Making A List? Check It Twice! (4 Men, 4 Lessons)


Before my spiritual awakening – one that I can partially thank CatholicMatch for – I’d had a very limited understanding of what prayer was.

I’d memorized all the requisite prayers that good Catholics do without really pondering their significance. Of course, the day it occurred to me that “if I should die before I wake” was a frightening thought, I was glad I spent my childhood blissfully unaware of what those words meant!

But a few years ago, in conversation with a fellow CatholicMatch member, it occurred to me what prayer is really for. If we are asking God to do something for us and forming an attachment to a specific outcome, then we really aren’t open to His will. I likened all my previous prayers to a child’s wish list at Christmastime. How naive and self-centered of me!

I’d grown up thinking that asking for a specific outcome was fine, simply because my prayers were answered often enough.

Case in point: One summer afternoon a few years ago, I heard myself blurt out to my mother: “I only want to teach  if it’s for a university or a museum.”

I had no idea why I said it; we hadn’t been talking about my profession. But my mom just looked me in the eye, nodded and went back to her knitting. I should have known she’d started a novena for me that day.

Lo and behold, over the next few weeks I’d gotten three phone calls, all looking to hire me. One was from a favorite museum of mine. The other two were from local universities. I’d never even applied for any of them, but somehow they’d all gotten my contact information.

Having no other explanation, I called my mother to tell her what happened and asked, “Padre Pio?”

Her answer: “He never fails!”

It stands to reason, then, that I hadn’t questioned any lists of demands I was praying for. These checklists reached into every area: my creative work, my looks and, most specifically, my desire for a partner.

I had no qualms about asking Padre Pio for every last item. After all, didn’t He come through for me before, with exacting precision? But God had a few very specific, very funny lessons for me!

In very quick succession, I’d met and briefly dated three men. In what could only be referred to as “Godcidental,” they each had some variation of  the name that belonged to Padre Pio, which I took as a cosmic signal each time that he was The One, this was IT!


Lesson #1

This was a handsome, polite gentleman who really liked me. In him I saw the inventory I’d listed years before: well-traveled, well-educated, well-mannered, well-groomed, financially stable and chivalrous.

We shared a love of vinyl records, late 19th-century photography and Japanese novelists.

The problem?

His false self and my false self were highly compatible, but scratch the surface and it was a whole other story.

We could spend hours laughing and making small talk, but when our conversations went deeper, we were both faced with walls that seemed insurmountable. It didn’t take long for me to realize this, and we parted ways.


Lesson #2

Because of my interest in diverse cultures, I thought I wanted a Maronite, or one of the other Eastern Catholic denominations. I wanted him to be physically strong but have a sensitive side, working in some humanitarian capacity. I wanted someone who shared my views on Postcolonial literary theory and who’d read all the Existentialist philosophers, who knew all the important poets, who would know just how vital women were in the continuation of not just the family but of civilization.

And the man I met was all of those things, down to the tiniest detail.

He was also clearly not ready for a relationship, as I quickly discovered.


Lesson #3

This guy was perfect. He had all the other things I’d been asking for. He was handsome, tall and strong; he had many long-term, healthy friendships and came from a solid family.

He’d been Jesuit-educated, showed no signs of addictions or neuroses, respected women, and had a good sense of humor. He had the same taste in music as me, made very good choices in clothes and tattoos, showed himself to be ambitious and kind…but had zero interest in me.

After all this, I realized I’d just been presented with every last demand I’d thought of, along with a very clear message that none of these things were going to work for me.

Had I not come to understand what it meant to trust in God’s will, I’d have felt shaken to the very core. I remembered the awful, lonely feeling of rejection when I was much younger and thought that God simply didn’t want to answer my prayers. But this time, I felt no fear. I found the whole thing funny, in fact, and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next!


Lesson #4

Last November I met someone who had absolutely no business showing up. He wasn’t anywhere on my wish lists.

For one, he’s a musician; and I swore off musicians years ago.

Second, he violated some of the non-negotiable items in my inventory: did not earn an advanced degree from a reputable college, had not gotten a membership card to the New York Public Library system and was not well-acquainted with any of our city’s museums.

But despite all, I agreed to a date.


And here’s the final lesson. On our second date, the conversation came around to my interests in flash mobs and public art.

He listened attentively and then said, “You strike me as someone who doesn’t know your own worth.”

Before my spiritual awakening, I’d have pegged him as a player who knew exactly what women want to hear. But he was so guileless and said it with such compassion, I couldn’t dismiss him. I casually agreed with him and told myself to give this guy a chance.



One time we began talking about our wish lists, and I rattled off all of my demands. He bravely pointed out two things: one, that he fit none of my criteria, and two, that not anywhere on those lists were things about how I’d like men to treat me.

This was a huge revelation.

Why hadn’t this occurred to me before? I’d just assumed that would be part of the package, particularly if a man has a basic respect for women. But the point is less about who these men on my wish lists were in reality and more about why that was missing from my criteria.

And it dawned on me: perhaps it’s what God wants for me, because I realized that, all too often, He cares more for me than I care for myself.

Had I truly been willing to compromise how I wanted to be treated in exchange for a guy with a library card or a museum membership?

It would seem so.

And here was someone I never even asked for, reminding me of the greatest lesson I could learn: wish lists, masquerading as prayers, may not be in accordance with God’s will. Welcoming the unexpected makes it so much more interesting, too!



  1. Derek-481265 September 4, 2011 Reply

    Hi Cate. Thank you for sharing this. As Catholics, we say the “Our Father” at least once per week, but many of us seldom contemplate on what we are saying when we recite, “your will be done.” And, many of us have selfish reasons for wanting a relationship. However, if both partners are true believers in Christ and work within His desire for us to be one with Him as He is one with God the Father (reference Gospel according to Saint John), then that seems to be the most solid foundation on which to build. Thank you again for the insight!

  2. Lindy-688837 June 28, 2011 Reply

    So the lesson here is TRUST (in Him alone) & SURRENDER (to HIS will). It’s funny how God allows us to learn this lesson. Each lesson tailor made to our need. For some it’s in situations like finding the right relationship, for others it’s in enduring physical pain, for some deep loss (as was the case with me, when my beloved brother was murdered), for others addiction (and so on). The Joy of Full Surrender is an awesome book, I’d recommend it to any one who truly want to make progress in letting go and letting God!

    • Cate-291547 July 12, 2011 Reply

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Lindy. But you are indeed correct that in surrendering to His will, we gain clarity. I will look for that book. Thank you!

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  4. Molly-613139 May 19, 2011 Reply

    Hey Catherine! So I think I have or had the same problem…I have this list in my head of how I want my guy to be and how well I want him to treat me, and if the guy does not pass all those I will not give him the time of day. But some of those qualities on my list is he must be a strong Catholic, be respectful, a gentleman, etc. So through your story are you trying to say to throw away the lists and just let God do all the deciding, even though you might have some good qualities on your list? For example I want to marry and be with a Catholic, period, I want someone to believe the same way I do in the Faith, it is the best thing that both of us could share together. I would think that is something that you would want on your list for sure and not throw that one away? Does my question make sense?

    • Cate-291547 June 25, 2011 Reply

      Hi Molly – great question, and it does indeed make sense! By no means should you throw your list out. If you want a Catholic man, please, definitely keep that criterion! I should point out that this person was also not on my list because he was not a practicing Catholic. It grew to be a problem. If you stay tuned to my column, you’ll read all about our breakup! Blessings to you!

    • Nancy-640021 June 28, 2011 Reply

      I also had a list. When I made it, I was trying to convince God to restore my marriage saying: “Okay God, if you’re not going to restore my marriage then I need a man who is this, this and this…no man like that exists so you might as well give me (my ex) back.” Well, some time later, the Lord met my challenge and showed me that there was in fact a man out there with those exact characteristics and I was blessed with a beautiful LDR for 4 months. Now that he is gone, I realize I might not ever know another man such as him. So now, what I tell the Lord is “you know the desires of my heart…the spoken and the unspoken. You know my heart better than I do and you know my needs. I place my will in your hands and ask that you align it with yours. Please give me the grace to trust you and have faith.”

      • Cate-291547 July 12, 2011 Reply

        What a lovely prayer, Nancy. May God bless you on this mysterious journey!

  5. Charlotte-681427 May 15, 2011 Reply

    Brilliant story! Thank you Catherine!

  6. Lyn-475997 May 14, 2011 Reply

    Very well said! Better check my list 🙂

  7. Candida-568910 May 11, 2011 Reply

    Oh Catherine, thank you for writing your story so well. I am on the same road you traveled. Through CM I have interacted with some very interesting individuals, almost feeling at times that they are the ones on my wish list. From your experience I must learn to be open to all BUT wait on the Lord trusting HIM to show you the right one. I couldn’t agree with you more when you said God has a sense of humour, HE indeed does! Girl, I can´t wait to see what my Heavenly Papa has up His sleeve. I know it will be unexpected, not even wished or asked for but someone who is meant for me.
    God Bless you Catherine Perry.

    • Cate-291547 May 15, 2011 Reply

      Thank you for such kind words, Candida. When your Heavenly Papa comes through for you (and He will) let us know!

  8. Karen-95905 May 11, 2011 Reply

    Wonderful, Cate. I found out this last weekend. Will e-mail you.

  9. Jewel-718684 May 10, 2011 Reply

    Hi, Catherine. I see myself in you. I have been specific in my list. I have also recited so many novenas as well as spontaneous prayers that i don’t know how to make God answer my prayers. (funny) The problem is i feel like no one is listening to me or maybe I am just too deaf to hear or too blind to see God’s answers. I wish you more of God’s blessings.

    • Cate-291547 May 15, 2011 Reply

      Hi Jewel (great name) – I also did countless novenas! I also bought self-help books that encouraged readers to literally make lists; unfortunately, the list-making mentality is a sign of the times. I often feel like you do, that He’s not listening, but that’s one of the great mysteries of His awesome power, isn’t it? Blessings to you!

    • Andrew-700375 May 19, 2011 Reply

      Read the book Ask and it is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks

      • Cate-291547 June 25, 2011 Reply

        I will look for that book, Andrew. Thank you!

        • Matthew-782650 August 29, 2012 Reply

          Hi Cate,
          I strongly implore you and everyone who reads this to NOT subscribe to the teachings of Jerry and Esther Hicks either in faith or financial support. Their teachings are satanic. If that sounds extreme, then listen to the link I have posted below. They openly state that Jesus is not the Son of God and was merely an enlightened being. PLEASE AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

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