"The value of Christian virtue is so great, so overwhelming, so imperative,
that it is worth more than life. Purity is not just a separate part of our being.
It belongs to our existence as a whole, it is essential for our life.
Purity brings us in harmony of body and soul."
From the beatification homily of Pope Pius XII:
"Maria Goretti resembled St. Agnes in her characteristic virtue of Fortitude. This virtue of Fortitude is at the same time the safeguard as well as the fruit of virginity. Our new beata was strong and wise and fully aware of her dignity. That is why she professed death before sin. She was not twelve years of age when she shed her blood as a martyr, nevertheless what foresight, what energy she showed when aware of danger! She was on the watch day and night to defend her chastity, making use of all the means at her disposal, persevering in prayer and entrusting the lily of her purity to the special protection of Mary, the Virgin of virgins. Let us admire the fortitude of the pure of heart. It is a mysterious strength far above the limits of human nature and even above ordinary Christian virtue." - Beatification Homily Pius XII
So you see, Maria's place in the company of martyrs in heaven, recognized in and through the decrees of beatification and canonization, is on account of heroic virtue, in particular the virtue of Fortitude which is the safeguard of virginity, as Pius XII indicated.
Fortitude is the moral virtue which strengthens the soul in the pursuit of the difficult good so that it does not allow itself to be shaken by the greatest obstacles. It should dominate the fear of danger, fatigue, criticism, all that would paralyze our efforts toward the good. It prevents man from capitulating in a cowardly manner when he should fight; it also moderates audacity and untimely exaltation which would drive him to temerity.
The heroic degree of the virtue of fortitude appears especially in martyrdom, undergone to give testimony to a truth of faith or to the grandeur of a Christian virtue. Outside of martyrdom, the virtue of fortitude, the gift of fortitude, patience, and magnanimity intervene each time that something heroic is to be accomplished or a great trial to be borne. - Garrigou-LagrangeFortitude, aka, courage.
Attached to the virtue of fortitude is the virtue of magnanimity, as Garrigou-Lagrange says: "To the virtue of fortitude is also linked that of magnanimity, which leads to the lofty practice of all the virtues." It also accounts for the martyr's ability to forgive the attacker. What Fisher points out in her essay is Maria Goretti's concern for her attacker to avoid mortal sin, suggesting this is the reason for her canonization - or at least, this is the aspect we ought to focus upon. While it is true that St. Maria's resistance to her attacker included her concern to prevent him from committing mortal sin, Alessandro did in the end commit the mortal sin of murder. After her death, the Saint herself saw to his conversion after he had been convicted for his crime and was in prison serving his sentence.
These days everyone seems to be rewriting the lives of the saints to suit whatever their own personal interest story happens to be. Christians oftentimes seem to not understand sanctity now what it consists of. The don't understand the virtues nor do they comprehend men and women are canonized for their heroic virtue - even the martyrs. Loving the virtues is God-like - it's not an ideology or cult practice. Lacking virtue is not virtuous - they confuse virtue with merit. We need grace and we need mercy - we need the merits of the Blood of Jesus Christ to infuse the virtues within us. Loving the virtues is the fruit of genuine charity - love of God and our neighbor. The soul loves what God loves, hence the love of chastity is indeed part of devotion.
The motive that should inspire chastity is the love of God. Chastity of heart and body is in reality the renunciation of every illicit affection out of love of God. It prevents the life of the heart from descending, so that it may rise toward God like a living flame ever more pure and ardent. Chastity of the body is like bark around chastity of the heart, which is the more precious. - Garrigou-Lagrange
We can't invent a new spirituality, as it were, to accommodate our shortcomings or the moral failures of our age. Our remedy for that is recourse to prayer, the sacraments, and devotion to the mercy of God.
In conclusion, Simcha Fisher is a bit confused, Maria Goretti really did die for her virginity - just as St. Agnes and the first virgin-martyrs of Rome had. That's the faith of the Church folks. Don't get your religious education from bloggers and journalists.
Serenelli, Maria's murderer knew exactly why the saint died.
A few days before his death at the age of 88, Alessandro Serenelli who at the age of 18 had tried to rape Maria Goretti, and who later acknowledged that his repentance was due to her heavenly intercession, was asked if he had any advice to give to the youth of his day (this was the year 1970). He wrote the following words which have not lost their immediacy:So did John Paul II.
"I sincerely ask pardon of God and of the entire world for the crime which I committed against the martyr, Maria Goretti, and against purity. With all my heart I plead with you to avoid all immoral literature and shows, and whatever else will lead you into sins of impurity."Alessandro would often repeat besides the picture of his victim: "I killed a saint, and now after 69 years of penance and prayer, by God's mercy I am going to join her in Heaven." - Source
"She did not flee from the voice of the Holy Spirit, from the voice of her conscience. She rather chose death. Through the gift of fortitude the Holy Spirit helped her to 'judge"- and to choose with her young spirit. She chose death when there was no other way to defend her virginal purity. Maria Goretti's blood, shed in a sacrifice of total fidelity to God, reminds us that we are also called to offer ourselves to the Father. We are called to fulfill the divine will in order to be found holy and pleasing in His sight. Our call to holiness, which is the vocation of every baptized person, is encouraged by the example of this young martyr.
Look at her especially, adolescents and young people. Like her, be capable of defending your purity of heart and body; be committed to the struggle against evil and sin, nourishing your communion with the Lord through prayer, the daily practice of mortification, and scrupulously observing the commandments. Do not be afraid to take a counter-cultural stance, to reject the world's idols when it is a question of courageously witnessing by your lives that you belong to a chaste and poor Christ. Always esteem and love purity and virginity. - (L'Osservatore Romano- English ed., 10/7/91)
St. John Paul counselled to always love and esteem purity and virginity. Love of God generates love of virtue, and love of neighbor. Never denigrate that dimension of holiness, never claim that there is something wrong with one's devotion, whose love is strong as death - as the Song of Song's notes. Never cheapen the grace of God suggesting misinterpretations of why she died such as the claim: "In Maria Goretti’s case, she was focused on her rapist — and it was her love for him, and not her blindingly pure devotion to chastity that converted him ..." Where did Fisher learn that? Maria was focused upon God, she struggled against her would be rapist and indeed cried out to her attacker: "No! It's a sin! God does not want it!"
Knock off the revisionism people. Goretti died for her virginity - I knew that as a kid in Catholic school. Sanctity of life is not bathwater - the virtues are indispensable for holiness.
We need humility to understand the greatness of the saints and martyrs.
For those of us who have not 'resisted sin to the point of shedding blood' remember that the Precious Blood of Jesus brings forth virgins... even after physical virginity is lost. I think the example and intercession of Maria Goretti is especially important for young men and women who have lost their virginity, especially victims of rape - whose physical virginity was violated against their will, as well as the offenders-perpetrators of the crime.
Sometimes the example of the saints can be intimidating, and often times well intentioned religious people use the saints to castigate or shame the worldly - and yet it is just the opposite with God. He makes saints to attract us to virtue, to holiness, to Himself. The example of the saints should never be used to denigrate, intimidate, condemn or repel a soul attracted to virtue. St. Maria Goretti proves this through her apparition (intervention) to her murderer, convincing him of God's merciful love. I think it is through their example that many of the saints condemned a sinful world, yet charity remains the compelling force which moves them to heroic love for the sinner.