If you have never heard of St. Joseph Marello, don’t be too surprised. This holy man did all he could to follow his namesake, St. Joseph, Mary’s husband, and stay in the background, behind the scenes, working quietly for his Savior and not calling any attention to himself.
Joseph Marello was born in Turin, Italy on December 26, 1844 to very devout parents who cherished him and his younger brother, Vittorio. Sadly, his mother died when he was a youngster, but on her deathbed she asked the Blessed Virgin Mary to care for her sons. This would prove to be prophetic for Joseph, as Our Lady of Consolation helped him in a most dramatic way.
Joseph was intelligent and loved God, and entered the seminary at 12, but his father wished him to study and be a success in business. Joseph was very torn, but finally left the seminary and obeyed his father’s wishes. God, however, had a loving grip on his heart, and it was when Joseph fell near death with typhoid fever that he prayed to Our Lady of Consolation, who called him to return to his first path, promising him a complete recovery if he did.
Joseph was healed and then ordained in 1868, and his studious and saintly nature caused him to be chosen as secretary to Bishop Carlo Savio of Asti, as holy and grace-filled a mentor as he could have hoped for. From Bishop Savio the new priest learned the importance of a deep and prayerful interior life, and of purity and integrity in all his dealings.
“A Pearl of a Bishop”
Young Father Joseph travelled to Rome for the First Vatican Council, and while he was enamored of Vatican City, he was happy to return to Asti, where his reputation for holiness drew others to follow him. In 1878 he founded the Company of St. Joseph, today known as the Oblates of St. Joseph, and taught the men who joined him to serve others in imitation of the earthly father of Christ, “the great Model of a poor and hidden life.”
The Oblates of St. Joseph grew and so did the humility of its founder, so that when asked to give his service as a bishop he almost refused. But the good priest was ordained Bishop Joseph Marello of Acqui in 1889, and spent the next six years working diligently, visiting every parish and taking a sincere interest in each one, advising them to be especially attentive to ministering to young people.
Though he hid it from almost everyone, Bishop Marello began to have severe migraines and hemorrhages. He became much weaker, but continued his work without complaint. Finally on May 30, 1895, he died while on a trip to celebrate the third centenary of St. Philip Neri at Savona. Giving of himself to the end, he was indeed, as Pope Leo XIII named him, “a pearl of a bishop.”
Saints in our lives
• “Find a beautiful soul to imitate, and follow in his footsteps at all costs.” This advice of St. Joseph Marello seems to confirm for us why we need to read the lives of the Saints: because they show us the path to follow to reach heaven. He modeled his life on St. Joseph, living in humility and purity.
• He also relied on all the saints, and in a letter to his Oblates he wrote: “I am taking advantage of all available time to continue my pilgrimage to the tombs of the saints. In these few days how many gracious audiences I have already had with many of them! It’s so much easier to meet with Heaven’s Princes than with the earthly ones.” We all have this opportunity to pray and ask for saints’ intercessions in our lives — to read their stories and learn from their faithfulness.
• To his Oblates he also wrote: “The letter that I have just received bears good news mixed with the bad. I should say there is good news that satisfies our human feelings, mingled with news that looks bad if reason did not consider it in the light of faith … Let us always repeat that all things work together for the good … even in the smallest things, as we have learned from long experience.”
How difficult it can be to look at all things in the light of faith! There are many contradictions in this world for which we have no explanation — situations which tear at our hearts and souls. When faced with issues like these, St. Joseph Marello steadfastly remained grounded in his belief that God will work His will through everything, and did not give in to despair. He recognized God in the smallest matters, and trusted Him in the greatest ones. Can we?
Taken from “Evangelization and the Lives of the Saints: St. Joseph Marello” produced by the diocesan Office of New Evangelization. For the complete pamphlet, visit the Office of New Evangelization at www.drvc.org.