This is a true story about love and love of God, how God really does work in mysterious ways, and Evangelization, all rolled into one!
Some months ago, on August 21, 2016, a large group of young adults met at the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, MD to participate in a Year of Mercy Pilgrimage. Among the group were me and my invited guest, a beautiful young Episcopal woman named Marjorie. Little did I know then where this pilgrimage would eventually take us.
At first, I was a little nervous introducing Marjorie to all of my friends. I wondered if they’d get along, and I also wondered what Marjorie would think about attending a Catholic pilgrimage. I was hoping she’d enjoy herself and maybe even learn something about what we as Catholics believe. The day turned out to be a turning point in both of our lives.
The journey begins
Several months prior to the pilgrimage, I had taken a good, long look at myself – a young man who recently turned 33 – and was wondering about my future. At the time, I was not real happy in my job, and I was just starting to look around for a new line of work. At the same time, I was lonely and single, and searching for someone to share my life with.
Some years back I tried my hand, unsuccessfully, at on-line dating. After that did not work out, I tried finding someone in person. That didn’t work out so well either. But I decided that since my options were pretty limited I’d give on-line dating one more try. So I signed up on a popular dating service website.
Among the near-endless stream of profiles on display, my eyes were drawn to one young lady in particular. I clicked on her profile to learn more about her. I came to find out that we shared many similar interests. The top three interests we shared were that we both like animals (she wants to become a veterinarian), she also enjoys music and is also a musician (she plays the cello), and her faith was very important to her, just as mine is to me.
But distance was also going to be a factor in our getting to know one another. It turned out we lived about an hour apart. Still, she met all the initial requirements, as far as I was concerned, so after prayerfully weighing my options, I took a chance and clicked to reply to her. For a while, we wrote back and forth on-line. But the more we learned about one another, the more we wanted to meet in person. And finally, on August 12th, we did.
Our first date and a bit of evangelizing
The sky was beginning to darken as I arrived at the restaurant at which we had agreed to meet. I was as nervous as anything because it had been so long since I was last on a date. I almost hesitate to admit this, but while getting ready for our date I had even wavered between two entirely different outfits. I couldn’t decide which one was more appropriate for a first date! That should be some indication of how nervous I was!
I got to the restaurant early, so I decided to wait outside on a bench. My mind was teeming with questions and what-ifs. What if she doesn’t show? What if she stands me up? What if we don’t recognize each other? What if . . . what if . . . what if.
While I was waiting, I felt a few drops of rain on my head. Since, it was a light rain, I decided to continue my wait outside. Before long, however, the light rain became a steady downpour and I reluctantly ducked inside the lobby of the restaurant. As I waited with heightened anticipation for my date, my heart skipped a beat every time the front door opened. I began praying to God, asking Him to give me courage, and to remember to be myself and just enjoy our time together. It was right after my prayer that Marjorie walked in. During the course of our wonderful first date, I told her about my Catholic faith. I also invited her to attend the Year of Mercy Pilgrimage. And she accepted.
The Pilgrimage and some more evangelizing
Flash forward again to August 21, to what was only our third date. As we took the various tours around the grounds of the Shrine, I could tell Marjorie was deeply moved. A little later in the day, a group of us drove up to the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, above the campus of Mount St. Mary’s University. While sitting around the pool with Our Lady in the middle, Marjorie started asking me questions about the Catholic faith. She asked about our devotions to Mary and our views on the Holy Eucharist. I answered her questions as best I could, and when she and I parted ways later in the evening, I felt that I had explained Catholicism quite well. And I was also looking forward to seeing Marjorie again.
Not long after that, Marjorie emailed me and said that she had enrolled in the RCIA program at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church, close to where she lives, in Libertytown, Maryland. I was overjoyed at hearing the news and I immediately offered to be her sponsor.
The RCIA meetings at St. Peter’s are held right after the 8 o’clock Mass. Since I lived nearly an hour away, I needed to be up and out the door, and on the road, no later than 7:00 am. For me, a night owl who’s usually up until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, this was definitely a sacrifice. But I was willing to make any sacrifice to be with Marjorie.
A growing love
Somewhere around the middle of September, Marjorie said she wanted to learn more about Mary. Earlier that day, something had compelled me to put a Rosary in my pocket. It was at that moment I knew that my prompting had been of a divine nature. So I took out the Rosary and, later that day, we prayed the first of many Rosaries together.
Sunday after Sunday, for months on end, I watched her growing into a new woman as the Catholic faith was revealed to her. And my love for her kept growing too.
As the months rolled by, I watched in amazement as this beautiful young woman’s new-found Catholic faith continued to grow. Today the love she has for her faith is just as strong as our love for each other.
Finally, this past New Year’s Eve, I came to my senses. I knew I would never find another woman quite like her, ever. And so, that night, before the big ball dropped in Times Square (on television), I asked her to marry me. She made me the happiest man alive when she said “Yes.”
At this year’s Easter Vigil Mass I happily stood next to her, waiting to place my hand on my fiancée’s shoulder and welcome her into the Catholic Church. As I reflect on how far we’ve come and how different both of us are now than we were last year, I’ve got to say I’m truly blessed to have found someone so on fire and in love with her faith. God’s hand has been upon us and I look forward to what He has in store for us as we continue on this amazing journey.