Power of Forgiveness: A Young Girl’s Story

Stained glass windows in the Mausoleum of the ...

Stained glass windows in the Mausoleum of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. Photo credit: Wikipedia

I used to think some crimes inflicted upon another person as too tragic and horrifying to expect forgiveness. Imagine a girl at the age of eleven faced with such an unspeakable transgression, but, instead of ill will, she chooses to forgive the one person who ends up brutally killing her.

This month, Everyday Gurus, B4peace challenge is to share something about forgiveness. I think it would be safe to say most adults, at some point, face having to forgive (or not forgive) someone who has caused some conflict or deep pain in their lives. However, what about the unforgivable offense: murder? Can you take someone’s life and then expect forgiveness? It seems impossible. However, for those not familiar with the young girl, Maria Goretti, her story best illustrates American radio host, Bernard Meltzer’s quote, “When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.”

Maria is a modern-day saint canonized in the 1950s by the Catholic Church. She grew up in Italy, and because her family was quite poor, she watched over her infant sister and maintained the housework while her parents and other four siblings worked for other farmers to earn a living. When her father died from malaria, to cut living expenses, Maria’s mother moved into a building shared with Giovanni Serenelli and his nineteen-year-old son, Alessandro.

On July 5, 1902, unfortunately, Alessandro attempted to rape the eleven year old, Maria, as she sat at home babysitting and sewing. Despite Maria’s desperate calls for help and protests to stop Alessandro, it was hopeless. She was first choked then stabbed eleven times as she told Alessandro, “she would rather die than submit to him.” It gets worse. Because Maria attempted to escape, Alessandro stabbed her three more times before running off, leaving her to her own fate. With the noisy commotion, Maria’s little sister began to cry and that led Maria’s mother and Alessandro’s father back to the house. Barely alive, the doctors found Maria’s multiple wounds beyond repair. Twenty hours after she was brutally attacked, she gained conscious long enough to say she had forgiven Alessandro and wanted him in heaven with her. How is this possible? Maybe Maria possessed the true essence on the power of peace as Robert Muller once wrote:

“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return you will receive untold peace and happiness.”

Although Maria did not live to see peace and happiness in her life, Alessandro eventually repented, begged Maria’s mother, Assunta, for forgiveness and incredibly, he attended Maria’s canonization on June 24, 1950. He lived the rest of his life as a lay brother working as the receptionist and gardener in a monastery. Alessandro died peacefully in 1970.

Whenever I struggle finding the urge to forgive someone who I feel dared to mess up my happy little life, I think about young Maria Goretti. Even though she could not change the past, her courage to forgive her murderer, Alessandro, changed his future, maybe even the world in a way, as the domino effect of peace fell into place.

“Let is forgive each other – only then will we live in peace.” ~Leo Tolstoy

♥ In gratitude, every year on July 6, one can celebrate Maria’s feast day. She is the patroness of youth, rape victims, young girls, poverty, purity and forgiveness.
♥ In gratitude for the example Maria Goretti left for the world, I leave you with Forgiveness by Matthew West.

Peace be with you always.

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38 thoughts on “Power of Forgiveness: A Young Girl’s Story

  1. rommel says:

    Downright POWERFUL! It doesn’t work in this world and time that we live in now though. Most Alessandro’s today wouldn’t care about forgiveness. Forgiveness is very complex to me. It’s kind of almost an illusion, actually, because from deep within.

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    • Sunshine says:

      Your words, Rommel, “forgiveness is very complex..almost an illusion…from deep within…” in summary, probably makes the very act of forgiving someone who has done the most unthinkable hurtful act so difficult. Perhaps, as you say, in this time, people do not care to be forgiven. Then I must say we live in sad times. How hard it is to break the cycle of hate. You bring much to reflection on. Thank you. ♥

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  2. amira says:

    lovely post and life lesson. It sure must be more peaceful to forgive.
    But I guess, most of us will have difficulty granting total forgiveness when heinous injustice is made to us – also i guess it depends on the nature of betrayal or hurt.
    Our faith teaches us to trust our creator and expect justice hereafter even if it is not given on earth.

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  3. Caddo Veil says:

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring story, Sunshine. It took me most of a lifetime to learn the power of forgiveness–it is so freeing, and has added life energy to my days so that I may accomplish great dreams. All praise to God, who first forgave me. May He bless your week abundantly, dear heart–love, sis Caddo

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    • Sunshine says:

      you are such a blessing, sis. your energy flows right out from your writings…i’m sure your readers have mentioned it. 🙂
      i hope to meet up with this little Maria one day and give her a big hug! ♥

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  4. Kozo says:

    Sunshine,
    I am trembling after reading this post. I have never heard this story before. How can an 11 year old comprehend not only her impending death, but the power of forgiveness? She reminds me of Jesus on the cross–“God forgive them for they know not what they do.”
    Thank you for this moving story that exemplifies that forgiveness is possible no matter what. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

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    • Sunshine says:

      Kozo, when i first read about this young girl, i thought like most things from the past, oh, it happened so long ago and maybe not true at all. you know how that goes. but, Alessandro only passed away in the 70s. he is proof that Maria’s forgiveness did make a difference, at least for him, as he not only repented but also asked forgiveness from Maria’s mother. the domino effect.
      ♥ i say we save the date for the future divine {{{group hug}}} with Maria and all the other peace warriors i am sure she is spiritually organizing to help your efforts here on earth. lol. 🙂

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    • 1EarthUnited says:

      Same here, I can’t even comprehend such horror. And yet the power of her forgiveness ripples across many lives, so her death was divine like Jesus’. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
      And what a powerful message/ lesson of redemption. Thank you dear Sunshine! ☼

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  5. fgassette says:

    A beautiful example that we should all try to live by, I read a similar quote that also said that “forgiving those who hurt us is the key to personal peace.” Thank you for sharing this story.

    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

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  6. Long Life Cats and Dogs says:

    And peace be with you. What a remarkable story. If she was able to forgive that, then it is hard to imagine anything anyone could do to me that I should not be able to forgive. Thank you for sharing this.

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    • Sunshine says:

      your words, Susan, almost mirrors Maria’s mother when Alessandro begged her forgiveness for taking her daughter’s life…she said, “if Maria had forgiven him on her deathbed, then she could not do less…”
      amazing, this power. ♥

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  7. philosophermouseofthehedge says:

    It is a powerful story – certainly someone worthy of sainthood. Children/ youth, with thinking uncluttered by life, see truth so clear and simple. Perhaps she was sent to be a messenger
    A complex issue to others. I have to feel justice will come to those who deserve it: by God or karma or life’s wheel – or something.
    Which bring up does forgiveness depend on a person’s belief system? What is wrong in one culture is accepted in another. Some feel those who do not believe and “saved” in this life are doomed forever – even if they never heard “the word of God”. I find it hard to believe a loving Heavenly Father would turn his back on those who never heard.
    Great post – bring up lots of things to ponder.

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    • Sunshine says:

      Phil, you bring up many good points from Maria being a messenger (i think she was, definitely) to who is to judge on life afterwards…no matter, i think we are all called to do good in this world no matter what belief system we find ourselves living. thank you sharing more worthy ideas to think upon. ♥

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  8. angelswhisper2011 says:

    What a beautiful soul Maria was. I only saw this one time in my life, in fact this was a mother who forgave the killer of her daughter, so she could find peace within herself to live further. Peace be with you too, Sunshine 🙂

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  9. aFrankAngle says:

    Forgiveness is very powerful. The rub: Is it easier to ask for forgiveness or to grant it? Good post Sunshine … I’m just starting to make my rounds in advance of coming out of my hole.

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  10. Island Traveler says:

    A beautiful post that breathes generously love and compassion. I agree, “To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return you will receive untold peace and happiness.” Thanks. Have a great weekend.

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    • Sunshine says:

      Officially Saturday…and doing the blog thing so weekend is starting off great! Thank you, IT. Hope you get time off from work this weekend as well. 🙂 I thank you! ♥

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