Yesterday, I had the privilege of venerating the first class relics of St. Maria Goretti, the youngest canonized saint in the Catholic Church. While the time with her relics was brief due to the crowds, it was still a powerful experience to see the body of this young girl who had more virtue at the age of 12 than most of us will ever have.
If you don’t know St. Maria’s story, she was a young Italian girl born in October of 1890. She lost her father at a young age and had to mature quickly to help take care of her siblings while her mother earned a living. Due to their extreme poverty, the Goretti family had to move in with another family, the Sarenelli’s.
While Maria was only 12 at the time, Alessandro Sarenelli, who was 22, began making sexual advances toward Maria, threatening her if she told anyone. On July 5, 1902, while the rest of the family was away, Alessandro approached Maria with a 10 inch knife, threatening to kill her if she did not do what he said. He intended to rape her, and it came out later that he had tried twice before. Maria refused and began to fight him off. In a rage, Alessandro stabbed her 14 times. Eventually, Maria died from her wounds, but not before completely forgiving her attacker and stating that she wanted him to be with her in heaven.
A Repentant Killer
While Maria’s short life was a beautiful testimony to God’s grace, what struck me especially was the conversion of her killer, Alessandro Sarenelli. His story, too, is a witness to the power of conversion, and that no one is beyond hope.
Six years into his 30 year prison sentence, Alessandro was at the brink of despair. How he could he go on knowing what

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