Maria Goretti refused her attacker’s advances, because she wanted to remain sexually pure, and that’s good. But then he came at her with a knife, and that’s where the story is different. At that point we know that her concern was actually for her attacker’s purity, for his soul. She herself said so. She didn’t cry “No, no, it is a sin, I will go to Hell” or “We will go to Hell.” She cried out “You will go to Hell.” She was afraid that he would go to Hell for raping her. I don’t know if she fully understood that she wouldn’t be guilty if he did force her into sex, but I know from her own words that she was concerned for him. So she resisted, and he stabbed her, and she forgave him and died in agony.
Because of this, God greatly exalted her, and raised her up to Heaven as a saint. And on this day we praise God for her memory, a martyr who died trying to stop her enemy from committing a sin, a victim of physical and attempted sexual violence who gave up the ghost forgiving her would-be rapist. On this day we worship the Divine Victim for His grace in exalting another victim, someone who died trying to prevent her attacker from sinning.
That’s purity, purity from sin. Purity has nothing to do with not being a victim. It has nothing to do with how far your abuser goes, with whether he breaks your hymen or only the rest of your body. It has to do with your choices. The purest One who ever lived was abused and shamed more than anyone else. If you choose to avoid sin yourself, and if you value your enemy’s soul above your own life; if you give your life as an offering for sin, whatever form that offering may take in your own vocation, then you are pure indeed.
So I guess it’s true after all. Maria Goretti died rather than give up her purity. But that had nothing to do with whether she was raped at knifepoint or died resisting rape. It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that she died, physically still a virgin. Not really. She was pure of intention and died in the arms of Christ. Christ will raise her up on the last day.
Be careful what you say today, because you never know what another person has been through. A person who’s survived sexual violence is just as likely to be pure as someone who never has, but we don’t feel pure. We already feel as though God has abandoned us. It’s difficult enough to believe that we’re even human anymore. You never know what careless, ill-worded sermon will be too much for someone’s heart to bear.
May we all strive for purity of intention, and may we all die in the arms of Christ. May we all arise on the last day.