Doesn’t this look like a touching photo of an elderly mother with her son? The story behind this peaceful, loving photo is more incredible than you can imagine.
For you see, this is St. Maria Goretti’s mom, and the man with her is her daughter’s attacker and murderer, Alessandro Serenelli.
The Goretti family was poor, and lived with another family, the Serenellis, as sharecroppers. Alessandro grew up in a troubled family — his mother died in a psychiatric hospital when he was very young, and his father was a raging, angry alcoholic. It’s little wonder Alessandro grew up as a troubled, violent young man.
Alessandro constantly made advances on young Maria Goretti, and she always rejected him. One day, however, Alessandro would not be denied, and in a rage stabbed Maria fourteen times with extreme violence.
Maria’s last words were “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli… and I want him with me in heaven forever.”
Poor Mrs. Assunta Goretti was now unable to provide for her remaining five children, and was forced to put them up for adoption. Who would fault her for hating Alessandro?
Totally unrepentant and hardened of heart, Alessandro was so rough and violent, he was placed in solitary. Yet, while Maria was unable to soften Alessandro’s heart on Earth, from Heaven she came to visit him one day in prison. In a vision, she gave him fourteen white lilies — one for every stab wound. Alessandro knew instantly this meant she forgave him, and immediately asked for the bishop and confessed his crimes.
A reformed and model prisoner now, he was let out twenty-years after his murder. On Christmas Eve, he sought out Assunta, Maria’s mother, and asked if she knew who he was. Of course. He asked for her forgiveness, and Assunta replied “If Maria forgives you, and God forgives you, how can I not also forgive you?” The two then walked together to Midnight Mass and received Holy Communion kneeling side-by-side. Alessandro then confessed his sin before the entire congregation and asked for their forgiveness. Assunta then adopted Alessandro as her own son.
Alessandro would later serve as a lay Franciscan brother, doing the most menial tasks humbly. He was so gentle, the children would call him “Uncle.”
Forgiveness — it can melt the most hardened hearts. Never be afraid to forgive, and never be afraid to seek forgiveness. What you cannot do, Christ can, if you let him.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!