St. Maria Goretti was an 11 year old girl who was killed because she refused the advances of an older boy who just wanted to take advantage of her for pleasure. He tried three times to rape her and three times she succeeded in defending her body. On the third time, he took a long kitchen knife and stabbed her over a dozen times in frustration. This was on July 5, 1902. She died in the hospital the next day. Today is her commemoration in the Martyrology.
How many girls today would defend their bodies? How many would say, "No! It is a sin!" How many would refuse to let a boy take advantage of them for pleasure? How many dress modestly to defend their body's dignity and help keep it from being used for pleasure? So few girls recognize the dignity God gave their bodies. The human body is God's ultimate creation, the masterpiece of the Divine Artist. It is beautiful and dignified just because God made it. On top of that, the female human body has further dignity as it is given the honor of a greater share in that same process of creation than the male body. Nowhere in this do we find a place for pleasure. The body is beautiful in itself because God made it that way. It exists to show God's glory and to participate in creation.
Far too few recognize this reality today. Contrary to everything God has said and done (which includes even creating the body) most girls treat their bodies as if they exist to give boys pleasure and they treat their bodies accordingly. They wear immodest clothes that invite boys to look at their bodies as sources of pleasure. They degrade their own bodies to objects of pleasure. They figure that if they keep the boy satisfied enough he will stick around to take care of her and the baby. This is mutual manipulation. This is not God's plan. God designed love to be a mutual total self-giving to one another, not some sort of compromise. The girl learns to act this way during puberty and continues this same behavior throughout her life, never respecting her God-given dignity at any point.
St. Maria Goretti (detail). Oil on Linen. 54" x 132". 2008
Why do girls act this way? They have been given the greatest thing in physical creation, their own bodies, created by God and they promptly throw them away to dogs in order to gain whatever romantic pleasure or type of support they seek. Why do they show their bodies such disrespect, by putting it all on display for boys to lust after and use for pleasure through revealing or tight fitting clothes? How can a girl be that disrespectful of her own body? Simple: she was never taught what dignity she has in the first place. No one ever properly catechized her, telling her that her body innately has great dignity and beauty, just because God made it so and that her body exists to show God's glory and to participate in creation. It does not exist for pleasure. So many young girls worry about their appearance, trying to turn their bodies into sources of pleasure, and completely ignoring the beauty they had from God Himself from the beginning.
Poor catechesis leads to Catholics being absorbed into the sins of the world. No one ever properly taught our children what God is trying to work in their lives. They get degraded down to the level of the world because no one lifts them up to the level of God. That's why we need practices and teachings that elevate God above us, not bring Him down to our level. If we elevate God, our union with Him will elevate us. If we lower God to our level, union with Him is powerless and has no effect.
Excerpt from a homily by Venerable Pope Pius XII at the canonization of Saint Maria Goretti (taken from the Patron Saint Index entry on Maria Goretti):
It is well known how this young girl had to face a bitter struggle with no way to defend herself. Without warning a vicious stranger burst upon her, bent on raping her and destroying her childlike purity. In that moment of crisis she could have spoken to her Redeemer in the words of that classic, The Imitation of Christ: “Though tested and plagued by a host of misfortunes, I have no fear so long as your grace is with me. It is my strength, stronger than any adversary; it helps me and give me guidance.” With splendid courage she surrendered herself to God and his grace and so gave her life to protect her virginity. The life of a simple girl – I shall concern myself only with highlights – we can see as worthy of heaven. Even today people can look upon it with admiration and respect. Parents can learn from her story how to raise their God-given children in virtue, courage, and holiness; they can learn to train them in the Catholic faith so that, when put to the test, God’s grace will support them and they will come through undefeated, unscathed, and untarnished. From Maria’s story carefree children and young people with their zest for life can learn not to be led astray by attractive pleasures which are not only ephemeral and empty but also sinful. Instead they can fix their sights on achieving Christian moral perfection, however difficult that course may prove. With determination and God’s help all of us can attain that goal by persistent effort and prayer. Not all of us are expected to die a martyr’s death, but we are all called to the pursuit of Christian virtue. So let us all, with God’s grace, strive to reach the goal that the example of the virgin martyr, Saint Maria Goretti, sets before us. Through her prayers to the Redeemer may all of us, each in his own way, joyfully try to follow the inspiring example of Maria Goretti who now enjoys eternal happiness in heaven.