Every person and every circumstance in our lives can offer some kind of lesson. Even that of a murderer. You may be thinking, what good can come from this post.
Alessandro was much like many men and young men in our society today. They are addicted to pornography and sex is the very focus of their lives. Everything they do in life is consumed by this insatiable desire for sexual fulfillment. Sexual addiction is like a merry go round, the more they get, the more they want.
That is how it was with Allesandro. What made him like that? Why was he so filled with lust that he would attack a little girl? July 5, 1902 would change the course of Alesandro Serenelli’s life and that of many others forever. For it was on that day that his neighbor, Maria Goretti was alone at home and he thought that it was his opportunity to have his way with the 12 year old.
The 18 year old Alesandro approached Maria as she sat at the top of the stairs of her house while mending a shirt. Alesandro grabbed Maria and forced her into a bedroom of the house. At that he told her of his intentions and that if she did not give in, he would kill her. Maria struggled with Alesandro, trying to call for help and telling him “God does not wish this”, “It is a sin. You would go to hell for it”.
Filled with anger, Alesandro struck her continuously with a long dagger and fled the scene. Maria was taken to the hospital, but there was nothing that could be done. In the house before her death, she forgave her attacker, she received the Last Rites of the Church and Holy Communion and died within 24 hours.
Alesandro was captured and given a sentence of 30 years in prison. He was so filled with hatred, that when a priest approached to reconcile him, he hissed and attacked the priest. This all changed when Maria appeared in his prison cell, surrounded by beautiful white lilies that she offered to him. His life was changed immediately. Alesandro had a conversion and was filled with remorse for his actions. From that time on, he was an exemplary prisoner and released after serving 27 years of his sentence.
The first thing Alesandro did upon his release was to beg forgiveness from Maria’s mother, attended Christmas Mass with her and related his story to the whole congregation. On June 24, 1950, at the age of 66 years old, Alesandro knelt in prayer, weeping tears of Joy as Maria was canonized by Pope Pius XII. After Maria’s canonization, Allesandro enterd the Capuchin Franciscan order, where he was received with joy, and lived out the remainder of his life as a lay brother. He died on May 6, 1970.
Here is Alesandro’s testimony shortly before his death:
“Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself. My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried. There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life. When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed. If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault. Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I’ve been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta. I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life.”
So, what can we learn from a murderer? There is hope for everyone. No one is beyond God’s grace. Maria herself gave that poor, lost youth, a future filled with God’s love and grace. May St. Maria Goretti, reach out from heaven and touch those who are thought to be hopeless sinners, the grace of conversion.