14. To Seminarian Joseph Riccio

My Dear Joe,

Now that the festivities1 are over, I may begin to relax. Could you imagine that in sixty-five days of vacation which are already gone by, the mailman has not delivered to me unam quidem epistolam amicorum2? [not even one simple letter from friends?] This is the way it is. In the midst of so many headaches, which I may tell you were not a few, the words of friends would have been a source of comfort and of relief! Oh, if it were not wrong to take revenge… I would not be the first to write to the gentlemen Motta, Rossettti, Faggiani (who sent me a note from San Damiano a month ago and then nothing else). I received nothing! Absolutely nothing! Am I to believe that in the past, if I had not been the one to push them, the same thing would have happened to me as what happened this year? Because I was not able to find an hour of respite to write them, they considered themselves dispensed from writing too.

“O tempora! O mores!”3

What a connived conspiracy of silence! Enough, let’s not think about it any more… Otherwise, instead of one page, four would not be enough to complete my philippic “Perge ad4”.

Res diei5 –  do you want me to tell you in brief the history of my vacation?  Wake up from your boredom and listen: When I found out that the wedding of my brother would take place during my vacation, I went into shock. There came suddenly to my mind (Oh, not to have the opportunity to talk about it in person)…there came to my mind suddenly a thousand things to fear. You know that the dangers are already too many and who would have guaranteed…? Enough of this, I placed myself in the hands of Him who knows how to turn all thing for the best; you can be assured that the thought of my delicate situation weighed on my shoulders daily, though.

In the meantime, the tasks of preparation began: get the house ready, prepare the room for the newly wed, make provision for the gifts, get information about the wedding ceremony, think about the opportune instructions for my brother, rush to Asti to buy what was needed and to Turin for the same, dream up a way of making sure everything would come off smoothly, take care of the invitations etc., etc. How much money it took! It took eleven marenghi just for the nuptial bed! And all the other things: cabinet, wall decorations, water basin, mirror, etc..

After I had taken care of the basic things at San Martino, I went to Turin for the purchase of other things of great import. I stayed there for almost eleven days. On the second day I bumped into Rossetti and Rinaudi who were strolling in front of the university. I attended the degree ceremony of the latter who became doctor of letters and of two other clerics who were getting doctoral degrees in theology. I visited the Oratory of Fr. Bosco6, the Palace of the king, the DucalPalace, and the church of the Capuchins, the Cemetery, the new churches7, Saint Ambrose Church, the Sacra [Shrine] of Saint Michael,8 etc., Rossetti had iron feet. I heard Passaglia arguing with Rinaudi, I saw Parato, Ghiringhello, Vogliotti. I attended the sermons of the two famous preachers Bardessono and Pampirio. I saw the boat race on the Po. I made the acquaintance of Father Francesia and Father Cagliero, Ropolo, etc. (what a confused mess I’m making!)9

I was tireless: I was alternating visits and purchases with an inexhaustible energy which surprised me. From five in the morning to twelve: spiritual exercises and pastimes; from twelve to five in the afternoon: shopping; from five to midnight: joyful entertainment with the family. Placing all the expenses together of my father and mine we spent six hundred francs at the goldsmith, shops, knickknack dealers, stationary store, etc. Now you have an idea of what it means to prepare for a marriage! I came home and here I found more things to do: the sonnets, invitations, the banquet preparations. On the fifteenth of the last month I went to Asti.  I wrote you from there.10 Returning home we immediately began to prepare the pavilion in the midst of the courtyard and the necessary appurtenances for forty guests.

The out-of-towners arrive and they have to be lodged. The day of the wedding arrives: hoc opus hic labor11.  My father did not want to get involved in anything: the whole responsibility was on my shoulders, to direct the work of seven people who under my immediate supervision had the care of the wine, of the food and of the serving at tables, etc., etc.; to sing in church the relinquet homo12; to extol at the banquet the God of holy love13 to make compliments on one side and receive them on the other, to sidetrack equivocal conversations, to make sure everybody has a good time: behold my multiple role on the 20th day of the month of August.

On the 22nd of August, the guests at table changed, but the feminine party was not the lesser to discumbentibus14 of the two days before. We had out-of-towners for the whole week. Little by little things began to return to normal and now as I said I begin to breathe easier.

And you, how are you doing? The theologian Elia15 has told me to tell you that permission to read the books at the “index” is not granted except to priests: the clerics cannot have all the privileges of Juvenal, and he who does not have this privilege must tow the line. And your little university?16 Do your pupils respond well to your program? Did Mr. Aluffi bring you up to date about the various events of life in Turin? What about your good Pastor? your aunt, Father, Brother, and the many others whom you already mentioned to me by name? What about Tonio Vespa?17 Besides the clerics of San Damiano and those who participated in the Pontifical Mass in Asti, I have not seen anyone yet.18 I know though that Arisio is not in too good a shape. Poor fellow! May God preserve him for the needs of His Church which has such a scarcity of good priests!19

Now I should spend a little time studying, but in a few days my relatives from Turin, both old and young, will fill my house and my head, for how long nobody knows, and I will be able to salvage only a few small pieces of time. You have already started to study, haven’t you? You rogue, do you want to leave Bishop Savio speechless? All kidding aside — I do not know how we will make out on All Saints Day.20 They say that the Bishop is strict; indeed they say that it is his intention to make us go through one or two tracts for every ordination in such a way that we shall have reviewed them all before we are ordained priests. By Jove! We sure don’t need this one too, on top of everything else! We have always been the town’s jackasses but now we will be doubly so. If there are roses they will blossom. [Let’s wait and see.]

By this time the twenty-five or thirty candidates of the Cathedral parish should have heard their sentence. Who will be the chosen one among the Ciattinis, Bagnaschis, Marchisios, Torchios, the Contis, etc.21? Who will be the survivor in such a massacre? To which party will go the triumph? Concerning the dispositions of the seminary for the year 1867-68, I don’t know anything yet. There will be some changes for sure, but for now they are kept in pectore  22 of the master of the house.23  What is well known is that the opposing parties are locked in a dog fight and some day something will come out.

Now I will close and will keep myself for another time when the house will be able to say to you: come to me and, if you show me the way, we will take a trip together into the hills of Agliano (by the way, did you receive the greetings I sent you from the Brother of Father Virando, the pastor of Agliano?). I will be waiting for a letter from you which may open new horizons for me and may tell me a million new things which will lift a little my spirit so downcast and tired because of the past activities and sufferings. Will you be so cruel as to deny me this comfort which have not been able to have from anyone as yet? Oh, I know for sure that you will never do this to me; I know that within a few days, the mailman will bring me a thick letter and within it I will find a treasure of many beautiful things; I will find the one who bears my beautiful and dear name:


P.S. Regards to all who love me.

  1. The festivities for his brother Victor’s wedding. 

  2. Not even one letter from a friend 

  3. “Oh, what times, what manners!” Cicero (63 bc) made this statement famous in his invective against Cataline, who had plotted the overthrow of the Roman Empire. Marello uses it to express his outrage against his negligent friends. 

  4. Let’s proceed to 

  5. Current news 

  6. In the years following, Marello had a special relationship with the Salesians. Don Bosco enrolled him by his own hand among the Cooperators in 1881; on May 24, 1889, the Salesians asked him to be with them for the Feast of Mary, Help of Christians and then in 1892 for the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Oratory. 

  7. At that time the churches of St. Julia in Vanchiglia, Sts. Peter and Paul in S. Salvario, and St. Barbara on Assarotti street were built; the Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians in Valdocco was almost finished as well. 

  8. St. Ambrose in Turin at the beginning of the Valle di Susa. Fr. St. Ambrose it was an hour and a half climb to the middle of Mt. Pirchiriano (962 meters) upon which sits the Monastery of St. Michael, superbly constructed before the year 1000. In the guest register we read, “August 6, 1867, Marello Joseph, seminarian from Asti – Rossetti Stephen seminarian from Asti” (cfr. Letter 15). 

  9. Charles Passaglia: first a Jesuit, and then, secularized, professor of Morality at the University of Turin; in 1882 he reconciled with the Church. Felice Parato: also a professor of Morality at the Regia University. Joseph Ghiringhello: celebrated professor of Sacred Scripture and Eastern Languages, colleague of the two preceding figures; in 1863 he wrote the first Italian refutation of the impious work “Life of Christ” by Renan. Alexander Vogliotti, Rector of the Seminary in Turin and doctor in the College of Theology. Maximilian Bardessono Rigras was a well-known preacher (cf. Let. 4)as was Lawrence Charles Pampirio, Dominican, who then became Archbishop of Vercelli. Fr. John Baptist Francesia, Fr. John Caliero: both of the Salesian Order of St. John Bosco. Cagliero was bishop in Patagonia and then Cardinal; Francesia, well-known humanist, in his book “The Most Beautiful Star of Piedmont” describes in a footnote the sickness and miraculous cure of Marello in 1863. 

  10. Cfr. Letter 13 

  11. This is the day and here is the work 

  12. “man leaves…”, Gen. 2:24 

  13. Here is the sonnet written by Marello himself:

    Exalted spouses: today begins a new era

    To you is revealed the God of holy love;

    Rejoice O Spouses: that your star

    Shines brightly in the sky in the most radiant splendor

    But in the midst of the joy and pleasure of such a beautiful,

    Yes, solemn day your hearts

    Are not closed to the humble spark

    Of a poet without gifts and without laurels:


    Spouses, do you want the happy dawn

    From the East to be renewed

    For years to come? May it glow and grow each hour

    In your hearts that ancient flame,

    That you lit at the altar of the Living God;

    Here is the issue of human life. 

  14. Table guests 

  15. Cfr. Letter 8 

  16. Cleric Joseph Riccio was an afficionado of music and during vacation at Agliano he directed a choir of local singers. 

  17. Cleric Anthony Vespa, also from Agliano, was ordained a priest with Marello in September of 1868; he was Pastor of the Parish of Castelnuovo Calcea. 

  18. Cfr. Letters 13, 15 

  19. Cleric Victor Arisio from Cortanze; he died that year on November 28. 

  20. The Seminary in Asti began classes on All Saints Day. In the days following, there were special exams given for dogmatic theology and canon law. 

  21. Cfr. Letter 15 

  22. In the heart 

  23. The bishop or the seminary director.