Chapter 8

Bishop-elect Marello leaves for Rome. Letters from this city. His consecration as bishop. Festive receptions on his return. Gifts offered him. First pontifical Mass.

Pope Leo XIII had announced that at its February 11, 1889 meeting the consistory would name the new bishops and invest them with the rochet. It was thus necessary to make quick preparations for the trip to Rome. The brother tailors took great care in preparing the bishop vestments, and at the beginning of February Bishop-elect Marello together with Msgr. Torchio, the dean of San Martino Alfieri, departed for the eternal city. In spite of their burning desire to follow him, the brothers had to be satisfied with accompanying him by their prayers and most fervent wishes for a fruitful journey and a happy return. Soon after arriving in Rome, he wrote our confreres a letter with news of his trip and his first visits to the tombs of the holy apostles and other saints, where he implored the aid of these heavenly patrons. The text follows in its original freshness and simplicity:

Rome, February 5, 1889

Omnibus et singulis praesentem litteram inspecturis salutem in Domino. How many things there are to say et omnia bona. St. Joseph watched over our trip and brought us safe and sound to the eternal city. Yesterday after a little rest and bodily nourishment, we went to thank God for the good trip and to pay our initial pilgrim’s respects to the holy apostles, princes of the area, or actually of the whole world. Before their tomb I began the litany of invocations pro me et carissimis meis, and I continued it at the tombs of other great saints. What a beautiful kiss I planted on the tomb of St. Pancras, the martyred youth, also in the name of the youth of our family! The litany will not end so soon, for this city has hundreds of saints whose patronage I’m to claim, and then I have to keep the promise I made. I’ve been here little more than twenty-four hours and it already seems like a month. The sights and dealings with so many people have rent my thoughts away from St. Clare’s. This morning we were in the Vatican for a couple of hours and we have already taken care of matters relating to the consistory: visited the chamber master, requested the audience with the Holy Father, made the profession of faith and taken the oath orally and in writing before the most holy auditor, begun the arrangements with the bishop-elect of San Severino for the consecration, perhaps in the church of the Oblate Sisters of St. Frances of Rome. We also paid a visit to the Piedmontese cardinal, Oreglia, who welcomed us most graciously-Hodie sufficit. If I will do my best to keep our bargain, may the brothers do the same on their end; Deus autem nos adiuvet et exaudiat semper-Iterum salutat omnes qui in Hospitio Clariano serviunt Deo.

Joseph una cum comite peregrinationis

The various families at St. Clare’s replied, advising him of the prayers they were offering on his behalf, and expressing to him their most tender wishes and feelings of affection and gratitude, in short all the dictates of their hearts. In a second letter he extends sincere thanks to all and continues the description of the holy places he visited and especially the audience he had with the Holy Father, Leo XIII:

Rome, February 9, 1889

Litteras vestras accepi, fratres in Christo carissimi, et hisce litteris meis venio ad vos. 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. While I must await permission for access to the dignitaries of the Church militant and be content for now at least with seeing the Pope and cardinals from afar, I go with complete freedom to visit St. Peter at the Mamertine Prison, St. Paul at his underground dwelling, St. Lawrence and St. Stephen in the resting place they share, St. Ignatius in his cell, St. Leonard of Port Maurice at the scene of his rigorous penances, the Sanctos qui consummati in brevi expleverunt tempora multa in the small rooms where they lived (in St Aloysius’ we celebrated Holy Mass and stayed for a couple of hours), St. Catherine of Siena, St. Frances of Rome, St. Felix of Cantalice, St. Philip and James, St. Leo and St. Gregory the Great, etc., etc. to cease belaboring the point. Also worthy of extensive comment was Thursday’s service in the Sistine Chapel for the deceased Pius IX of blessed memory. The Holy Father participated in the service in the company of cardinals, bishops, Roman princes, and dignitaries of every religious and civil rank. The singing probed every recess of the heart and it seems like I can still hear Pope Leo’s voice blessing and entreating eternal rest for the soul of his predecessor. I am still moved beyond what words can describe.

-February 10, morning hours. Yesterday evening I was finally able to see the Holy Father up close, to kiss his foot, to shake his hand, to talk with him from 5:30 to 6:15 and hear verba vitae from the mouth of the Vicar of Christ. We formed around the Prince of the Apostles a crown of seven designates for the apostolic mission, and oh what courage the presence of that holy old man instilled in our hearts! What salutary counsel, what wise guidelines for the life of a bishop! What encouragement to charity, meekness, constancy of will, and above all to Gospel prudence. He wished to insist on this commenting on St. Gregory’s words which call this virtue the abbess of all the others, and on the saying of a pontiff I believe: ‘si sanctus est oret pro nobis si doctus est doceat nos, si prudens est regat nos.’ But it’s impossible to even mention all that we heard in that unforgettable audience which opened with fatherly encouragement for each one individually and closed with an apostolic blessing for all. Tomorrow evening we are invited to a second audience and I will request renewed blessings pro omnibus meis iuxta singulorum vota. Now I give many thanks to the Lord for all the assistance I’m receiving these days through the prayers of my beloved brethren and all the good young rascals of St. Clare’s. The saints of Rome will give them their recompense for me. An individual reply for each individual petition. Fr. Cortona will be satisfied with the tasks delegated to him from my part. To him I entrust the missions of greeting all the Vincentian Sisters and particularly the mother superior whom he will inform that every day at the usual time I have my good bread crumbs; of returning affectionate greetings to our dearest rector; of remembering me to Canon Cantino, Canon Mussi, Fr. Rossetti, Fr. Vergano, Fr. Raimondo, and the other worthy priests of St. Clare’s; of saying a special nice word to Fr. Ferrero; of communicating my news to the boarders at the Milliavacca Institute and through Canon Cantino to the Sisters of Charity; in short of greeting omnes salutandos.

-Feb. 10, afternoon hours. Since I went to dinner with Cardinal Oreglia, I couldn’t put everything I wanted in the letter. It’s already pretty long anyway, and so as to be able to get it into the mail right away, I’ll have to save the individual replies for another day. Fr. Cortona will interpret my responses for me and will tell each one who wrote a part of the collective letter that I hold their affectionate words (including those of Fr. John) and all the dear families they represent very close to my heart. Tomorrow they will surround me at the Holy Father’s feet and will receive the same blessing as the bishop of Acqui-Joseph S. Clarae

After a spiritual retreat of preparation in which he blissfully asked the Holy Spirit for the heavenly gifts of wisdom, prudence, counsel, and every other charism needed to faithfully fulfill his duties as a holy shepherd, he was consecrated bishop on February 17, 1889, at the Capuchin fathers’ Church of the Conception. Presiding was Cardinal Raphael Monaco La Valletta, dean of the Sacred College and grand penitentiary, assisted by their excellencies archbishops Rocco Cocchia, ordinary of Chieta, and Ignatius Persico, titular of Damiata. Who could describe his heart’s throbbing ardor and his soul’s intimate conversation with God at the solemn moment of his consecration? Only a deeply contemplative spirit could identify and even begin to express his feelings. In that ceremony he renewed his total surrender to the Lord so as to serve Him in that field assigned to him. He entrusted the Divine Shepherd with the flock that heaven had commended to him.

The day after his consecration, he wrote a third letter describing the farewell visits to the various cardinals and the further audience with the Holy Father, and relating his holy impressions:

Rome, February 18, 1889

Yesterday I was unable to travel by letter among my most beloved at St. Clare’s, but oh how many times I found myself in their midst in spirit! The entire day was spent in heartfelt but indescribable joys: the first part with the Holy Spirit from whom I had to seek and receive so many favors; the second part in fraternal agape with my four apostolic companions joined together around our common father who had laid hands on us and anointed us bishops; the final part at the feet of Jesus Christ’s Vicar to take leave of him and listen to his comforting words of farewell. The Lord must have secretly communicated to my most beloved brothers of St. Joseph the consolations that overwhelmed my soul on this memorable day. I will still have to use this week for farewell visits: to Cardinal Oreglia who showed us so much kindness; to Cardinal Massaia, venerable apostle of Africa, with whom we enjoyed a holy hour and a half conversation admiring his charity and simplicity as a great servant of the Lord; to our consecrating cardinal, also a holy man, grand penitentiary by title and penitent by virtue; to the archbishops assisting in the consecration, of the Capuchin Order, both so deserving of reward for having suffered such persecution, working in such far away countries; to all the cardinals in a word, for it is only right to personally pay my humble respects to all. I still have a considerable number of visits to make to other dignitaries on earth and many more to heaven’s dignitaries. I will budget my time to make all those I previously planned for this trip. The visits to be received, the letters to be sent, and the various errands to be carried out could cause a delay in my departure, but in any case by the end of this month I’ll be, Deo favente, in medio eorum qui me diligunt. The Holy Father has deigned to assure me of his help in this expression of thanks by blessing all with a special apostolic blessing. Holy old man! How he took consolation along with me from the affectionate testimonies that I received on this occasion, as if he experienced in his own heart the same feeling of gratitude that moved my heart. That’s enough. When I arrive in person I will have plentiful material to relate for our conversations during the recreation periods. For now I charge the priests with expressing my thanks to Fr. Rossetti, Fr. Vergano, Fr. Gamba, Fr. Ponzio, and good dear Felice (see note below) who had the graciousness to send me a kind telegram yesterday. May they also receive through this letter an expression of my gratitude for their kindness. A warm greeting to all who inquire about me. To the mother superior, the sisters and aspirants, to the big and little brothers, carissimisque omnibus, to both the beginning and the more advanced Latin students, including those who aspire to it from the desks of the liberal arts, in short to everyone in the house etiam parvulis a Benedicat vos with all the force of that charity that must inflame the heart of a new bishop. And for their part may they continue to pray for him who has now become father to another numerous family and must sign off with a cross

+Joseph, Bishop of Acqui

As anyone can easily imagine, Marello was anxiously awaited in Asti, and for the brothers so desirous of seeing him again every moment seemed like a thousand years. Meanwhile preparations were being made for a welcome befitting the new dignity conferred upon him. He arrived late in the evening and went to pay his respects to Bishop Ronco. The brothers nevertheless decided to wait so as to offer him their reverence and share with him their joy. Right under the house’s porticos adorned for the occasion, they gave full expression to the affection they kindled for him by gentle singing and beautiful literary compositions. On March 18, vigil of St. Joseph’s day, they held a well-prepared musical recital in his honor. The occasion was taken to offer him the most splendid gifts. The chancery and bishop gave him a precious miter which is still preserved at St. Clare’s. The people of San Martino offered him another Byzantine style miter. His classmates gave him a silver chalice and a missal, so as to always be remembered during the holy celebration of the Mass. Other devout persons offered him various bishop vestments. The brothers gave him a silverware set which he himself had to pay for since they possessed nothing. The Feast of St. Joseph was celebrated with a solemn pontifical Mass, during which choice music was executed, and in which people admired the dignity, composure and grace with which Bishop Marello performed the sacred ceremonies.

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