Greetings my sister and brothers,
We are now fully into our celebration of Easter and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia! As
we come to the end of this month of May we will be celebrating his Ascension and the gift of the Spirit
at Pentecost. May these celebrations bring us the peace and joy that come with being in the presence of
our Risen Lord Jesus. Alleluia!
This month we also have the Solemnity of the founder of the Oblates of St. Joseph, St. Joseph Marello,
on Tuesday May 30. In preparation for this celebration, I would like to share with you a very special
moment in his life which, I believe, demonstrates that sometimes in life we make mistakes which God
uses to get our attention!
Joseph Marello entered the seminary in the Diocese of Asti in 1856 at the age of 12. He has been
inspired to pursue the vocation to the priesthood in part because of a pilgrimage he had made with his
father, Vittorio, to a Marian Shrine in Savona, Our Lady of Ransom. His father was not very pleased with
his son’s choice of the seminary as he was his first born and he was hoping he might carry on the family
business. He consented, however, and Marello began to make an immediate impact on the seminary
and, in particular, on his companions who quickly intuited that he was somebody with special gifts and
After six years, however, at the age of 18, Marello suddenly left the seminary and went to pursue
studies in engineering in Turin, the capitol of Piedmont and the center of the social and political
upheaval of that day. The movement to unite the Italian peninsula and form the nation of Italy (the
Risorgimento) was nearing its crescendo and Turin was where most of the “movers and shakers” of that
movement were to be found. Why did Marello leave? One reason seems to have been the upheaval in
the seminary formation caused by the confiscation of the seminary building by the “Risorgimento” and
the placement of the seminarians in family homes. No longer being followed closely by those entrusted
with their formation, the seminarians were more easily led astray. Also, the persecution of the Church
and the anti-clericalism of the day led Marello to think he might do better to be a good layperson rather
than a bad priest.
The main reason, however, according to Marello himself, was ambition. He wrote years later to a friend
that he had in mind a social, political and educational program which would combat the rationalism and
anti-clericalism which so marked the “Risorgimento” movement, a program which would bring the
Church back to its prominence and allow her to have a good influence on the newly formed Italian state.
In this same letter, Marello admits that this program was more about his desire to do something of
importance and to be admired and famous than about helping the Church and the faith. He had allowed
ambition to steer him off the path of his true vocation to the priesthood.
Fortunately, God came to his aid in the form of a grave illness which almost led to his death. During this
illness, he had a spiritual experience, perhaps of vision, of Our Lady of Ransom who told him that he
must return to the seminary in order to be cured. He informed his father of this and Vittorio, though he
had been pleased with his son’s previous decision to pursue a different vocation, told him that he
consented to whatever would allow his son to be healed. Marello did get better and returned to Asti
where “the doors of the seminary were thrown wide open” upon his return, a remark made by the
seminary officials who had been sad to see him leave in the first place.
We can see in this how God is willing to continue to work with us in discerning our path in life, our
vocation, even if at a certain point we take a wrong step. We have only to turn back and seek guidance.
God will be there waiting for us “with wide open arms” ready to receive us back and give us the grace
and strength to follow our true path in life, to discover and live our true call.
St. Joseph Marello, pray for us
Fr. Brian, OSJ