Alberto Marvelli (1918 – 1946) is an exemplary figure of catholic layman, a true hero of charity. In spite of his short lifetime (spiritual maturity is not the outcome of long life), Alberto has given, throughout his living, flesh and soul to the figure of the good samaritan, pointed out by our Lord Jesus Christ, as perfect pattern to be imitated in order to evidence how fellow-creatures must be loved.
Since he was a boy, he has lived out his own faith with great and ardent engagement, feeding it with continuous and intense prayer, and showing it in his daily duties of study and work, in the Church and in social life. He revealed an exceptional charity to the poor and the suffering and, like a prophet, he anticipated the Christian layman’s role and vocation, such as it will be proposed, later on, by the Vatican Council II. Pope John Paul II, speaking about him, stated: “He has shown how, in the changing of times and situations, Christian laymen are able to devote themselves unreservedly to the construction of God’s kingdom in family, work, culture and politics, taking the Gospel in the heart of society”. Now a day the Church offers him as a pattern of sanctity in daily life for the young Christians of the centuries to come.
Alberto’s parents, Mary Mayr and Alfredo Marvelli will be coherent and exemplary Christians. His mother was a wise woman, charitable and enlightened. When she was left a widow with her last born baby only a few months old, even if in economically reduced circumstances, she brought up her six children in a house that was always opened to the poor. She accustomed her children to forbear from wasting what was unnecessary to enable them to give it away to those who were in need of help. Since his early age, Alberto, after his mother’s example, proved to be very generous. Even after her young husband’s death, Mary’s charitable ardour never came to an end. In spite of his young age, Alberto gave support to his mother and his brothers, behaving like a second father. He soon appeared to be a wise boy. He devoted himself to prayer and charity and consecrated himself to Immaculate Mary. Later on, he will be a very active member of the Catholic Action. We can say that Alberto’s human, spiritual and apostolic formation was decisively of Salesian extraction. Having his mind always turned to God, Alberto, after going through “hard and terrible trials”, became, throughout his life, a living witness of transcendency.
His diary that he began to write since he was 15 years old, is “the story of a soul, the story of his living in prayer”. When he was a high-school pupil, he took up studying with a very great sense of earnestness and responsibility. During this time he will be also a very active member of the Association of St. Vincent of Paul. This very great apostle of charity will spur him on to a more and more great desire of charity. Alberto will be so literally kindled up by St.Vincent’s teaching as to produce words like these: “…we must love our fellow creatures vith the sweat of our forehead and the work of our arms…”, and again “…it is only because of your love that the poor will forgive you for the bread you give them…” and again “…before teaching the poor how to save their soul we must enable them to live in such a way as to allow them to be aware of having one….”. However, Alberto’s service to the poor was taken far beyond the limits within which the charitable action of the St. Vincent Association was practised. He was still a young man when he fervently asked Jesus to live in full pureness. On account of that he was regarded to be like a new St. Louis. His life program was “to be with Jesus Christ, the Pope and the Church”.
The Catholic Action
The Catholic Action was for him like a new home where he continued to be schooled to his great generosity, as well as to action and sanctity. In his “Diary” he writes down: “What a great deal of work is needed in this world which is so far from Christ; it is necessary for us to offer sacrifices; we must act to the utmost of our stength to have Christ known and loved. It is the call of duty we are urged by, and we are obliged to realize it”. He always lived in unceasing inner union with God; nevertheless, he was able to match his utter love to God with his utter love to his fellow-creatures. He undertook his university studies to realize the aim of “fulfilling my duty to give more and more glory to our Lord, by my behavior among my university mates”. The keen desire of his heart was sanctity and, on account of that, he read and mused much on the lives of Saints. He particularly wanted to imitate Pier Giorgio Frassati. His love for Jesus living in the Eucharist was fervent; his communions enraptured his soul as if in ecstasy and kept him joined to Jesus for a long time. His only loves were Jesus and Mary, and often addressed them with great filial transport: “Jesus, Mary, help me and assist me for ever”.
The Second World War
The year 1939 marks the tragical beginning of World War II. Alberto, being overcome by grief, said: “it is a catastrophic moment of our social life….”. Eight months later, while the conflict was causing death and ruin throughout Europe, he complained: “eight months of war have elapsed… many lives are being sacrificed, many young men are sheding their blood, many pains are being renewed!…”. In a sort of prophetic intuition, he added: “national and international right must be founded on Christian basis. The Gospel and the Pontifical Encyclicals must be the life rule not only for single men, but for peoples, for nations, for governements, for the world. The only and deep cause of war is our scarse love to God and to men. The spirit of charity is lacking in the world and, because of that, we hate each other like enemies, instead of loving each other like brothers, as we all have been redeemed by Christ!”.
Now, Alberto, with all his heart, prayed Jesus: “Jesus, protect Italy, preserve it from utter ruin, and grant peace with justice for all peoples, soon; so that war may disappear in the world for ever”. These words are a sign of great Christian wisdom and of courageous independence of judgment.
When Alberto was called to arms he wanted his weapon to be friendship in order: ” to be one with all others”. While the horrifying happenings of the war were going on, Alberto, forgetful of his “self”, was quite uneasy about his cherished fellow-creatures, especially those he felt to be his dearest brothers, because they were poor and needy. Then, he started a restless activity that kept him busy day and night; spurring on the young men of the G.I.A.C to share actively the sufferings ot the people and to be effectively helpful of their fellow-citizens, in those terrifying moments.
Under the bombs: working for the homeless
In 1943 English and American bombardments were started and very distressful events occurred. It was a period of tearing agony: misery, starvation, sequestrations, plunders, vexations, bereavements, vengeances. The town of Rimini will be almost wholly razed to the ground and all the inhabitants were forced to flee. Alberto’s heart began to beat for all of them. There was no more rest for him, because he kept on with long and eager works of moral and material assistance for the dispersed… Riding his bicycle indefatigable, Alberto got to the places where men and women were needing to be helped. After any bombardment he was the first to rush to the places where he might have been helpful. He rushed on the smoking wrekages of the town and worked hard to aid the wounded, to encourage the survivors, to assist the dying with Christian and brotherly love and self-sacrifice, to take those who had been blocked up or to take out of the wrekages those who were living buried, to place the household implements in safe. Soon after a bombardment he saw the tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament on the ground, and so, creeping flat on the ruining ground, he brought it. The risk was to a safe place pending and very serious, indeed; nevertheless his love for the Eucharist was so great that no obstacle might ever have prevented him from doing it!
Aiding the poor
His sister Gede, who was thirteen by that time, said: “During the German occupation he used to go restlessly to and fro between Vergiano and Rimini to offer his services to those who had been wholly devoid of their own things. During the day he was so much taken with his charitable works that he was obliged to be back home late at night. But when at home, there were always men and women waiting for him to be aided; yet, I remember, I have never seen him to be out of patience, nor to complain or to puff.
Mrs E.M. Cappelli said: “…He gave away all he had and could collect to the poor… and went about looking for peasants and shopkeepers who had succeeded in laying their goods in safe and bought any kind of supplies that he gave to those who were in urgent need of help. Afterwards, with his bicycle loaded with provisions, he got to the places where there was to render aid: in caverns , in shelters, in ceilings , or in poor wretched country-houses scattered in the country side.
Jesus lives in me
His being so busy, however, never caused him to be diverted from caring for his spiritual life and he never went to have a rest without reciting the Rosary, lying down on his knees near the bed; likewise, he never left out his daily Holy Communion. “He was fully aware that Eucharist is “sacrament of piety, sign of unity, bond of charity “ (S.Thomas ). Whenever he aided, he was ready to give his money even, and, in order to relieve his brothers’ pain, he never missed to hearten them with words like these “…our Lord may help us; let’s have our trust only in Him and in the intercession of His Holy Mother…”.
Donating with joy
A woman reported: “…we were tired, overwhelmed, out of spirits , and very sad. We felt to have been forlorn; no one of our acquaintances minded to help us. All at once, I did not know how, he happened to find us, Alberto Marvelli appeared on the threshold; he was the only person to render aid to us, in the wretched room we were living in. Another day he came to see us, smiling, and with many provisions: flour, oil and many other things we were urgently much in need of. He started talking with us, having kind and comprehensive words for us all”. And again “…one evening he came late in the place where we had taken shelter and I told him to spend the night with us; he accepted it willingly and slept in the one room we had at our disposal. Before lying on the mattress we had laid down for him, he knelt down on the floor to pray, remaining wrapped in pious meditation…”.
Rebuilding the towns
His sister reported: “…he often urged our mother to give away all that was in our house for those he knew to be in very great need: mattresses, coverlets and pots were freely offered to the poor: he gave everything away, because of the great misery of too many refugees he saw about and of his being quite aware not to be owner of anything…
He also gave away all the equipments of the clergy House, after asking for the bishop’s consent, as he was the manager of the House. He gave away his shoes, coats and woollen coverlet… There was no limit for him in giving, because he couldn’t help aiding the suffering and the poor. Once his mother saw him to be back home wearing a pair of old and bad wooden shoes. However, though he got rid of his things to aid the others, he never left his mother and brothers to be wanting of what was necessary for them…
His restless activity
Whenever he came back from Rimini he cared to have the refugees to be acquainted about the condition of their houses left in town; and he always added words of hope and assurance for them. Those he paid his attentions to, felt it to be their duty to report” how it was impossible for them not to be moved by the charm of his words full of inflaming faith “His generosity was joined to such spontaneous token of tenderness as to induce those reiceiving his aid to accept it with joy. Sister Diamante Cortesi recollected how Marvelli, during the time they were dispersed, often used to go to pay them a visit by his bicycle “loaded with victuals and clothes”. Sister Elena Giovagnoli reported: “…Once I saw him coming, poorly dressed and wearing poor wooden shoes, with a small half-ruined cart drawn by a little foal… “.
He risked life for the poor…
Elsa Maggiori reported: “…she had hastened to get to Rimini but she found her house to have become a heap of ruins… while she was weeping, her soul in full dispair, all of a sudden Alberto stepped forward, he seized her hand in his own and led her to some folks he was in friendly connection with. Along the way his devoutly reciting the Rosary soothed our pains as we were dejected owing to the tragical events occurring in those days”.
Giorgio Torri, one of Alberto’s friends remembers that Alberto, during those days coming on one after another, always grey, hard and dull, never seemed worried about it and he never came to a standstill in incarnating S. Paul’s great teaching; but he felt to be really happy whenever he had the chance to lead the souls to Jesus.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta says: “you enter here (the Church) to worship God, and you go out from here to love fellow-creatures” Alberto knew quite well that faith is “service” to be freely offered to fellow-creatures. What about giving not only the surplus, but even what is necessary, as Alberto often did! Alberto was utterly bereft of the so called “human respect”; a prejudice that unfortunatelly may so easily affect even religious persons’ behaviour. When, during the German occupation, Alberto accepted to enter the Todt Organization, his only aim was to avoid that many young men might be transported to Germany and to attempt to save many lives. In fact the Todt Organization got a special free-pass for him, and it was of great use for him to carry out risky undertakings. For some weeks he had two defaulters who had been recruited by the fascists to lie hidden in his house, running the risk of being shot. Friendship was not for him mere human feeling, but theological virtue of Evangelical Charity. Therefore, neither human sentimentalism, nor philanthropism stirred up by compassion nor self-satisfied humaniterianism, which are but existential lies; but Christian altruism which is service to Jesus living in creatures. We owe to Jesus the divine truth that our personal relationship to our fellow-creatures become personal relationship to God. Like St. Gerardo, who retained the poor to be his masters, Alberto was specially fond of the poor because “ they are the real givers”.
In the light of this truth, he felt honoured to serve them, quite aware as he was, that it is Jesus Himself to be served in their persons. It was with such spirit of service that he freely offered a meal to more than one hundred poor men and women during the day of Easter in 1946. That’s why he always asked Jesus the grace to be enabled to practice mercy. Townfolk were struck with wonder when they saw him to be the first to get to damaged places – His ardent prayer was: “Jesus give me a bit of Thy infinite love for men and their miseries, of Thy endless and supernatural ardour of apostolate”. He offered himself even for the most humble works such as to carry by carts luggage, furniture etc. belonging to those who had been compelled to leave their houses, especially the worthless household-implements of the poor and of the forsaken. Afterwards he did not leave them forlorn, because he continuously got to help them with his bicycle loaded with victuals and clothes. There was a sort of legend about him because he was deemed to be invulnerable, owing to the many dangers he had always escaped from, safe and sound. During the wartime the young engineer Marvelli was uninterruptedly and unreservedly engaged to lavish care and love on his brothers, facing perils and risking life for them, overwhelmed as they were with misery and dispair.
During the last two years of war Alberto Marvelli was restlessly engaged to lavish care on the paupers and to face any danger to help them; because aiding the poor in dispair was “ necessity”, and risking life for them was “duty” for him. He conceived his work a “duty”. His heart was so broken by his brothers’ pains that he insistently and sincerely asked Jesus to be afforded with the grace of suffering for them and to be able to make of pains “a source of supernatural joy”.
In addition to charitable works he was engaged in, to relieve those reduced to starvation, he felt obliged to offer the charity of his great technical and professional capacity as an engineer, acting with the rare courage of steadfast and worry caution not to be swerved from moral uprightness in accomplishing the requests of those who had suffered material damages, during those tragical post-war days. The technical data he had to collect, the calculations and the plans he had to get ready, the drawnings he had to enclose to the matters he had to solicit, were so many that he was compelled to work even during the night.
Jesus is always in agony
Moreover, he never allowed those who had received his works as an expert to be left aidless, especially those who were more unprovided and uncapable, in order to had them indemnified for the damages they had suffered, as soon as possible. Pascal stated that “Jesus is in agony until the end of the world”, Alberto was so much aware of this truth that he deeply felt how no matter when, where and how sins are committed, they continue renewing Jesus pangs in His passion and death. Jesus’s “Our Father” cannot be taken as covering of compromises-It denounces the “truth” of our relationships with the others.
We cannot appear before the Father with “words”, but with “facts”. It openly condemns neuter Christianism and pitilessly denounces non-performances. It is the prayer for those who are troubled with earthly concerns and should induce us to get free of the mean apprehensions of daily life. It is possible to recite it only if we get rid of our selfishness and of our self conceited complaisance. The above mentioned truth will be pointed out throughout. Alberto’s lifetime, along the path of sanctity he will be achieving day after day. Without bias and flaws, he actualized, ininterruptedly, what was called by a great Saint the policy of “Our Father”. The reign we ask for in “Our Father” to be realized “hic et nunc”, on the earth, is the reign of true love, the reign of the person self-sacrificing by free choice; because we are called into being by God’s love, in order to live according the logic of love, which must be unreservedly devoted to our brothers, in Jesus, for Jesus and with Jesus – It is utterly false of heart to “make” charity and to codify our “dues” to the others, sanctioning thus our deficiencies, egoisms and duplicities.
When we behave so guiltly, we belie ourselves as much as to be led astray, utterly out of the way of the brothers, the one to be suited to God’s children, If we consider weariness which is usually caused by hard and restless work of long continuance, as in Alberto’s activity, it is no use surmising to find out, by human inferences only, how this exceptional Christian believer may have endured it day by day, without ever being worn out, both on psychological and physiological ground.
Love and forgiveness
During the year 1939 Alberto knew a young girl named Marilena for whom he felt a tender sentiment and, for some time, he also thought to marry her; but after long reflexions and prayers he only considered her like a sister. There establishment of the territory of the town of Rimini was long and very hard, because of the huge disasters caused by a very cruel war and by thousands of victims. All over Italy, only the town of Cassino had been destroyed like that. It was obviously indispensable to have a committee to be established to start rebuilding the town. The presidence, both of this committee and of the town lodging committee, were entrusted to the young engineer Marvelli.
In a pocket-book he wrote: “it is better to serve than to be served: Jesus serves”. Alberto accomplished his work with rapidity and decision, with clearness and transparence. He was given the responsibility to manage big sums of money to be shared among those who had received material damages. He fulfilled his task with great justice and equity. He wanted to comply with everyone’s request. The time he spent in his office sufficed no longer to settle matters, but he was successful in realizing, in a single subject matter, both his professional duty and his longing of charity. His mother reported: “when he was back home he could not take his meals in peace owing to an uninterrupted queue both of the poor (who were allowed to come in by her mother herself) as well as to the clients who, in order to contact him, were obliged to come just during the meal time. In spite of that, he never expected them to come to his office or to his house, because he betook himself about to look for those who were needy.
Elena Balestra reported: “When we came back to Rimini from Trieste, we found nothing more of our own and, for 18 days, we were compelled to have our night rest lying on the benches in the railway entrance hall. I was peaceless and sad, also because my son was sick. It was Marvelli who, unespectedly, came and met us; he was able to find a lodging for us and to arrange everything in our new abode…
After the war
“After the war the following days were very hard for the citizens in Rimini to be able to get their livelihood as well as to set civil living in order again: the revenge of the defeated, the political passions, the vengeance for the endured wrongs, were a threat for a civil and democratic renewal. In these critical circumstances, it was Marvelli to assume, unreverdly, the defence of the rights of the weak, of the oppressed and of the persecuted. In 1945 Alberto took up teaching again, and began, by his behavionr, to establish a new kind of contacts with pupils and fellow-teachers,that is to say to be on brotherly terms with them- He often mused on death, but this was for him chance to enhance more and more his spiritual life and to have his faith to be more effective in charitable works. His daily life was so busy as to be exhaustive, either for the rhythm of his professional and charitable works, or his spiritual duties, because, when Alberto was a member of Catholic Action again, he was taken up with many binding tasks.
He commented the “Rerum Novarum, by Leo XIII ” to youngmen, and proved to be fully acquainted with the Christian social doctrines he taught. Alberto’s passion was likewise very intense when he was engaged as a member of the A.C.L.I. (Catholic Association of Italian Workers), and used some premises belonging to the A.C.L.I. to have free meals to be bestowed to workers and to the poor of the town. He used to go about to collect packages of clothes and cared to deliver them himself to those who were extremely in need. He got, by the A.C.L.I., a proper office to be opened for the research of missing citizens and to hasten to return home of war prisoners. Meanwhile, as the social doctrines by K. Marx were being spread among the workers to have them to be indoctrinated with them, the engineer Marvelli never failed to betake himself before the gates of the factories to have the workers to be acquainted with the Christian social doctrines, and to show out how false and harmful Marx’s ideas were as compared to Christian ones, as well as to speak of Christ to them. Owing to this indefatigable work, Alberto was deemed to be the only Christian acting as he did. Alberto’s love for his brothers reached the heroism of Christian forgiveness, too. Once he was beaten so cruelly as to be left bleeding by persons who had grown up enraged and wicked because of the misery they had been living in. When Alberto heard of the horrors of the nazist extermination camps, of the crematory ovens and of the slaughter of the Jewish he wept and prayed. When he says that “we must give the others the gifts we have been given gratuitously by God’s love”, he affirms how pretentious it is to believe to be owners of such gifts – Vincenzo. Cananzi, a young man whose liveliness was not always positive, reported: ” there was in his innermost ” self ” a wisdom that was not the outcome of age, because it perennially overflow from the inner man and he lived it out as a very vivid faith, day by day, and a true Christian awareness that was evidenced in actions”. Alberto was a true born Christian also in his political engagement that will be for him a work of “charity ” – Pius XI had already said: ” the political fields are the fields of a wider charity, political charity”.
President of Catholic graduates
When his bishop proposed him, even if he told him that in a rather playful tone, to be president of the Catholic Graduates, Alberto asked for some time to think about it and, afterwards, he accepted this task he considered to be a mission. The meetings presided over by the engineer Marvelli were attended by lawyers, teachers , physicians , magistrates. He initiated a popular university, too; engaging all the catholic graduates in this activity. He did not leave out to apply a remedy to the moral and spiritual dangers on beach life. War left many human derelicts behind it: wreched crowds who were very poor, living disorderly, houseless families, forlorn, lacking of everything. It was a social and moral plague that urged him to organize Holy Masses for them, as well as to supply meals for those who had nothing to eat; teaching them how to pray. In order to get money necessary for his work, he went about begging. The poor were always his dearest brothers, who can teach us ” how one suffers ” , and enable us ” to realize love “.
An example for the young
When in 1946 he was allowed to be a member of the ” Workingmen’s Club ” his action in this field was a practical realization of the “symbol of the workers “, he recited every day Alberto entreated our Lord to grant him the grace in order to have his prayer ” non Mea voluntas sed Tua fiat “not to be reduced to a vain and dry wording. A woman remembered “how providential and daring Marvelli’s intervention was whenever unhesitatingly he defended them against evil-minded men “. Alberto made of all his life a ” continuous act of love ” that, starting from his total love to Jesus, was humbly and utterly devoted to his brothers. His life was an uncompromised and unceasing ” yes ” to the Father’ will, with Jesus. He always kept in mind Jesus’ frightful agony in the Getsemani, as well as his shokingly disfigured face because of the superhuman anguishes of His passion and his crucifixion. It is easy to understand why S. Gemma Galgani, the saint girl frenzied of Jesus agonizing and crucified, might have been so dear to Alberto. That’ s why he must be esteemed as being a true disciple of his beloved God, Jesus Christ. His mother often saw him come back home without jacket and shoes… One day he sent the window panes of his house to a priest who was ill and lying on a bed in a very cold (it was wintertime ) room without window-panes. He offered the most humble services to his brothers. Aldo Savelli reported: “During the very cold wintertime of 1945/46, Alberto, using his bicycle, used to go to Vergiano every two nights to take milk, also for my child; he refused to be thanked and asked for ” prayers ” only. I have always kept in my heart the affable tone of his voice “. Jesus starts declaring His beatitudes with “Blessed the poor in spirit because the reign of heavens is theirs”. A. Marvelli was a man poor in spirit, because he was utterly aware of “having” nothing of his own; he knew how “life” and all the “things” of the world are freely created by God’ s will, and there is no pretending of the human creature to “use” things as if he were owner of them. As a true Christian, Alberto had a very keen sense of catholicity and realized the truth according to which “unanimity, fruit of charity, is the union of will, not at all of opinions”. Alberto through his living, carried into effect the very meaning of charity as it is pointed out by St. Paul in his hymn to charity. When Alberto died his political opponents wrote: “The communists of Bellariva bow in reverence and hail the son, the brother who has made so much good in this land “.
As regards act while he is taking off even his own jacket and shoes, in an impetus of great love to give them to a needy brother, is an impressive action deserving to be admired. Wat a great teaching of Christian wisdom young Alberto Marvelli affords to the crowds of diverted and over-excited youngmen yelling in the hellish pits of stadia and of discothèques, to the throngs of young men and women in the meetings of rock and non-rock musical performances or in all the revels of this world! What a warning Alberto’s living is for all the young and aged corpses (words used by Pope Pius XII), vilifying and trifling away their lifetime, plunged and blinded as they are in the mire of material welfare; and restlessly worrying on this wordly stage to get human gainings, which are nothing else but passing shapes!. This damned evil of the soul that may derange and deceive man’s mind so much as to lead him to live utterly entangled in the “fallacy” of “having”, and to be utterly averted from the “truth” of “being”!.
We can say that Alberto Marvelli’s whole life, throughout his intense and generous attivity, offered as a gift to his fellow creatures, is very ardent love for Jesus that, he utterly and indefaticably lets to flow, with a heart sweeter then a mother’s heart and more in love than a bridegroom’s heart, like waves of tenderness, to reach his brothers Jesus himself is living in.
In the thick darkness we are living in, Alberto Marvelli is like a light for us all and for the human creatures of the time to come.
If you want to know more about Alberto Marvelli
Centro Documentazione e studi Alberto Marvelli
Postulazione della causa di Beatificazione
Via Cairoli, 69 – 47900 RIMINI – Italia
Tel. e Fax: 0541. 787183
cell. +39.349.3237566; +39.3386416241
Mons. Fausto Lanfranchi, Vice Postulatore
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