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Remembering a champion of happy marriages

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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 03/04/24

Whenever I hit a rough patch in my marriage or parenting, I know I will remember this good man who helped other marriages to be as happy as his own.

A little while after I was married, I ran into a friend of my parents, Mr. Bernie Palos.

He offered me some unusual advice. “Whenever you’re annoyed at your husband, pray a Hail Mary for him before you say anything,” he told me in his warm and kindly way. Then he added with a laugh, “And if you’re really mad at him, pray a Memorare first!”

This gentle piece of marriage advice was so typical of this good, good man. Besides his devout faith, there was nothing he valued more than his marriage to his wife Susan, who was the center of his world for nearly four decades. It was his dream and desire to help other couples enjoy marriages as happy and holy as his own had been.

Building marriages and friendships

Because of that dream, not long after that conversation, he and his wife invited my husband and me to join a group they started up for newly married couples, including their own son and daughter-in-law. The group would watch short videos about marriage to learn better communication skills and relationship building strategies, followed by a discussion. 

Great friendships sprang up from this group: Today their son is godfather to one of my children, and my husband is godfather to one of his. And more importantly, we learned important and practical ideas to improve our own young marriages.

But the most important thing Mr. Palos taught us wasn’t from the videos or discussions. It was from the way he lived his life. We could all see, in the way he acted toward her and spoke about her, how deeply he cherished his wife and their marriage. We could see how much he loved their nine children, meeting the hard trials that arose in his vocation with rare fortitude and courage. The example of his own life was the most valuable lesson of all.

A good and holy gift

Mr. Palos died earlier this winter after a brief and brutal battle with cancer. To the last, his faith and his family were everything to him. 

Remembrance card, Bernie Palos

The day he died, my kids and I were keeping vigil with a candle lit at our family prayer table, waiting to hear the news. When we heard he had died, we got on our knees and through tears, I told my kids, “Let’s thank God for giving the world the gift of such a good and holy man. Mr. Palos, please pray for us in heaven and help us to be like you, always loving God and our family like you did.”

At his funeral Mass, the church was overflowing and the priest said in his homily, “Before he died, Bernie told me not to try to canonize him. But if he’s not with Jesus right now, I’m going to feel pretty discouraged.”

Compared to many others, I didn’t know Mr. Palos very well, but his example has stuck with me for more than a decade. Whenever I hit a rough patch in my marriage or parenting, I know I will remember him and ask for his prayers.

It was a great gift to know him, and I pray to always try to imitate his example of warmth, kindness, gentleness, and love.

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