Maria Goretti, the Patroness of Youth, was born in a peasant family near Nettuno, Italy, in 1890. Her father died of malaria when she was nine, and Maria helped out with the younger children and the housework, while her mother worked on the farm. In 1902, Alexander, a young neighbor of 18, noticed that she was alone and broke into the house. He began making sinful advances, but Maria refused, saying: No, it’s a sin. God does not want it! When Alexander pulled her dress from her body, Mary cried out that she would be killed rather than submit. Enraged by such determination, the young man stabbed her in the back and ran away.

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An ambulance fetched Mary to the hospital but to no avail. She died 24 hours later, at the age of 12, whispering words of forgiveness for her murderer. While serving 30 years of unrepentant imprisonment, Alexander had a vision in which Maria Goretti offered flowers to him. Thereafter, he was converted and begged forgiveness from Maria’s mother. Maria Goretti was canonized in 1950 by Pius XII, with her mother present, a unique event in the history of the Church. Many miracles were attributed to her intercession, but the conversion of Alexander was probably the greatest one.