The “Bells of St. Mary’s” dramatically ringing brought one couple back into their church family following an absence of 20 years.
After attending Mass in Oakdale recently, I met with two couples and a priest for lunch. One husband and wife were from Manteca and the other from Hughson – all of us relatively a distance away from a Manteca or Ripon church.
I spotted the four of them chatting by their cars in the parking lot and went over to say hello. They were waiting for a priest to take him to lunch and invited me to go along. I graciously declined and said I didn’t want to interfere with their planned outing.
“Glenn, you are going with us,” the Manteca woman said. I guess hearing that was all that I needed to hear to change my mind. I couldn’t be seen as rude, convincing myself that maybe I should go along to the restaurant on the corner and enjoy their company.
Ironically, we all went to lunch and shared stories about life in general and the Marriage Encounter Weekend movement designed to make couples’ lives more complete in the process, pointing out the good points in their associations and talking through the negatives between husbands and wives. These four were totally involved in giving of themselves to make a difference for others who had grown apart.
I sat next to the woman from Hughson, telling her I was curious as to why she and her husband would drive so far from their home in southern Stanislaus County to attend church. She told me that she had heard so many positive things about the pastor as well as the Marriage Encounter at his church that had apparently been so successful in giving marriages a positive infusion.
The woman wanted to hear more about his philosophy and more of the marriage saving program.
She said she and her spouse were feeling a little guilty about missing Mass for the past 20 years and were trying to make an effort to return to Sunday Masses. The Hughson woman said she made her drive north one early afternoon and pulled her car up to the curb in front of the church. Opening the door with her feet touching the ground, she was shocked to hear the chiming of “The Bells of St. Mary’s” coming from the church steeple.
“Could this be a sign?” she remembers asking herself of the bells. Immediately calling her husband on her cell, she told of her shock at hearing the bells at an otherwise empty and quiet campus. That was all it took for them to become members of St. Mary’s and to become leaders in the Marriage Encounter program of healing couples in their troubled times.
One priest said he often gives a troubled related man or woman a special penance after confession when he hears of domestic discord – urging the parishioner to attend a Marriage Encounter for absolution. Often, as they leave the confessional, they bump into an arm reaching out the priest’s door carefully handing them a flyer, telling all about the program – never seeing each other in the process – but telling where and when they can meet with others.
Cindy and Art Bouthiller from Manteca’s St. Anthony’s who are involved in leading their Marriage Encounter program were on hand for the after church lunch. Both continually show their excitement about their efforts in healing troubled couples.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.