Maria Goretti's heroic story of love and forgiveness would not be complete without one of its first miraculous fruits: the conversion of Alessandro Serenelli, Maria's murderer.
Immediately after his brutal assault on young Maria Goretti, Alessandro was imprisoned temporarily in Nettuno and then transferred to Regina Coeli prison in Rometo stand trial. After vehemently denying his guilt, he finally broke down in the face of overwhelming testimony. Since he was a minor, he was sentenced to only thirty years hard labor.
A priest came to see him soon afterward, and he turned on the cleric in rage, howling like a maniac and lunging at him.
In the days which followed, Alessandro lost his appetite and grew nervous. After six years of prison, he was near the brink of despair. Then one night, Maria appeared to him in his cell. She smiled at Alessandro and was surrounded by lilies, the flower symbolic of purity.
From that moment, peace invaded Alessandro's heart, and he began to live a constructive life.
After serving his sentence, Alessandro took up residence at a Capuchin monastery, working in the garden as a tertiary. He asked pardon of Maria's mother and accompanied her to Christmas Mass in the parish church where he spoke before the hushed congregation, acknowledging his sin and asking God's forgiveness and the pardon of the community.
Forty years later, on June 24, 1950, Maria was canonized at St. Peter's basilica in Rome, with Alessandro's heart now firmly converted to the Lord. A miraculous fruit of Maria's life, indeed!
Alessandro Serenelli died on May 6th, 1970 in the Capuchin convent of Macerata. He left the following testimony, dated May 5, 1961, as his spiritual legacy:
"I'm nearly 80 years old. I'm about to depart.
"Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself.
"My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried.
"There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life.
"When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed.
"If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.
"Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I've been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta.
"I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life."Signature, Alessandro Serenelli