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Meet Alberto Marvelli: A heroic young man who risked everything to serve the poor


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Philip Kosloski - published on 02/25/18

He was a shinning light during the darkness of World War II.

Alberto Marvelli learned at a young age to serve the poor. His mother would always say, “Jesus has come, and he is hungry,” right before giving away half of his plate to a poor person.

In the 1930s his family moved to the Italian town of Rimini and there Marvelli’s faith was further nurtured by a Salesian Oratory and Catholic Action group. He would go on to say that, “My program of life is summed up in one word: holy.”

As he grew up to be a strong young boy Marvelli enjoyed sports, especially cycling.

Then tragedy struck the family and Marvelli’s father died in 1933. It changed Marvelli, who immediately set out to make the best of his life and developed the following spiritual schedule.

I rise as early as possible each morning, as soon as the alarm rings; a half-hour of meditation every day, not to be neglected except for circumstances out of my control; half an hour at least dedicated to spiritual reading; Mass every morning and Holy Communion as regularly as possible; confession once a week normally and frequent spiritual direction; daily recitation of the Rosary and Angelus at noon.

This was written when he was 15 years old.

At 18 he attended the University at Bologna and was deeply involved in the Catholic Action group there. After graduation he returned to Rimini and was active in the community in various ways.

Then World War II struck and his family were forced to move due to the devastating bombing raids. Yet, Marvelli knew that he couldn’t abandon everyone. He got on his bike and returned to Rimini to help the wounded, risking his own life in the process. Not only that, Marvelli noticed a tabernacle in the rubble and rushed to save it and the Eucharist inside, but was almost killed for it.

He did this every day and never ceased to serve the poor and wounded. After the Nazi invasion of Italy, Marvelli also learned of Jews and other Italians being shipped off to concentration camps. He was able to release many of the people before the trains left and saved their lives.

In his diary Marvelli wrote extensively about the tragedy of war.

The only and deep cause of war is our scarce love of God and men. The spirit of charity is lacking in the world and, because of that, we hate each other like enemies, instead of loving each other like brothers, as we all have been redeemed by Christ!

During the war and in its aftermath, Marvelli couldn’t stop helping the poor. His sister related the depth of his generosity.

[H]e often urged our mother to give away all that was in our house for those he knew to be in very great need: mattresses, coverlets and pots were freely offered to the poor: he gave everything away, because of the great misery of too many refugees he saw about and of his being quite aware not to be owner of anything … There was no limit for him in giving, because he couldn’t help aiding the suffering and the poor.

Then in 1946, while he was biking through town, an army truck struck him and he died shortly thereafter at age 28.

His heroic life of charity has been a true inspiration for many and was beatified on September 5, 2004. Marvelli’s feast day is October 5.

Read more:
“Computer geek” takes one more step toward sainthood

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