Saving a Saint : A Study of the Representation of Maria Goretti (1890-1902): a Saint, a Martyr, a Virgin, a Child
Author(s)Cadavid Yani, Helwi Margarita
KeywordsSaint Maria Goretti
Catholic edificational biographies
Self-sacrifice in defence of virginal purity
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AbstractThis thesis examines the legend of the Italian virgin martyr, Saint Maria Goretti (1890-1902). Her legend states that she died at the age of eleven protecting her virginity from her assailant Alessandro Serenelli who stabbed her numerous times, and that she granted him forgiveness before she died. Hence, she has been promoted as an example of purity and mercy. The continued relevance of Saint Maria Goretti is demonstrated by the fact that her figure was used to promote the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis and first announced in March 2015. The aim of the current study is to examine how Maria Goretti has been portrayed in the Catholic tradition. This is done by analysing Maria Goretti’s official representation found in the papal discourse about her (which consists of homilies, discourses, Angelus, messages and a letter), as well as by analysing the devotional discourse which in this study is comprised of two books that belong to the genre of hagiography. The chosen books: St. Maria Goretti, by Marie Cecilia Buehrle (1950), and St. Maria Goretti: In garments all red, by Fr. Godfrey Poage, C.P. (1950) can be included among the classics written about Saint Maria Goretti in English. I deploy a thematic narrative analysis as method in which I’m concerned with content in terms of themes, and with the ways in which characters are represented. Uncovering the themes that are discussed in the papal discourse and the devotional discourse about Saint Maria Goretti contributes to a better understanding of her representation and, in some measure, to a reconsideration of what she represents. A part of this thesis focuses on the aspects of Maria Goretti’s representation that can be considered problematic because of the claim that it is preferable to choose to be killed rather than to be raped. Therefore, it becomes necessary to include the discourse that treats Goretti’s story from a critical point of view which in this study embraces ethical, psychological, and feminist perspectives. The legend of Maria Goretti has been the object of arguably many studies. This thesis, nonetheless, contributes with a more detailed analysis of the discourse about Maria Goretti at the official level as well as the devotional level. I also seek to give insight into the genre of hagiography and to elucidate that the edeavour of portraying a wholly virtuous individual does not come without it’s complications in terms of the interpretations that can be made of the images that are conveyed. The analysis shows, among other things, that the representation of Maria Goretti misses aspects of reality and the complexity and multifariousness of the subject of sexual violence. I argue that a wholesome and more comprehensive representation of Saint Maria Goretti should include expert knowledge of sexual violence, especially that which can be found within the field of psychology.