Saturday, October 8, 2016

Homily for Memorial of Blessed Albert Marvelli

Homily for the Memorial of
Blessed Albert Marvelli
Oct. 5, 2016
Holy Cross, Champaign, Ill.
Blessed Albert Marvelli
"Our going forward in the spiritual life
must be a continual and determined ascent.
“In Blessed Albert you have given us a shining example of lay holiness.  May his intensive life of prayer, his generosity in fulfilling his social and political responsibilities, and his ardent love for the poor serve us as a constant invitation to follow Christ.” (Collect)

Albert Marvelli was born into a large Italian family on Mar. 21, 1918, and grew up in the city of Rimini, a minor port city and major tourist destination on the northern Adriatic coast.  From his family he learned early to care for the less fortunate.

Albert joined the Salesian oratory or youth center in Rimini and soon became a leader in both games—he loved sports—and catechetical activities.  He modeled himself on Dominic Savio (not yet canonized) and the athlete-social activist from Turin Pier Giorgio Frassati (beatified 1990).

He centered his life on the Eucharist, attending Mass daily. From age 15 till his death, he kept a diary.  One entry in it exclaims: “What a new world opens up to me contemplating Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Each time I receive Holy Communion, each time Jesus in his divinity and humanity enters me, contacts my soul, it awakens holy ideas in me, a burning and consuming flame, but one that makes me so happy!”

Other entries tell us, “I want my life to be a continuous act of love…, love which is faith, love which is charity, apostolate, sense of duty, the desire to become a saint.”  “The way of perfection is difficult, I know, but with the help of Jesus nothing is impossible.” 

He was also devoted to our Blessed Mother, praying the Rosary every day.

In both the youth center and his parish, he became active in Catholic Action, an organization that united lay people and clergy in charitable, social, political, and religious activity and was particularly strong in Italy in the 20th century.  Before long he was the president of the youth center unit and vice president of the diocesan organization.

Albert studied engineering at the University of Bologna, and in 1942 with degree in hand went to work for FIAT in Turin.  Italy was already in WWII, and he served in the Italian army briefly; he was an apostle among his fellow soldiers, e.g., bringing them to Mass with him.

Following Italy’s surrender in 1943, he returned to Rimini. The city was occupied by the Germans and was suffering heavy Allied bombardment.  He bicycled all over the city, working strenuously to supply the needs of bombed out families for food, clothing, shoes, etc., and assist those wounded in bombing raids.  He was also active in the resistance, particularly by sneaking into the rail yards and releasing from boxcars those who were being transported to concentration camps.

After the city’s liberation, Albert put his engineering skills to work toward rebuilding Rimini and was appointed an administrator for housing, then a city councilor.  He continued his earlier work of feeding and clothing the needy.

After the war, Italian politics was sharply divided between the Communists and the Christian Democrats.  The royal house was voted out in a referendum in 1946, and Italy became a republic.  But there was grave danger that the Communists would win control of the government just as they were doing at that time in Poland and Hungary and would soon do in Czechoslovakia.  (The situation was so dire in the 1948 elections that even seminarians, including our American Salesians in Turin, were sent out to campaign actively for the Christians Democrats.)

Meanwhile, in Rimini Albert Marvelli was urged to stand for office as a Christian Democrat.  He was so popular and respected that one of the Communists said, “I don’t mind if we lose as long as Marvelli becomes mayor.”  It was a terrible tragedy that while bicycling in the dark to a political meeting on Oct. 5, 1946, he was struck by an army truck and died a few hours later.

Quite evidently Albert Marvelli, this son of the Salesian youth center, exemplified what Don Bosco wanted in his pupils:  a good Christian and an upright citizen.  Pope John Paul II—another former Salesian pupil—beatified Albert on Sept. 5, 2004, during a national congress of Catholic Action at Loreto.

Archbishop Angelo Comastri of Loreto said that Albert “left a sign of cleanness, transparency, dignity, correctness, which is a great message for all politicians today. One can be in politics and be a saint, and this is a very great message that comes from the life of Albert Marvelli.”  For us he leaves a message of deep personal piety that nourishes an active concern for all our brothers and sisters, especially those in most need.

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