“The will to win is overrated as a means of doing so.
Of far greater importance is the will to prepare.”
–Bob Knight, Hall of Fame basketball coach
(Indiana 1973-2000, Texas Tech 2001-08)
If one is looking to find a spouse, Bob Knight may seem an unlikely source of inspiration, but this quote of his—which I’ve also seen elsewhere, including to ancient Chinese military men—meant everything in my own search for the woman I was to marry. But the preparation aspect of seeking God’s will is considerably more difficult than the task of preparing a team for a basketball game. In the latter, you know exactly where you’re trying to go and at precisely what time you can measure the success of your efforts. Looking for Divine will in marriage or anything else involves something harder—navigating through a lot of murk in the mind, trusting that whatever you are doing right now is what will prepare you for an end you really can’t see and don’t know what it will be like when you get there.
In 2001, I created an account on Catholic Match thinking this should go nice and fast. And for some people that’s exactly how it’s been. It’s often been wondered by me and by others, as to why it works that way. The number of reasons are surely infinite, but here is one that comes to my mind—perhaps the people that found spouses quickly on CM had done a lot of the prep work in venues they had been previously called. Whereas, for others, entering the Catholic Match world was part of the arena of preparation. That’s how it was for me.
I was living in a very isolated spot. I had moved to a different part of the country a couple years earlier and was separate from family and friends. Apart from a few companions in my new Pittsburgh home, I was not a part of any real community. I could see this, but didn’t think it mattered—after all, I figured, getting married would solve that. That was my only real problem, I was convinced. Eight years later, as I type those words, I see how foolish that sounds. To be able to give something, you have to have something to give, and I had very little (this refers to much more than just money, the least significant of what there is to give, though it should be noted I didn’t have any of that either).
Entering into the CM community brought several benefits, which I did appreciate at the time, but did not fully realize their enduring value. The most obvious one was finding new friends. As the years went by I met countless people whose company I enjoyed. It should also be noted that there were situations that didn’t work out quite as well, but these had the further advantage of making me appreciate my old friends even more—and working harder to rekindle those friendships, even if I was far away from my original home. Slowly, but surely, isolation began to end.
But the most important thing was entering into a parish that would later be ironically linked to Catholic Match in a Newsweek article on the 2008 presidential election. Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman went to people connected to CM, as part of the “new wave” kind of Catholic and to an old ethnic Polish parish in Pittsburgh, as the “old Catholic”. I guess that made me a crossover, because I was a loyal member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, whose priest would later be the one to preside at my wedding in the Baltimore area. In that parish community, of which I was the only young adult, I was able to rebuild my spiritual life and gain real self-confidence. Deep down I had a gut feeling that being a part of that parish was going to be very important in whom I ultimately married—even if that seemed more than a little counterintuitive. Going to church with a demographic group in their 60s and 70s, whose church was half-fill on Sundays isn’t in the generally recommended list for Catholic singles seeking a spouse. But I was convinced being a member of Immaculate Heart was the right thing, and I kept at it.
The ultimate purpose of preparation came to fruition in early 2007. I made a great woman from a Polish Catholic family. It would be in Baltimore, not in Pittsburgh, but stepping into her circle made me feel like I had taken the logical next step from the parish I had rebuilt my life at. It was something I could never have possibly foreseen or planned out, but in the bigger picture it worked out perfectly. And the woman I’d meet would integrate perfectly into my revitalized and expanded circle of friends. Catholic Match was crucial to making it all possible. But the most important thing was simply the time-honored advice of doing the next right thing and letting the bigger picture work out for itself. In Fineman’s Newsweek article, he wrote that CM had many members and successes, but surely “none from so far as Polish Hill.” He was wrong. Here I am.