"When I paid for a subscription to CatholicMatch in September of 2013, I didn't have the highest hopes," 27-year-old Sasha admitted. "I had just come out of a string of really terrible, painful relationships, but I decided to put myself out there one more time and see if God had someone saved for me," she said.
While Sasha had experienced painful relationships, Brian had lived through a collapsed marriage, subsequently annulled by the Church, and he was sure he knew the reason why. "My first marriage was one which did not involve God," he said. "I had fallen away from the Church through college and only went to Mass occasionally."
Yet Brian still had a Catholic worldview, from home and school, and it made communication difficult with his ex, who was a Presbyterian. Communication difficulties eventually turned into a difference about whether to have children. "As the marriage ended, I began to attend Mass again and pray every day," Brian said. "It became clear to me just how important it was to find someone with the same Catholic values and understanding of marriage.
Brian began his path back into dating slowly, allowing the Church to complete its annulment process. In the meantime, he also took the advice of his sister to pray the 54-day Rosary novena. "She prayed the novena asking for help finding her spouse and ended up being asked out by her future husband the day after she finished," Brian recalled. "I was skeptical, but decided it couldn't hurt."
While Brian was browsing profiles on CatholicMatch he came across Sasha's profile, which was filled with references to Star Trek and Batman. Brian noticed that St. Jude was her favorite saint too and they even had the same verse listed as one of their favorites. It comes from Paul's letter to the Philippians and it's understandable why anyone who has suffered a lot would find consolation in the words:
"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:6-8).
Brian sent Sasha a message, but didn't hear back from her for two months--the day after his 54-day Rosary novena completed.
The two of them began to bond in their messages and since they both lived in the Austin area, it was easy to get together. Their similar experiences in relationships gave them a unique understanding of each other. They also agreed on the importance of family. It's something important to all couples, but with Brian's ex having chosen a career over children, it was especially front and center for him.
Brian and Sasha each believed early on that something special was taking place. "This one is like Mary Poppins," Sasha recalled thinking about Brian. "Perfect in every way. There was no one else that I'd talked to that I'd really had this sort of connection with."
"I knew very early on that Sasha was the person I was meant to marry," Brian said. "As an engineer, I tend to be very practical and think things through. Before experiencing it, I never would have believed that I would want to marry someone after less than a month together with them."
Brian and Sasha were able to find the humor in things, even when plans went awry. On their first date, they were walking through downtown when Brian had ice cream thrown at him from across traffic. Amazingly, he caught in a Styrofoam bowl. Maybe it was an early sign that no matter what happened, things would work out in the end. Sasha called it "the best first date I've ever been on, and the only first date where I realized that I was in love with the person sitting across the table from me."
Nor were they the only ones that realized it. Even complete strangers could see it. On their second date, they were sitting outside a Walmart on swinging benches. "A woman drove up to us and said 'I just have to tell you, y'all are the most beautiful couple!'"
Those experiences on their dates was fun, but something more profound was ahead. Brian and Sasha planned to go to confession together, "As I entered the chapel and saw Brian kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer," Sasha recalled, "I saw him in all of his strengths and all of his flaws and I saw him as God sees him. God opened my heart and for just a fraction of second He showed me what it is to love someone the way He loves them."
On the Saturday after Valentine's Day, Brian and Sasha were doing some work on a house he had bought. She helped him with tiling, pulling up the carpet and a wide array of cleaning chores. After they were done, they took a walk and had some ice cream. When they returned to the house, Sasha was walking down the hallway, when Brian caught her and pulled her toward a console table in the front hall.
"I looked up and there was this poster. It hadn't been there before," Sasha said. "It was this strip of Batman comics that looked like it was from the early 1990s Batman animated series, which is my favorite. I know most of those episodes and couldn't recognize which episode those frames were from. Then I realized it. " The comics were Batman and Catwoman going on what amounted to Brian and Sasha's first two dates. Then in the last frame Batman proposed to Catwoman.
As Sasha took in the creative genius of Brian's friend, Steve Courtney, she turned around. And Brian was there on one knee.
"I said yes--as if I could say anything else," she said. "I spent so long trying to do things my way, but when I finally stopped being stubborn, my whole world changed. It's as if God was saying, 'Sasha, these are the gifts I have been waiting to give and all you had to do was trust in Me and do what I have asked.'"
For Brian, Sasha's "Yes" and their coming marriage this November 1, All Saints' Day, is a statement about God's redemptive love. "All the pain and suffering that we had been through in past relationships began to make sense. It had prepared us and made us really appreciate the other. It seemed like this was the person that God had made for me."
And that 54-day Rosary Novena that helped get Brian and Sasha together? They continue to be devoted to the Blessed Mother and pray a daily Rosary for the rest of their lives.