By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
SOLON — Margaret Handley remembers advice that Father (later Bishop) Maurice Dingman gave during marriage preparation class more than a half-century ago: “Before you say goodnight to one another at the doorstep, say a prayer.”
She shared that memory after the Diocese of Davenport’s 50+ Wedding Anniversary Mass celebrated Oct. 7 at St. Mary Catholic Church in Solon. The advice had a lasting impact on Margaret and Terry, her husband of 56 years. “Terry and I say the rosary every night before bed,” she said. Members of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City, Margaret and Terry were among 54 couples from throughout the diocese who sent an RSVP to participate in the anniversary Mass.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula wove the readings chosen for Mass — from Song of Songs, Colossians, and John’s Gospel — into a homily that reflected on six stages of marriage, according to a Pearls Before Swine comic strip!
From infatuation to mature love
In the first stage, the spouses are holding hands on their wedding day and looking into each other’s eyes. “You are the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” they tell each other. In the second stage, the spouses, sitting on opposite ends of the couch, declare, “You are not as great as I thought you were.” By the third stage, husband and wife look angrily at each other and say, “You need to be changed.” In the fourth stage, looking straight ahead, they realize, “You can’t be changed.” By stage five the spouses have grown older and are hugging each other. “I accept you as you are,” they say. In the sixth stage, the husband sits besides his wife’s tombstone and says, “You are the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
Every married couple experiences challenges as well as joys in marriage. When couples hurt each other deeply, “each of them is called by their faith to exercise ‘heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” as Paul tells the Colossians. Most especially, they need to forgive one another, the bishop said. “How does a couple do that? How do they get to stage 5? How do they love in the manner that Jesus talks about in John’s Gospel? By loving as Jesus did … ‘love one another as I love you,’ which means loving each other sacrificially, loving each other unconditionally.”
Sometimes that means hanging on to the sacrament of marriage for dear life. Because marriage is a sacrament, “couples are able to receive grace and strength from Christ on the days when marriage feels like work,” the bishop said. And when couples experience days of awe and wonder in their married life, “they are able to greet them with even more appreciation when they see them as a gift from God.
“When couples love as Jesus did, when they accept each other as they are, Jesus’ joy will be in them and their joy will be complete. And they will arrive at stage 6, recognizing that their spouse is the greatest thing that ever happened to them.”
Promises kept and renewed
Following the homily, couples married 50 or more years stood up in their pews, held one another’s hands and renewed before the Lord the promises they made to one another so many years ago. “Turn to the Lord in prayer, that these vows may be strengthened by divine grace,” Bishop Zinkula said. Together, the couples prayed, “Blessed are you, Lord, for in the good and the bad times of our life you have stood lovingly by our side. Help us, we pray, to remain faithful in our love for one another, so that we may be true witnesses to the covenant you have made with humankind.”
Bishop Zinkula concluded the renewal of commitment with a prayer: “May the Lord keep you safe all the days of your life. May he be your comfort in adversity and your support in prosperity. May he fill your home with his blessings. Through Christ our Lord.”
Deacon David Krob and his wife, Cheryl, members of St. Mary Parish-Solon, celebrated their 50th anniversary this year and felt blessed to bring up the bread and wine during the Presentation of the Gifts at the anniversary Mass. Asked afterwards about the highlight of their marriage, the deacon said immediately, “the kids,” referring to the couple’s five children. He added that the 15 grandchildren were also a highlight. The couple celebrated their 50th anniversary Aug. 24 with a new puppy named “Buddy.”
Advice for young couples
Mike and Jackie Rastrelli of Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton also celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year. Jackie’s advice to young couples considering the sacrament of marriage: “I think you need to be a good listener and be ready to have some laughter in your heart.” Mike said: “Remember the love and the faith.”
James and Mona Hayes, also of St. Mary Parish-Solon, celebrated 68 years of marriage this year. They were featured in their parish bulletin in February in a column titled “How our parish prays.”
The column states that “On Fridays, Jim and Mona spend an hour together in Eucharistic Adoration, listening to Jesus in the silence and thanking him for their blessings …”
As they visited with friends over cake after the anniversary Mass, James and Mona agreed to share their advice to young couples considering the sacrament of marriage. “Don’t go to bed mad,” Mona said. “If you have an argument or problem work it out first;” it will be harder to forgive later. James added, “Learn how to say OK gracefully.”
Their companions at the table and fellow parishioners, Fran and Jack Neuzil, have been married 61 years. Fran’s advice for young couples: “Have a lot of patience.” “Stay busy,” Jack said. Also, “If you can’t pay for it, you don’t need it.”
Judy and Bill Stebral of St. Joseph Parish-Hills have been married 55 years. “It is paramount to have the sacrament of marriage to get you through the trials and tribulations of marriage,” Judy said.
After 56 years of marriage, John and Lucy Nauman of St. Paul the Apostle Parish-Davenport, offer this advice: “Watch your mouth,” John said. “Patience and compromise,” Lucy added.
“Say, ‘Yes dear,’ a lot,” joked Don Angerer, who has been married to Dolores for 58 years. They are members of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.
Jim Schepker, husband of Mary, said he and his wife have tried to make God the center of their life, and that’s his advice to young couples contemplating the sacrament of marriage. Mary said she always tries to think “What would Jesus do? It always brings me back to love.”