St. Maria Goretti, the patroness of Goretti Publications, is a great martyr who went to her heavenly reward in 1902. She was born in 1890 in, as her name might suggest, Italy, and lived in the mountains with her family for her early life. Economic hardship, however, forced her family to leave the area, and they settled on some land they leased near a vast swamp near the Eternal City, Rome. Their financial difficulties did not abate, however; her father, unused to the humid swamps of the central Italian coast, became very ill, and the family was forced to bring some farmhands into the household in order to assist him with the work. There was an old man and his son, Alessandro Serenelli. The two families got along fairly well at first; the Serenellis worked hard outside the house and the Gorettis worked hard within it. The relationship seemed harmonious, and for a time all seemed to go well.
However, soon St. Maria's mother began to notice things about Alessandro. He frequented smutty booklet stores and had indecent pin-ups in his room. She did not want to ruin the apparently smooth relations between the two families, however, and consequently said nothing to Alessandro.
St. Maria, however, was as pretty as she was holy. She had already attracted the attention of Alessandro's indecent mind. He began to harass her, demanding that she give herself to him. She persistently refused, however, which made him exceedingly angry. He began to plan how he might take her by force, if she would not give herself to him by will. He hid a knife in his room and waited for the right opportunity, which finally came one hot day when St. Maria was the only one working in the house, even her mother having gone into the fields to help with the harvest.
Alessandro cornered St. Maria in a room and demanded her; again she refused, saying that God did not want it. Alessandro took out his knife and prepared to force himself on her. She fought with all that was in her, shouting repeatedly that it was a sin and God did not want it. This enraged him so much that finally he stabbed her, repeatedly, a total of fourteen times. He later stated that it was like pounding wood.
Alessandro did not, however, violate St. Maria; as she lay there bleeding to death on the floor, he left the house and attempted to flee. Eventually, however, she was found, and taken to a hospital in a nearby town. Alessandro was caught shortly thereafter, and as the wagon took St. Maria to the hospital he was dragged past in irons on his way to the jail. At the hospital the doctors thought that she might as well be already dead, but God had further plans for her. If His own Son suffered so much, would this little saint demand anything less?
As she lay there dying, there was a great reaction against Alessandro. The locals had loved the pretty little girl that he had killed. Eventually, as was bound to happen, someone asked St. Maria in one of her more conscious stages whether she forgave her attacker. She glanced up at the crucifix on the wall before answering that she did. The next day, the Lord took her up to Himself; at the tender age of twelve, St. Maria had become a great martyr of virtue for the Church.
Alessandro himself later repented in sorrow in prison, and when released became a lay brother in the Capuchins. In 1950 St. Maria's mother became the only woman in history to see her own child canonized in person, when Pope Pius XII raised St. Maria Goretti to the altars. Her feast is the day of her death, 6 July; for that was not the day of her death, but of her birth into Heaven.
This information was drawn primarily from Fr. Poage's work St. Maria Goretti: In Garments All Red, published by TAN Books and Publishers in 1998.