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The spiritual testament of a murderer and failed rapist

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Her last words: "I want you with me in paradise!"

Alessandro Serenelli, Maria Goretti’s killer, was tempted to take his own life due to despair, but something made him change his mind.

Alessandro Serenelli (1882-1970) was a strong young worker who lived near the Goretti family when they moved to Agro Pontino.

Carried away by passion, he tried several times to seduce and rape young María Goretti, who was not yet even 12 years old.

One day, enraged at her resistance, he stabbed her 14 times.

At the beginning, in jail, he showed no repentance; nor did he show any when the bishop visited him to talk to him about God’s forgiveness.

But a few days later, he asked to speak to the bishop. He had dreamed of Marietta, his victim. She was carrying 14 lilies (one for each stab wound) and she smiled at him, shining brightly. That is when his transformation began.

Below, we have reproduced the spiritual testament of Alessandro Serenelli recounted in his old age, when he was nearly 80 years old, shortly before his death. He was transformed by the faith of “Marietta” (now St. Maria Goretti) and by living the Franciscan spirituality.

Due to his age when he committed the crime (at that time, legal adulthood began at the age of 21), the murderer wasn’t given a life sentence; instead, he was condemned to 30 years in prison.

His spiritual journey was long and difficult. He was tempted, out of despair, to take his own life.

He was saved by the certainty of “Marietta’s forgiveness,” and her last words: “I want you with me in paradise!”

On Christmas of 1934, he visited Assunta, Marietta’s mother. She told him that she had already forgiven him. They went together to Christmas Mass, to the astonishment of all those who recognized them.

They stayed in contact from then on. They witnessed Maria Goretti’s canonization together in 1950. Alessandro was at the elderly Assunta’s side when she died.

Alessandro died on May 6, 1970, in the infirmary of the Capuchin fathers in Marerata, where he had been their porter for decades.

The text we publish here, his spiritual testament, was found in a closed envelope when he died, and is dated May 5. The text is taken from: Madre di Dio. Mensile mariano (November 2002). The translation from Italian is by Matthew Green.

Flee from evil and always follow what is good

(Spiritual testament of Alessandro Serenelli)

I am almost 80 years old, and near the end of my days.

Looking back on the past, I recognize that, in my early youth, I went down a false path: the way of evil, which led me to ruin.

I saw the world through the news, entertainment, and bad examples that most young people follow without giving them a thought: I didn’t think about it either.

There were people of religious faith and practice near me, but I didn’t pay them any heed, blinded by a brute force that impelled me down a bad road.

At the age of 20, I committed a crime of passion, the mere memory of which horrifies me today.

Maria Goretti, now a saint, was the good angel that Providence placed ahead of my steps to save me. I still bear, engraved upon my heart, her words of reproach and forgiveness. She prayed for me; she interceded for her murderer.

Thirty years of prison followed. Had I not been under-aged, I would have been condemned for life. I accepted the sentence I had earned, with resignation: I understood that I was guilty.

Little Maria was truly my light, my protector; with her help, I behaved well during those 27 years of prison, and I sought to live honestly when society accepted me again among its members.

The sons of St. Francis, the Capuchins Minor of Marche, welcomed me among them with seraphic charity, not as a servant, but as a brother. I have been living with them for 24 years.

And now, with serenity, I await the moment of being admitted to the vision of God, of embracing my loved ones again, of being near my protecting angel and her dear mother, Assunta.

May those who will read this letter of mine learn the happy lesson of fleeing from evil and always following what is good, right from their childhood.

Think of religion, with its precepts, not as something you can do without; rather, it is true consolation, the only safe path in all circumstances—even the most sorrowful ones in our lives. Peace and goodness to you!

Alessandro Serenelli

[This article is reprinted from Religión en Libertad]

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