Maria Goretti was a happy and obedient child. When she was nine years old, her father died. Maria prayed each day for the strength to follow Jesus and avoid serious sin.
One day a young man named Alexander tried to force Maria to sin. She refused, saying, "I would rather die than sin."
In a rage, Alexander stabbed Maria fourteen times with a long knife. Twelve-year-old Maria lived only twenty-four hours; but before dying she forgave Alexander and prayed for his conversion.
Eight years later Maria appeared to Alexander in prison, offering him flowers. Alexander called for a priest, repented of his sins, and surrendered his life to Jesus. After his release, Alexander asked forgiveness of Maria's mother and family, and spent his life serving God.
Alexander and many of Maria's family were in Rome in 1950, when Pope Pius XII canonized the new patroness for Catholic youth: Saint Maria Goretti!