As James and Elisa knelt side by side to receive the Eucharist at their wedding Mass, a brilliant beam of sunlight rested upon them and their priest. It was a heavenly moment that they were unaware of until several of their guests mentioned to them after the ceremony. “We can’t help but think it was God’s way of saying, ‘I support this marriage!’” says the couple. Unfortunately, the vision of light wasn't caught on film.
James and Elisa, both 31, share with members what attracted them to one another beyond politics and craft beer, why they think dating long-distance made their relationship stronger, about their Glacier National Park proposal, and much more.
Why did you decide to join CatholicMatch?
Elisa: I'm a convert to Catholicism, and CatholicMatch seemed like a great way to meet someone who shared my beliefs. The Catholic dating scene in my local area wasn't great, so I thought I could broaden my horizons this way! I also loved how you could see exactly how someone thought about the teachings of the Church; it made it very easy to filter out people who were not in the same place as I was in the faith.
James: I joined CatholicMatch for two reasons: First, I am in the military, which requires me to move quite often. Considering both regular Army moves and overseas deployment, I’d lived in five different locations in the previous five years. Due to this experience, I came to the realization that there would be virtually no way for me to develop a strong romantic relationship with someone through meeting women strictly in person. Second, my Catholic faith was important to me, so while I had previously tried a few other dating websites, they all seemed somewhat superficial to me for one reason or another. I knew I wanted to marry a devout Catholic woman, and CatholicMatch allowed me to understand quickly the stance of potential matches on the deeper issues that mattered to me.
Did you have any frustrations with or preconceived ideas about online dating?
I did meet some nice guys, though I was frustrated that someone could seem ideal via messages and then end up not being such a great fit in person. James was the first guy I met on CatholicMatch that was not a "miss" among my "hits and misses" after the first few dates!
James: Early on, I thought online dating was only for those who were terrible at meeting people in person. I thought—incorrectly—that if I tried hard enough, I would meet the right person in my day-to-day life somewhere. In the end, I finally realized that was a flawed way of thinking.
How long were you a member before meeting online?
Elisa: I joined briefly in college, but was really only intentional about CatholicMatch for about eight months before I met James. The day before we met, I had just spruced up my profile and added new pictures. I was glad I did, once he reached out!
James: I was a member for just over a year before meeting Elisa online. I joined in November 2012, and Elisa and I first met in December 2013.
Who made first contact?
Elisa: James reached out to me, and I replied, but only after asking my sister if she thought it was a good idea to be in touch with someone in the military (I was pretty hesitant about dating someone who was active duty). She insisted I respond, and I'm so glad I did!
James: I will take credit for this! Actually, I’ll give partial credit to both Elisa and CatholicMatch, because I made first contact with Elisa by answering her interview questions. If this wasn’t a feature on the site, or if Elisa didn’t have these setup, there is a good chance we wouldn’t have started talking.
What attracted you to one another, and what kinds of things do you have in common?
Elisa: I think our common values were a key initial attraction for both of us. We were both looking for someone with a strong character. We share lots of common interests, too. It was so fun to be able to talk about the outdoors, cooking, theology, and politics intelligently with someone.
I have to say that James's writing ability was essential to my falling in love with him. Because of the distance while we dated, if he weren't such an outstanding communicator, I wouldn't have given him a second glance. But his messages showed me his kindness, his strong character, intelligence, and his commitment to the Faith.
James: I was attracted to what Elisa listed in her introduction and in what she wanted in her ideal match. In particular, she liked outdoor activities such as hiking, bonfires, drinking craft beer, and just hanging out with friends. These things are fun, low-key, and relaxing all at the same time. Exactly what I enjoy after a hard week at work.
Her “Ideal Match” also showed that Elisa knew what she wanted, and what she wanted just clicked with me as soon as I read it. She wanted someone who had:
- A backbone.
- A sense of adventure.
- A conservative view politically. (Are we allowed to mention politics in this interview?)
Tell me about your first date?
Elisa: We met in person on August 7, 2014, eight months after meeting online. We'd never spoken on the phone before, so it was a real first conversation, too. Responsibilities at work had kept him from returning to the States—originally he'd been slated to get back to the US in April, then May, then finally August. At the time, I thought he was back in the Northwest mainly to see family, but what I didn't know at the time was that he actually flew all the way to Portland just to meet me!
James knew I was nervous about meeting in person, so he let me pick the setting I'd be most comfortable with. I chose Case Study Coffee because I knew it had plenty of seating, and, of course, delicious coffee. When he walked in, I could tell he was a man's man just by the way he walked. Actually, I think it was his stride more than any photos I'd seen that helped me recognize him. I was sure only a military man would walk with that kind of confidence!
We began talking, and we didn't stop for three hours. I remember being so impressed that he not only knew how to carry an intelligent conversation, he also knew how to really listen and ask discerning questions. He put me at my ease. And when we had to leave, he walked me to my car—he had impeccable manners!
James: I flew into Portland, Oregon, rented a car, and drove into town to meet Elisa for coffee. (By the way, this has got to be the most perfect first date ever, right?)
Don’t tell anyone, but I was rather nervous: Eight months of talking via CatholicMatch, and everything would be decided by this first meeting!
I walked into the coffee shop, looking for Elisa. She only had a few profile pictures, so I was worried I might not recognize her, and I was thinking how horrible it would be if I just walked right by and missed her. Luckily, she had arrived before me, and she immediately recognized me, so my worry a moment earlier departed rather quickly.
As soon as I saw her, I was blown away! Elisa was way more beautiful in person than I had even imagined! I thought, “There must be something wrong here. There is no way that gorgeous woman is waiting for me!”
It turned out that she actually was waiting for me. We ordered coffee, sat down at a corner table, and started talking. After a steady flow of conversation, we looked at the clock and it was magically three hours later!
Did you have any relationship hurdles to overcome?
Elisa: The biggest hurdle we had to overcome was the distance. James was posted overseas the first 12 months we knew each other. And then he was posted on the other side of the country for the following 12 months until we got married! So our visits were intermittent, and we had to be very committed to good communication via phone calls, care packages, and letters.
It was very lonely at times, but I'm also so grateful for the chance we had to learn about each other and to learn how to communicate well, at a distance. Now that we're married, we're reaping the harvest of all the hard work we put into our courtship.
James: I agree with Elisa that distance was the biggest hurdle to overcome. During the entire time from meeting online to marriage, we were either in separate countries or on opposite sides of the country. In hindsight, I think this was a blessing in disguise even though it was so difficult at the time. After our first in-person meeting, Elisa finally gave me her phone number, and we began using Skype to communicate, in addition to CM, email, and snail mail.
I strongly feel the distance helped Elisa and me to get to know each other at a much deeper level than would have happened if we lived near each other. Of course, this takes effort and trust, on both sides. We discussed both faith and relationship topics, and we shared ever-more personal matters as our relationship progressed. All of this, I feel, was actually supported by the distance between us.
What was the proposal like?
James: I’ll answer this first. We were engaged exactly 11 months to the day after our first date, on July 7th, 2015. I decided to propose during a guided hike up in Glacier National Park. I spoke with the tour guide ahead of time, so she conveniently asked the two of us—at the end of our lunch break, half-way through the hike—if she could take our picture for us overlooking the valley below. After a few photographs, I repositioned to a bended knee, took out the ring, and proceeded to tell Elisa how much I loved her. At the end, I asked her, “Elisa, will you join me in the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony?” As she said “Yes!” the small crowd gathered nearby erupted in applause.
Elisa: I was sure we wouldn't get engaged for some time, but James had other plans. The day before he was due to fly home from Montana, James took me hiking with a tour group in Glacier International Park—one of the most beautiful places on earth. We stopped at an incredible viewpoint for lunch. We took a few pictures, and then I realized James had moved to a kneeling position next to me. It took me another moment to realize he was proposing!
When and where will you be married? Do you have a special memory from your wedding day?
Elisa: We were married in December 2015. One of the memories I will treasure most from our wedding day is when my dad walked me down the aisle and gave my hand to James. There was some tears, and not just my own. That moment is one I'll never forget because there was so much love and sorrow and joy and responsibility in their faces in that hugely symbolic moment.
James: In the days leading up to the wedding, we were a little worried about the weather, especially since we were getting married in Portland, Oregon, in the middle of December. Additionally, the forecast called for rain every day from the week before our wedding through our departure for the honeymoon. Luckily, we woke up on our wedding day to scattered skies with no rain. This was perfect and allowed us to get take wonderful outdoor pictures prior to the wedding.
Mass itself was beautiful as well, with sunlight streaming into the stained-glass windows. This was much better than the rain we expected! We stayed dry the entire day of our wedding, and the next morning, Portland was back to nothing but rain! We were certainly lucky.