JOYOUS CHURCH BELLS
Horror gripped the peaceful village of Feldkirch, Austria, early on Easter morning in 1799, when high above the valley in which the town nestled, they spied the tents and the gleaming armour of a foreign army. The uniforms, plainly seen in the clear dawn, were those of Napoleon's French forces.
With the weapons of enemy soldiers glittering above them, and their own Austrian army far away across the moun-tains, the villagers had reason for desperation. Hurriedly, the town council assembled. Hopelessness pervaded the council chamber.
Someone proposed that they send a peace offering up the steep cliff, handing the keys of the city to the enemy com-mander and petitioning him for mercy. But up rose the old dean of the church, serene as the sunrise, stout-hearted as the ancient trees upon the hill. "This is Easter morning," he declared, his voice echoing the peace of the first resur-rection day.
Confusion instantly subsided among the council members who were calmed by the tones of his voice. "We have been reckoning on our own strength; and it is but weak-ness. Let us ring the bells and have services as usual. We will leave our troubles in the hands of a Higher Power." His courage was contagious, and the council agreed with him. Soon the village church bells rang out joyously. Gaily dressed villagers, on their way to worship, thronged the streets. The surrounding hills echoed the rich tones of the church bells as they pealed louder and louder, proclaiming the resurrection of the living Christ.
On the heights above the little town, General Massena in command of Napoleon's invading army with 18 000 troops, hearing the sounds of rejoicing, and seeing the carefree, brightly-clothed throngs, concluded that there could be but one reason for such gaiety in the presence of his military might.
He was sure that the Austrian army had come up in the night and might even now be encircling his position on the wooded hill. Massena ordered his army to break camp speedily and depart. Almost before the bells had ceased ringing - long before church services were concluded that Easter day in 1799 - the French army was in retreat.
When the worshippers of Feldkirch poured out of the church doors and looked up at the heights, they saw not one tent, not one French soldier, not one flashing sword above their peaceful village!
(From: The Mighty Hand of God by Katherine Pollard Carter)