant, she was a devout but cheerful girl. Her father died in 1900; her mother went out to work while Maria took care of the house. A young man of the neighbourhood first made advances to her, then pestered her, and finally attempted to rape her, threatening to kill her if she resisted. She repelled him with all her strength, he repeatedly stabbed her, and she died the next day. Her killer was sentenced to life imprisonment: after eight years he repented, after twenty-seven he was released, a new man. He lived to see his victim canonized in 1950, a martyr for chastity and for the Christian life, who had died at about the same age as Agnes. In canonizing Maria Goretti, the Roman Church also honours innumerable others who, in similar circumstances, preferred death to dishonour. Feast: 6 July.

C. Marini, L'eroica fanciulla Maria Goretti (1904); M. C. Buerhle, Saint Maria Goretti (1950).

Subjects: Christianity.

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