Deacon Joe Marotta Drowns–So Sad

Deacon Joe Marotta, a good friend and blogger at The Journeyman Carpenter with whom I regularly corresponded with has left us way too early and much too unexpectedly. He drowned on a family vacation and leaves behind a wife, Katie and five children Caroline, Christopher, Jack, Michael, and William, along with dozens of mourners from his parish and from the University, Randlph College, where he was employed. He was only 39.

Deacon Joe would regularly comment on this blog on facebook and always was fair and often hysterically funny.

Only a few weeks ago, Deacon Joe sought my counsel because he was asked to fill in at the Baccalaureate ceremony at his beloved Randolph College.

In short his message was HELP!

I told him to take one simple piece of advice: “Don’t be boring. It’s one minute and you’re mostly holding up the ceremony for more than half the people in the audience–so get creative!” I told him I did my UB invocation in verse and he took to that idea nicely.

This is the day the LORD has made,
So let us rejoice and be glad!
After four years behind the red brick wall,
You are sent forth to engage – and to make change –
In this world as an RC grad.

But for a few moments, let us reflect here today,
And give thanks that you’re up to the task!
Through your time at the College,
You have grown in knowledge,
And this weekend, have every right to bask!

From dozens of countries and hundreds of towns,
Whether Jew or Greek, woman or man, young or old,
You gathered to drink in the Spirit of Wisdom.
It is with joy
That now we praise God –
And continue to build up the Kingdom.

Those parents with you today,
Are also deserving of thanks.
With prayers and encouragement they gave you support,
As well as funds from their banks!

Four years ago, they dropped you at Main,
and with a hug bid you “farewell”
Today, they can see,
And I also agree,
You are ready to Walk in the Dell
(weather permitting, of course!).

And so, yes, we must certainly rejoice,
And with one voice should all be glad!
For the LORD has made you, this Day
By God’s Grace, a Randolph Grad!

One particular moment I now ghastly remember with Joe. We were chatting late in the evening one night over facebook. He fell for a practical joke I delivered on facebook saying that I was going to be spending thousands of hours in my car writing a book on praying in the car because it was my favorite place to be.

Those who know me well, know I HATE driving.

He thought the project was actually a good idea. I was even considering doing it when he got done with me and was going to ask him to write a forward for it.

But one comment he made convinced me that there was something in this project worth doing.

He spoke of a near-miss car accident he had experienced and said:

By some miracle, no damage at all… I was able to pull back onto the road and drive…. slowly…. home.
First time I have ever told someone that story.
Not to be too morbid, but the odds are that for many young people, the last moments of their lives are spent in a car!

A man as sensitive as that is surely now with God. And I will pray to him often for me as I know he often prayed for me and my family and my students and even that old dog of mine.

His final moments I pray were not too painful and not too frightening–that God took him by the hand and allowed him to be at peace despite the circumstances of his death.

We pray today for Katie and his children and all those who he leaves behind, better for having known him.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And Let perpetual light shine upon him. May Joe’s soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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  1. I’m afraid I have to take issue with just one thing you said: I guarantee you there are not dozens, but hundreds upon hundreds of mourners in his parish tonight. He just radiated joy for parish ministry and there is not one person who met him who didn’t feel that. There is such grief for his passing. I loved reading your story about him.


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