Are the next American saint’s remains located near Seattle?
Ask Bob Marbett how things are with his job and he might say: “Usually we’re buried in work, but this week has been dead.”
Marbett works at Holyrood Catholic Cemetery in Shoreline, Washington. The 70-year-old Seattle native has a sense of humor, but can also be very serious about the implications of living a truly Catholic life that culminates in a truly Catholic death and burial.
Marbett, the oldest of seven, served as an altar boy and considered the priesthood, but ended up marrying in his 30s. His wife Dori later converted and now they attend the same Latin Mass of Bob’s youth.
A former business owner, Marbett now works part-time (or “part-tomb”) at the cemetery as a pre-need burial counselor and volunteers as the head usher (among other posts) at his parish, North American Martyrs, located just north of Seattle.
Seemingly busier than when he worked full-time, Marbett has been referred to as “The Energizer Bobby,” because of his abundant enthusiasm and interest in social interaction.
Getting cold feet—and legs and arms
Marbett can recount many times when someone was prepared to purchase a plot, but then got cold feet—precisely because they were afraid of when their feet—and the rest of their bodies—would be cold.
“Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to die,” Marbett said recently. “However, once someone buys a plot, we do not require them to die that day.” There has even been a message on the small reader board at the Holyrood exit that says, “Drive Safely. We Can Wait.”
Some people, on the other foot, cannot wait to buy a plot—or two, or three, or more. Marbett once sold an astonishing 23 plots to one man. He had the means, knew he and all his family and friends would die, so was simply preparing for that time.
Marbett stated: “There’s a 100% mortality rate for humanity, so why not take care of the burial plans now, at today’s price, rather than making your loved ones do it at a higher price once you’re gone?”
The remains of Bishop Augustin Blanchet, a French-Canadian missionary who helped to bring the Catholic faith to the Pacific Northwest, are now located at Holyrood. They had been in the Proto-Cathedral of St. James in Vancouver, Washington, until they were transferred in 1955. At that point, it was discovered that Blanchet’s body was still intact, despite his having died 68 years earlier.
Marbett is now reading a book of Blanchet’s writings and thinks the bishop should be included in a book similar to the late Joan Carroll Cruz’s The Incorruptibles. This bestseller showcases some of the many saints whose bodies have not decayed after death—a reminder of how their souls enjoy eternal life.
On this topic, Marbett said: “I now pray to Bishop Blanchet and hope that his cause, as well as his crypt in the mausoleum, will be opened up. Sainthood is something we should all strive for, so I love books like The Art of Dying Well by St. Robert Bellarmine, my patron.”
Although partial to traditional Jesuits, Marbett loves this quote from the 16th-century Spanish Dominican, Venerable Louis of Granada:
“Because we do not consider the end of life, we are easy victims of presumption, pride, avarice, and countless other vices. If we would stop to think of how we shall look after a few days in the grave, our lives would be more temperate and humble … Hence, the life of a wise man is a constant meditation on death.”
Marbett has the final word with this insightful inquiry: “Wouldn’t that quote or something similar be perfect to etch onto your tombstone?”
Trent Beattie has written several dozen articles for various Catholic publications. He is also the author of two books and the editor of three. One of those three, Saint Alphonsus Liguori for Every Day, recently transitioned into a second edition at Mediatrix Press.