1515. To Seminarian Stephen Rossetti

My dear friend,

Would you believe it? In two and half months of vacation I have received the miserable amount of four letters all extracted by pliers: one from Delaude two months back, one from Faggiani, one likewise from Vandero, and recently one from Motta. To think that my brain in past days was so much in need to be restored by a friendly word and not a soul was there to do me the favor of a few lines. To leave me alone and abandoned in the vortex of the secular world?153 and with the most cruel cold-bloodedness? To know exactly all the gravity of my danger and the efficacy of their help and have the courage to turn their backs on me with an inexorable: “Let it be so.”? Now that, thanks to God, I have come out from the sea to dry land, I forgive everyone with my heart, but I cannot help looking back from time to time at the perilous sea in which friends of lazy hand and weak frame had left me for so many days.

What do you think of this tragic-comic philippic?154 Do you think that this Homer’s humor comes from excessive concentration? These are things which would cause one to cry if they did not cause one to laugh, eh?

Now I will tell you in a hurry all the news I know of. I found myself by accident at the pontifical mass for the Feast of the Assumption. Since they badly needed some altar servers, they picked me up in the market place on Wednesday, the day before. I feasted my eyes in contemplation of the beloved features of our bishop, always tranquil and always amiable.155

I heard about the collision of powers between the cathedral’s canons and the Bishop in regard to the nomination of the administrator of the cathedral. I heard of the twenty or thirty candidates endorsed by the two parties and I found out that they have all been eliminated from the race except one who is the pastor of Cerro, a certain Sardi of Rocchetta Tanaro.156 I know that Ratti has married and that within days he will bring her to Asti (if he has not already done so) to begin a teacher’s career at the College. I know that the bishop is short of money and that it could happen very well to him what has happened to those rulers who allow themselves to be eclipsed [in wealth] by their subjects. Oh, a canon with four or five thousand francs can certainly be more generous than a bishop penniless and without resources.157 I know that Gastaldi158 continues to stir controversies. I know that today begins the annual retreat for priests, given by the bishop with the help of the Director of the Missionaries of Genoa.159

Concerning the political situation then, I know that bankruptcy lies within a stone’s throw of our door; that together with the ecclesiastical goods,160 the public fortune, the state, everything is in a state of liquidation (even this damned heat is in a position of liquidating our poor flesh); that the congress of Malines and that of Geneva161 are in the forefront with their parallel programs to accelerate the era of peace: Garibaldi and Falloux, Hugo and Dupanloup, Giulio, Favre162 and Monsignor Verspergeu. They say that all roads lead to Rome; in this case, though, I confess that I have my doubts. Dupanloup declares war on error, on passions, on the vices of society to give it that peace which she has lost. Garibaldi preaches pacification, toleration, the liberty of all errors, of all passions, of all vices so that the satanic war of egotism of the individual against the community, of the atom which attempts to disengage itself from the molecule and from the mass may continue to flourish. Hurray to the congress of Geneva which will write the paragraphs of peace with the point of the customary dagger dipped in blood. You clowns. The free thinkers and humanitarians,163 those who wish to create a religion based solely on brotherhood and on love (liars) flee from a bed of a brother who calls for help, for a consoling word, and they leave him to the priest who brings life and calls himself Cardinal Alfieri, Bishop Charvaz,164 etc.. I know a thousand other things which you know better than I or which you can at least implicitly understand.

Let us now talk about ourselves. First, however, I have to give you a summary report of our wedding. May heaven deliver you from the annoyances, the headaches, the chores of the situation in which I found myself. From five in the morning until midnight, I had to take care of everything, to speak to all, satisfy all. It is true that the job makes the man. To think about it dispassionately, I marvel at myself and I agree that the saying is true. Now that the affair is over, another one is getting started: the games that ladies and young people play who were not here on the great day; they will stay on, I may add, to make new friends, you may imagine with what pleasure of mine. Enough for now, I will tell you more when we see each other. Now let us pass to another time, to the future; the past has been stirred up enough.

 

Motta says he wants to be at Asti for the day of the ordination and invites me to do likewise. I extend the invitation to you and to Delaude: thus we will be able to find ourselves for a moment in a concentric point and place our orbits on the same plane. Is it not true? How many things to talk about: a kind of miniature congress, a small part of congress, four lost sentinels, if these words express what I would like to say. Concerning the next ordinandi, I do not know anything. I believe Elia is slated for Fenera, Bigliani for St. Peter’s, Viale for Villafranca, Surra for who knows where, and Massa for his benefice.165 And we? Oh, we poor fellows who walk with the great strides toward the terrible day of our ordinations. May God inspire us and assist us because woe to us if we turn out to be inept soldiers on the battlefield! Oh, if the five ordinandi (without diminishing their merit) would be all simple souls as Arisio who perhaps… I pray daily to God that He may preserve that holy young man for the decor of the sanctuary and the glory of the Catholic army; but they told me, the poor man, that he is in deep waters. Give me more up to date information and less discouraging if you can.166

And you, how are you doing? Do you think sometime of your friends? Do you remember the trip to the Sacra and the terrible siesta of St. Ambrose? Do you remember Passaglia, Levriero, Ghiringhello, Parato over seventy years old, Bardessono, Pampirio, Ferreri167 (sick to the point that they are making novenas for him in Turin)? In those ten days I have made such a collection of ideas and of impressions in my mind and heart that I have not been able as yet to sort out everything. The more one sees, the more one learns and life is a picture album full of photos in natural size. For example, what a beautiful view was that of “Giacon” in that solitary church of Sacra: I have talked about it to several people and all have felt exhilarated at the story; Chateaubriand would have written a beautiful page about it in his Genius. Be cheerful because one beautiful day when we will be priests we will take advantage of it by the banks of the Tiber,168 what do you think? Now it’s time to close. I’ll be awaiting one of your letters that will break up for a time the monotony of my life. I want you to know that in spite of the noise of kids and women I keep myself invulnerable in my fortress with the drawbridges up and with flag unfurled.

Throughout the whole week, I literally speak to no one; on Sunday, I spend time with the pastor and his associate: this is the sum of my life. If I did not have out-of-towners in my home who come and go from Turin and take over the house, I would say: come up and stay with me for awhile. But, if we cannot spend some tine together at San Martino, we have to admit that we have not lost everything: we have enjoyed each other immensely at Turin, and now we have to toe the line. Therefore, to conclude the conclusion, I remind you of your obligation of a long letter telling me many wonderful things including that of getting together in Asti on the Sunday of the Ordinations.

Love me always and remember me sometimes in your prayers. With all my heart I am your friend.

 

Joe Marello

 

Be patient if you find in this letter not a letter but a preliminary outline, a draft of a letter.


  1. A humorous reference to the marriage of his brother Vittorio. 

  2. A humorous reference to the famous oration by the great Greek orator Demosthenes (385 – 322BC) against Philip, king of Macedonia. These orations are known as “Philippics” and the term has entered the Italian language to denote a bold and harsh invective or speech against someone who has wronged us. The term has assumed the same meaning in English. 

  3. Bishop Carlo Savio who in 1868 will take Marello as his secretary. Bishop Savio was born in Cuneo on June 24, 1811. Appointed to the Asti diocese in March 1867, he made his official entrance on June 9. He died on July 1, 1881, leaving behind a memory of his wisdom, piety, and charitableness (cfr. Letters 19,21,104). 

  4. Cfr. Letter 14. John Mary Sardi, born in Rocchetta Tanaro, December 4, 1826; Pastor of Cerro Tanaro in 1852 and then of the Cathedral of Asti in 1867; Vicar General of the Diocese of Asti (cfr. Letter 110), he was promoted bishop to the Cathedral Church of Pinerolo on June 7, 1886, where he died in 1894. He took an active part with Marello, Canon Bellino e Mons. Bertagna in the acquisition and workings of the house of St. Clare’s in Asti (cfr. Letters 111, 225). 

  5. Bishop Savio still carried the title of Prince of Pocapaglia. He jokingly said that his princeship made him as much as the Kingdom of Cyprus did for the King of Italy. 

  6. Bishop Lawrence Gastaldi (1815-1883), of the Theological College of Turin, was an unabashed supporter of Rosmini’s theories; in 1867, Bishop of Saluzzo; in 1871, Archbishop of Turin. 

  7. The Annual Retreat in September was given by Bishop Savio and by Fr. Francesco Dassano, a priest from the missions. 

  8. Cfr. Letter 11, note 121. 

  9. At Malines there had been three successive Catholic Congresses: in 1863 (August 18-23; about 4,000 in attendance: Montalembert, De Melun, Cochin, Mermillod; for Italy, G.B. Casoni), in 1864 and 1867 (cfr. Fliche-Martin, “The History of the Chruch from its Beginning to Our Day”, vol. XXI, Turin, 1964, p. 268; F. Ogliati, “The History of Catholic Action in Italy”, II ed., Milan, 1922, p. 15). The Peace Congress was held in Geneva on September 8, 1867, with among those present Garibaldi, Crispi, etc. 

  10. Frederick Falloux, French statesman of the 2nd Republic: he is tied by name to the so-called “Falloux Laws” of the liberal school. Victor Hugo (1802-1885), poet and romanticist of anti-clerical sentiments. Felix Dupanloup, founder in 1833 of the celebrated Notre Dame Conferences, in 1849 Bishop of Orleans: with Montalembert and Falloux he proposed the so-called “liberal Catholicism”, participating in the Congresses of Malines in 1864 and 1867. Julius Favre, lawyer and French politician, anti-clerical. 

  11. Cfr. Letter 5. 

  12. Cardinal Ludwig Altieri, Bishop of the Diocese of Albano; his Diocese stricken in August of 1867 by cholera, he went there immediately and assisted with the sick, bringing Viaticum to the dying in his barefeet, selling all that he had of value in his Bishop’s residence. He died from the illness as well on August 11. Bishop Andrea Chavraz, the first Bishop of Pinerolo, then Archbishop of Geneva; valuable intermediary between Pius IX and the Sabaud Court, inexhaustible in his charity toward the poor. 

  13. On Saturday, September 21, 1867, the following were ordained priests: Francis Elia from Isolabella, Lino Bigliani from Asti, Charles Viale from Montechiaro, Giacinto Surra from Tigliole and Cosma Massa from Corsione.  Fenera is an abbreviation for Valfenera, a town about 23 km from Asti. 

  14. Cleric Victor Arisio was from Costanze, Rossetti’s hometown (cfr. Letter 14). 

  15. Charles Ferreri, polished writer, zealous preacher, he died in 1871 (cfr. Letter 14). 

  16. Marello refers to a proposed trip together to Rome (cfr. Letter 9).