Lots of girls (and guys) pray for their future spouse, sometimes long before they even meet them. Who knows how many graces your future husband received to get through exams, reject sin and temptation, and grow in virtue, all because of your intercession? What if you were even priming his heart for a new way of understanding absolutely everything?
When Stephanie and Michael met, she'd been praying for her future husband since she was 17. She didn't want to date anyone who wasn't completely serious about his Catholic faith, since she knew it'd play a huge role in her future marriage. He was an agnostic who'd never been to any church before. But, they hit it off right away. Really! A few months after they met, having concluded that they'd never be romantically compatible, their first unofficial date involved a long dinner, a tour of Steph's college campus, and watching Power Rangers on Netflix, all intended to prolong a great conversation that neither of them wanted to end. Because of the differences in their faith, Stephanie says "we clearly had a mutual attraction and were intrigued by one another, but neither of us thought anything more would develop." Still, the Lord was pulling on their hearts. That night as Stephanie was getting out of Michael's car, she realized she didn't want to close the door on this sweet boy she had so much in common with. So, she listened to what the Holy Spirit was telling her heart:
I began by saying something like this: "Here's the deal. I like you...I think you are awesome. I would totally date you, but religion is really important to me." He responded with, "I know." And I immediately said, "No...I don't think you really know. I went on to explain why my previous relationship had ended when it became obvious that my Catholic faith wasn't something we shared...because of this I couldn't get involved with someone that didn't share this faith with me because it was the single most important thing to have with the person I would someday marry. Michael was probably caught off guard by my honesty, but after a couple of minute he explained that his family wasn't religious and no one had ever actually asked him what he believed or even encouraged him to figure it out. He had always believed there must be a God but he didn't know anything about different religions and had never been to church, but he said he would be open to figuring it out and having me help him learn. I was extremely wary of the fact that he might just be saying all this because he was interested in me so I quizzically shot back with, "So if I asked you to go to church with me this Sunday, that wouldn't weird you out?" He said no and that he would go. I had not expected him to be so open minded and had thought I could easily dismiss him as a person I would never date- and then I wouldn't have to deal with the fact that this man was so wonderful. But God had other plans.
As if that weren't hard enough, Stephanie was also preparing to move to another city to begin a year of service with the Dominican Volunteers USA. She wondered how, if she and Michael continued to date, faith would play a role in a long-distance relationship. Amazingly, after going to Mass with Stephanie for the first time, Michael told her he'd left feeling rejuvenated and he wanted to go again! She says that "as we spent time together we were dumbfounded by how deeply we each held the same moral values and beliefs. Whenever Michael spoke I thought to myself, 'this man sounds like a Catholic who doesn't yet know he's Catholic.'" As Stephanie left home and began her year with the Dominicans, Michael continued going to Mass by himself, which helped her set aside any worries she had about the sincerity of his interest. "I wasn't there to nudge him or go to daily Mass with him." Long story short, Michael joined RCIA and was baptized into the Church this past Easter!
Prayer and lots of wonderful conversations told Michael and Stephanie they were exactly right for each other. Michael remembered Stephanie mentioning early on in their relationship that she hoped her great-grandmother's engagement ring would be hers one day. So, after asking for Steph's parents' blessing, Michael had her great-grandma's diamond set into a beautiful brand-new ring. A few weeks later, they finished praying the rosary in the garden of a monastery Stephanie had recently visited for a retreat, which Michael had decided would be the perfect proposal spot. It was super cold, and a few other people were around, so he was forced to anxiously wait until they were alone and he could pop the question. Here's his account of their proposal:
I could tell Stephanie was getting really cold and wanted to go inside. Holding hands, we started to walk back to the chapel and I made sure to let Stephanie lead so her back was turned. At this moment I stopped walking. I got down on one knee and started to pull the engagement ring out my pocket while starting to deliver my proposal. I can still recall the expression on her face; it was a mixture of pure joy, excitement, and a bit of shock. I started to say that there was a reason why I wanted to pray the rosary outside in the cold...I began saying that she was my best friend, I loved her, I couldn't picture my life without her, and that I wanted to grow old with her. After saying this, I stated that we both took a leap of faith together when we started dating, so then I asked if she would take another leap of faith with me and marry me, and she said yes.
After Stephanie said yes in the rosary garden, they prayed for their marriage in the monastery's Adoration chapel, lighting candles and entrusting themselves to the Holy Family's intercession. Since their engagement, Stephanie says wedding planning has been surprisingly easy from a distance, since both she and Michael are good at planning and delegating without over-thinking too many details (if only we all were!). She feels so blessed " to be able to support [Michael] on this faith journey and was his RCIA sponsor, which helps to show the depth of our journeys individually, but also as a couple supporting and encouraging one another." Though they're in separate cities for now, the pray together every day, even if it's just a quick Hail Mary at the end of a phone call, and made a New Year's resolution to pray the rosary together every week, which Stephanie says has "deepened our trust in Our Lady and in her intercession and guidance for us as a couple." They also continue to pray to the Holy family, "understanding that they are the holy example of what we strive to become for one another," and several other devotions.
Their wedding is on September 29, the Feast of the Archangels. Incidentally, Michael and Stephanie met for the first time on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, when, of course, the archangel Gabriel told Mary she would conceive and bear a son! God is so good! Hearing their story, I'm floored by the Lord's providence in preparing two seemingly different people for a life together in marriage. If you're reading this and haven't met your husband yet, find hope in Steph's unfailing prayers and love for Michael before she even met him, and in the Holy Spirit's power to convert hearts and draw them to Him. Oh, and be sure to visit Stephanie's blog, I'll Follow You Into the World, to read more about her year of service and life as a Catholic young woman! You can read her reflection on their proposal here.
Authentic love is always a miraculous gift, and a love like this one is such a sweet, sweet surprise.
Want to see your love story featured on Captive the Heart? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!