Monday, June 18, 2012

Veritas: Mark and Teresa

{real life love}


Every girl dreams of marrying Prince Charming, and in a sense, there are plenty of immensely blessed girls who really find him.  But I bet not all of their husbands actually look like Prince Charming.


This is the story of one of my very closest friends, and it's one I'm so happy to share with you.  Teresa tells it incredibly beautifully, so most of this will be her words.  Today, I'll just be the English major providing transitions from the wings.  When Mark and Teresa met at the beginning of the school year, having just transferred from other colleges, they'd both spent the past few years discerning- neither one was looking for a relationship, and they often hung out in the same group of friends (Mark quickly became famous around campus for what his wife calls his Disney prince haircut, which has since been crew-cut off):

During our second semester Mark discerned that he was not meant to pursue the priesthood.  I spent that Lent really focusing on my discernment.  I didn’t fully understand the married state and thought that being a nun was the only way for me, personally, to get to Heaven.  As I gradually realized how wrong I was, my time with Mark became more and more precious.  I needed to figure out what was going on and solidify my vocational decisions.  That spring, I had started to wear my Irish Claddagh ring again, turned inward to show that my heart was taken by God.  Over Easter, my Spiritual Director thought it would be reasonable for me to take a break from discerning the religious life and see what naturally progressed.  

At their school's Spring Formal, everything was sailing nicely, uncomplicatedly along until "Kiss the Girl," a song that's the subject of an inside joke between Mark and Teresa, came on:

Mark asked me to dance, but a joke quickly turned into something more.  I noticed something different in Mark’s eyes and, even though I tried to conceal my own feelings it was pretty apparent that something was changing (sappy, I know).  Surprisingly, after that moment I felt at ease and more myself.  

A few weeks and long talks later, the two of them admitted their feelings for one another.  Teresa says, "Later in our relationship, Mark told me that upon my arrival back from Easter break, the first thing that he noticed was my Claddagh ring--turned out, open, available--and it made him happy because he knew he had a shot."

One thing about dating in college is that you have to go home from college over the summer.  Sometimes home is across the country:

Our first real date was to see Iron Man.  I would drive him back to his brothers’ after each date and, with a quick hug, I hated to see him go.  Since Mark’s flight was set to depart a week before my birthday, my parents offered to pay for a nice dinner as a birthday gift to me.  After a wonderful dinner, we walked along the waterfront and took up residence on a bench.  He put his arm around me for the first time and I have never felt so much tenderness in a touch.  That night he told me he couldn’t leave without telling me that he loved me, and he gave me my first kiss. (You guys!  I know!)

Teresa knew early in their relationship that she wanted to marry Mark, but they knew that with a few years of school ahead, marriage was still a ways down the road.  They both spent a semester abroad in Rome, where they traveled to so many beautiful churches and holy places.  Consider this particularly memorable day in Paris:

We went to Sacre Coeur, the church of reparation for the atrocities of the French Revolution.  The church houses perpetual Adoration and we made it in time to hear the nuns' morning prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  Sitting next to Mark, gazing into the face of God, I had to control my tears.  I realized this was what I wanted for eternity.  I was overcome by the beauty of the moment.

Tersea admits she hoped Mark would pop the question in some romantic European spot, but instead he waited until they were home.  At the bench where he first said "I love you."  On Valentine's Day.  In a snowdrift:

Neither of us are big on the mushiness of Valentine’s Day, but February 14th was perfect for our engagement.  We set off for a Valentine’s dinner at the Chart House, the restaurant we enjoyed for my birthday dinner two years prior.  There was at least a foot of snow on the ground.  However, Mark asked if we could walk through the park.  As we walked he pointed to a bench, saying he thought that was the bench where we sat the night he told me he loved me.  Still oblivious, I responded that it could be that bench or it could be any of the others under a snowdrift.  As I looked around he stopped, pulled out a little black box, looked at me and said, “I would kneel but there is snow all over the ground” (I always smile when I remember that line, because it was such a Mark thing to say). “Teresa, will you marry me?”  

After dinner, Teresa really had to use the bathroom, so from the parking lot of a Krispy Kreme, they shared their big news with everyone.  And get this!

What I failed to remember that night, and didn’t recall until days later, was an afternoon I spent in a church in Rome.  Our relationship struggled for a week and, during our worst few days, our class toured San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura, where it was rumored that St. Valentine prepared couples for the sacrament of Matrimony.  I spent time in the chapel, asking St. Valentine to help us.  I never told Mark about that prayer until after we were engaged.  St. Valentine really came through!

They got married October 30, 2010, and though Mark and Teresa feared not being virtous enough for marriage, they can now testify to the tidal wave of grace you receive in the sacrament:

We could literally feel God pouring grace over us.  To be honest, as well as I know my husband and as much as we have grown, it still amazes me that there is never an end to lessons in how to be a better spouse.   And it is worth every lesson.  I am willing to admit my mistakes, forsake things I want, clean instead of throwing things all over the floor (that is a big deal for me), practice patience and discipline my daily routine.  Our strengths and weaknesses are so different that God must have known how well we would push each other toward virtue.  It really is beautiful how this leads to such joy in your spouse’s happiness.

With all that beauty, though, came no shortage of tears:

The “for worse” came very quickly for us.  Five months after our wedding we were in for my 20 week sonogram.  The doctors spotted several abnormalities and warned us that our baby may have a serious or possibly fatal genetic condition in addition to a heart defect that would require surgery.  Our beautiful baby James was born with Down Syndrome and a hole in his heart.  We spent several months in the hospital with monitors, feeding tubes and therapy.  We knew we were lucky to have so many people praying for our son, as we could not clear our minds enough to do so.  But, we could feel God’s presence more than ever.  

Mark was so great during our stay.  After work he would send me to get out of the hospital or give me a night off so I could get a good night’s sleep.  He was, and still is, a man so willing to sacrifice.  Even though we had little time together we felt very connected.  We adopted Saint Rita as our family saint (for numerous reasons) and we truly attribute all of James’ successes to her intercession.  We never would have predicted this life for ourselves, but God really does know best.  Our son is such an incredible gift, a beautiful little person who loves us unconditionally.  We have learned that our work is for God and that the crazy times are a great opportunity for sacrifices to aid our family in our journey toward Heaven.  With love, life is always good.

A man who lets the Lord gently, wisely guide both of you to your right vocations, treks through a pile of snow to propose, and lovingly cares for you and your baby who needs extra attention: if that doesn't sound like Prince Charming, in the best, most real and most human way, I don't know what does.

Want to see your love story featured on Captive the Heart?  Email me at stephanie.captivetheheart@gmail.com!


2 comments:

  1. What a beautiful and moving story! Does Teresa have a blog? I would love to follow!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Stacy! I'm glad you asked; I almost forgot! Teresa's blog, The Window, is http://thewindowtolove.blogspot.com!

    ReplyDelete

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