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Joseph & Maria: A great love story

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POSTED February 22, 2010 12:56 a.m.

The newspaper personals ad was direct and to the point.

“Middle ranking civil servant, single, Catholic, 43-years-old, immaculate past, from the countryside, is seeking a good Catholic pure girl, who can cook well, and who can do all housework, who is also capable of sewing and a good homemaker in order to marry at the soonest opportunity. Personal fortune would be desirable but is not however a precondition. Offers, if possible with picture, to box number 734.”

The ad did not bring any result the first time it ran in March. But the second time it was published four months later in July, it received a response from a woman who apparently met all the qualifications specified in the ad except the bit about personal fortune. But that obviously did not matter; after all, the ad stated that it was “not... a precondition.” So, shortly thereafter, the two arranged to meet at a cafe. Days later, they were engaged. The two must have been really smitten with each other, for in November that same year - only four months later - they were married.

The man’s name was Joseph; his bride was Maria. She was 36 years old when they exchanged vows in a small parish church near the coffee house where they first met.

In just a few years, the couple were blessed with three children, two of whom were named after their parents - Joseph and Maria. To their oldest child, they gave the name Georg.

I have heard of a few people who have also taken the personals ad route and ended up getting married. One was a former principal from a nearby town. Even the principal’s ultra-conservative son was surprised, but impressed, that the relationship worked considering its unconventional genesis.

I also know just as many well-intentioned, mature, successful career-wise, and sincere individuals who are hoping to find the right one for them, maybe even a soul mate, via the printed, electronic or media ads.

 For those whose ads did not -  or do not - work out, it just goes to prove it’s not for everybody. For those that succeed, I think that to a large extent, it’s due to the right circumstances. But mostly, in my humble opinion, just like in the normal course of human relationships, it’s because both parties are in the right frame of mind - read maturity, readiness, understanding, willingness to accept each other’s shortcomings (such as the above ad’s “personal fortune” precondition), infinite understanding, and above all, trust in God.

As the scriptures say, “With God, nothing is impossible.”

Despite the whirlwind courtship, the couple mentioned above had a long and, by all accounts, a happy marriage. They have been married for 36 years when the husband died. The wife outlived him by four years. They were simple folks. He was a policeman. She worked as a cook.

 I found out about this very touching love story from the homily delivered by Father Dante Dammay of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca on Valentine’s Day. The personals ad was discovered in the Aotoettinger Liebfrauen Messenger, a Catholic newspaper dedicated to bringing together lonely hearts of the same faith. The date of the publication was March 7, 1920.

 The couple’s older son, Georg, became a priest. His younger brother, too, embraced the priesthood. His name was Joseph Ratzinger whom the world knows today as Pope Benedict XVI.

 The Pope who, according to newspaper accounts, never knew the details of how his parents met, nevertheless, was touched by the revelation. He also now has a copy of his father’s original personals ad courtesy of the former editor of the weekly Catholic publication who is credited to having discovered it in the newspapers’ archives about four years ago.

 Reacting to the story of how his parents met, the pope was quoted as saying that it reminded him of the words of the great philosopher and philanthropist, Albert Schweitzer: “Coincidence is the pseudonym that dear God chooses when He wants to remain incognito.”

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