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Blessed Alberto Marvelli: A Saint for Our Times

Blessed Alberto Marvelli, Florence (Salesian Archives, Rome)

Over the past century, the Catholic Church has been blessed with a number of great Saints who have transformed the lives of tens of thousands of families, youth and young adults all across the world. One of those Saints, or soon to be Saint someday is Blessed Alberto Marvelli, a young Italian who epitomizes what it means to be a man living for God and His Church.

Blessed Alberto Marvelli was born on 21 March, 1918, in Ferrara, northeast of Bologna, Italy. Alberto was one of six children in his family. His parents Luigi Marvelli and Maria Mayr were devout Catholics and were actively involved in supporting their community and their parish. The family would regularly invite poor people into their home and minister to them.

Alberto as a schoolboy was enrolled in the Salesian Oratory in Ferrara and was part of Catholic Action, a lay movement that began in the 19th Century to defend the teachings of Church in a time of nationalism, fascism, communism and anti-clericalism. Some of his close friends included the legendary Italian film producer, Federico Fellini.

As a young person, Alberto was a keen athlete, loved sports, the outdoors and biking. At the age of 18, he was elected as the Italian Head of the association of Catholic Action at a time when Adolf Hitler ordered the assassination of its members in Germany in the early 1930s.

By 1941, Alberto completed his undergraduate studies in engineering in Bologna and began working for the Italian car giant Fiat in Turin.

Alberto and the War

At the age of 23, God called Alberto to serve his people, his Church and his country, in a period of great social and political unrest. With the entry of Italy into the Axis pact in 1936, Italy officially became its own pseudo puppet state for Nazi tyranny and radical totalitarianism. As Germany began to invade and occupy the rest of mainland Europe. The spread of radical Nazi ideologies became apparent with Jews and POWs being deported to Concentration Camps and Internment Camps during the War. Alberto as a young person stood his ground and defended his faith, his culture and his people.

Shortly before the war, Alberto was fortunate to be exempt from compulsory military service due to the fact that his two older brothers were serving in the Italian armed forces. He left his job with Fiat to became a high school teacher and moved to Vergiano, near Rimini to avoid the aerial bombardment of the Allies. He soon got to work to help make a difference. It must be noted that according to accounts Alberto always began his day with daily mass and adoration.

He was involved in rescuing PoWs and Jews being deported from Santarcangelo, Italy to Germany by removing the locks on moving train carriages. He helped rehabilitate families affected during the allied bombing campaign over Italy during the opening of the Italian front in 43. He managed to get rations for soup kitchens, and gave his own clothes and food supplies to families and children who were starving because of the war.

When the second Allied front of Europe began through Southern Italy, what Churchill referred to as the ‘soft underbelly’. He was involved in ensuring that the needs of his people and their safety were met by being very active in the community. His heroic witness thanks to his faith, courage, determination and selflessness merited the respect and adoration of all the families and people he served during the war.

One of Alberto’s great passions — Biking

A special stamp commemorating his Beatification

After the war, Alberto was involved in rebuilding homes and businesses. He helped form cooperatives to aid such efforts. In 1946, he stood for regional elections in Rimini and was sadly killed during a collision with a military vehicle transporting troops in the middle of the night while biking to various polling stations during the elections. Despite his death, people still voted for him and he won the election. His radically selflessness reflected a man who was not afraid of evil.

Saints and the Church

In Church History, great saints such as St. Teresa of Avila, St. John Paul II, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Ambrose of Milan, Duns Scotus, St. Dominic de Guzmán, St. Teresa of Calcutta and many others have risen throughout the ages to uphold for the dignity of the human person. They did these things because they were moved by something higher than themselves, a person who created the universe itself—God.

They undertook great noble deeds and actions in an age filled with darkness, sin and death, to eventually become great witnesses to the life of Truth and salvation. This witness to the profound truths of the Catholic Church is vital since all of these saints mentioned above lived in a period of human history where the dignity of the human person, decency and moral responsibility had been abandoned by the predominant culture.

The life and noble deeds done by Blessed Alberto Marvelli are an important lesson for high school, college and young adults living in an age where they have been abandoned, abused, neglected and mistreated by the great sin of ignorance in our increasingly globalized culture. Today, the Church needs young heroes to be heroic witnesses to the life of Truth when the Church is caught in scandal, has setbacks, and is failing to reach out and minister to people.

A transformation within the Church can only happen by engaging with God and His Church, where we receive the graces, virtues, sacraments and truths about ourselves and our existence that will enable us to make a difference in an age that is in desperate need of authentic men and women who seek to do good in this world.

St. John Paul II and Blessed Alberto Marvelli

On 5 September, 2004, St. John Paul II beatified Blessed Alberto Marvelli in a special ceremony in Loreto, Italy. His Holiness, St. John Paul II, said on this special occasion during his homily:

“ Alberto Marvelli, a young man who was strong and free and a generous son of the Church of Rimini and of Catholic Action, considered his brief life of only 28 years as a gift of love to Jesus for the good of his brethren. “Jesus has enfolded me in his grace”, he wrote in his diary; “I no longer see anyone but him, I think only of him”.

Alberto had made the daily Eucharist the center of his life. In prayer, he also sought the inspiration for political commitment, convinced of the need to live to the full as a child of God in history in order to make it a history of salvation.

In the difficult time of the Second World War, which sowed death and multiplied violence and atrocious suffering, Bl. Alberto fostered an intense spiritual life, from which flowed the love for Jesus that led him constantly to forget himself and to take on the cross of the poor.”

The Holy Father went on to say “It is up to you lay people to witness to the faith through your own specific virtues: fidelity and gentleness in the family, competence at work, tenacity in serving the common good, solidarity in social relations, creativity in doing useful deeds for evangelization and human promotion. It is also up to you, in close communion with the Pastors, to show that the Gospel is timely and that faith does not tear the believer from history but roots him in it more deeply.

"Courage, Catholic Action! May the Lord guide you on your journey of renewal!

"May the Immaculate Virgin of Loreto accompany you with tender concern; the Church looks to you with confidence; the Pope greets you, supports you and wholeheartedly blesses you.

Italian Catholic Action, thank you!” — (The Holy Father’s homily during the Beatification of Pere Tarres I Claret, Alberto Marvelli and Pina Suriano)

Of a soon-to-be Saint, there is no greater example of selflessness, courage and fidelity to Our Lord and His Church than the life and witness of Blessed Alberto, a man who is a reflection of authentic masculinity and Christian witness.


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