Today's saint has long been claimed as a patron saint of youth, especially of young women, and, more recently, of rape victims. I would like to see her invoked as a special intercessor for victims of domestic violence, because that seems to represent the larger picture of Maria's life and death. After all, her attacker and his father lived on the upper floor of the same farm house as the fatherless Goretti family. They shared a common kitchen. They worked the same land. Maria often stayed at home to babysit and do housework--this was so typically the case that Alessandro, her attacker, frequently took advantage of the situation in his attempts to seduce the eleven-year-old (almost marriageable age in that time and place). He stalked her. He surprised her at work. He threatened her not to tell a soul what was going on.
There must be countless families in similar circumstances: the near-homeless sharing an address; single mothers who include their boyfriends in their children's lives, thinking that they would be a father-figure and ignoring all the signs to the contrary; fatherless girls hoping for a man's affection and protection. Statistics from the Center for Disease Control indicate that one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence (men are the victims in 15% of domestic violence cases). Maria's story can speak to them. Maria herself can interecede for them to take the steps necessary to protect themselves and their children, and to live fully and freely.
By telling Maria's story as a story of domestic violence, we may be able to reach threatened women and children in a setting that strips aways the "traditional" justifications for violence in the home, especially a distorted reading of St. Paul's exhortation about wives "submitting" to husbands (in the context, he tells husbands and wives to submit to one another).
What say ye?