Marvelli’s formation between the Salesian oratory and Catholic Action (1)

When the Marvelli family settled permanently in Rimini in 1930, the boys began to attend the Salesian oratory in the parish of Santa Maria Ausiliatrice. In years in which education, starting with the ballila, was like goals believe obey, fight, at the oratory Alberto instead learns to live the three dimensions dear to Don Bosco: joy, study, piety, who will be his guide especially when he becomes an educator himself.

Joy will always be a hallmark of Alberto’s personality: he sees its root in the energy that is proper to youth, which is – or at least should be – by definition an age in joyful and free expansion. And at the same time, joy is for him, as for Don Bosco, the result of a Christian evaluation of life, since the good news cannot fail to give rise to a confident and positive optimism.

It is nourished by the life of grace, which is a response to God who asks to serve him in every environment: “To have Christian joy we must serve God. To serve God in our habitual environment, family, work, school, leisure. Do not think that in order to serve God it is necessary to become a priest or a friar, and neither is it necessary to always pray in church. We serve God by scrupulously and willingly fulfilling our duty; we also serve him when we have fun, as long as these entertainments are lawful and are not contrary to the law and Christian morality ”.

It is not for nothing that one of his models is Domenico Savio, canonized in 1933, the young pupil to whom Don Bosco had taught that to become saints one must live everyday life with joy. Joy also responds to a specific educational purpose, because we need to love what young people like so that they learn to see love even in things they may like less: Conscious cheerfulness to transform the unconscious cheerfulness of the boys. Love what kids love, so that kids love what we love.

It is with this positive attitude that Alberto begins to be together with the other children, looking at their world with understanding and sympathy, confident in the strength of the good that is present in every person; that he is committed to creating for them an environment made up of authentic, loving and supportive relationships, taking care of the oratory’s activities with passion and the organization of free time: sports, bike rides, excursions, theater.

There are two kinds of amusements: amusements and amusements where we are or can be actors; others where we are necessarily spectators. Without hesitation, the first are to be chosen, the best in all respects. Moving on to practice, I specify that the first are all sports in the open air, from walking to running, from skiing to football, from mountain climbing to swimming; sports which, while producing an indisputable physical improvement, if practiced with simplicity and enthusiasm, can also refine the moral virtues, perfect our intimate life, help us with earthly victories to the victories of the spirit, to the supreme victory of the soul. Every victory in active sport is paired with a victory of the soul. As with training we try to improve our physical possibilities, so our soul pushes itself in a continuous ascent, in a flight towards perfection, towards the sky“.

The seriousness of the study was the second “duty” to which Don Bosco called his disciples. Not a study as an end in itself or in view of a personal affirmation, but a study that must be done in charity, that is, service for others. For this reason it cannot involve only the intelligence, but also the will and above all the heart.

Whoever studies to conquer the truth, to bend character in effort, to deserve in sacrifice, to touch God more closely, spends God’s talent with utmost prudence and the highest interest. This is science for life: the earthly and the celestial one. It is beautiful charity to study for the consolation of those who love us, to shake hands with the less agile companion, to be a more valid and more conscious soldier tomorrow in the conquest of souls to God. Here science becomes charity and love. It rises to the perfect and immutable order, because “charity will never pass away”. The young student may work to form himself spiritually in the good spirit… And finally, to form himself spiritually in the intelligence to always see without illusions the truth, the universal truth and that which translates his situation; to be formed in the will to always want what is the true good of him, which improves him and introduces him into life, protected and robust; to be formed in the heart to love what deserves to be loved, what satisfies the objective needs of human nature, not what humiliates and debilitates it“.

Finally, in order to hope to be able to reach high goals, the practice of piety. Not a sentimentality or a pietism that relies only on external attitudes, but a life of convinced, conscious faith, founded on prayer and participation in the sacraments.

The two spiritual “wings” help him in particular which gives him the pedagogy of the Salesians: love for the Virgin: “The Immaculate Virgin is a filial masterpiece, a masterpiece of concealment, a masterpiece of grace, a masterpiece of fullness. It is full of virtue and holiness and we are empty. It is full of grace and love and we are full of hatred and lightness. What a wonderful example for us the Virgin! What high aim! We aim high: if we look up, to the sky, we will not be able to reject that force which attracts us to Mary and which pours out from her as from the Mother of Grace, because Mother of the Source of Grace.“.

and the passion for the Eucharist:Other tools are meditation, which is called by the saints “highest prayer”; devotion to the Immaculate Virgin, merciful and good Mother, who always helped her faithful, and finally, the Eucharist, this divine host which is called the bread of the strong. Lastly, I have rightly mentioned it, both because it is the highest and most sublime help that the Lord can give us, and because it remains more impressed on you. We love the Eucharist to the point of agony. Let us often receive this sacrament of love and it will be the beginning of the journey towards true and complete purity, towards true holiness, because the Eucharist is a sacrament that deeply commits us and cannot leave us indifferent.“.

Regarding the Eucharist, Alberto uses a language rich in extraordinary strength emotional. In the pages of the Diary he notes: “Whenever I approach holy communion, whenever Jesus in his divinity and humanity enters me, in contact with my soul, it is a kindling of holy intentions it is like a fire that burns, which enters my heart, a flame that it burns and consumes, but it makes me so happy […] and then I abandon myself entirely to an intimate conversation with Jesus, my humanity disappears, I could say, there close to him; all doubts, all uncertainties are gone, obstacles smoothed out, sacrifices made joyful, difficulties welcome. Finally I enter the infinite thought of God, like a poor blind man desiring light; I dream of paradise, the glory of the saints, the splendor of the vision of the Eternal, the radiant happiness of the blessed who enjoy and live eternally, because they loved God and neighbor on earth“.

Alberto always remained tied to the pedagogy of the Salesians: even years later, in 1943 in a report given on the occasion of an aspirants’ convention and in 1946, in a lesson addressed to a group of parents, he will continue to propose Don Bosco’s educational method, confident that even in the midst of the rubble of war it was possible for a believer to experience joy.

(1 – continued)

Cinzia Montevecchi