I had never read a profile like Allison’s.
I had been on CatholicMatch for nearly five years, and I was a few weeks away from closing out my account for good.
Since coming back to the faith in 2006 I had been trying to figure out which vocation God had in store for me. I had gone on a retreat to determine if God was calling me to the priesthood. I had gone to singles groups in various venues. I had signed up for a prominent secular dating site. I had wondered if I was meant for a consecrated life. I had prayed.
Many times during the last year I had gone to sleep with the nagging thought that I was simply too set in my ways to be able to live in a marriage. I was saddened by the idea that I had somehow made myself unsuitable to ever marry. After all, I had never had a roommate. I had never lived with a woman, even in my pre-revert days. I hadn’t even had a relationship that lasted longer than five or six months. I felt defective, or maybe delusional.
Was I just being overly selective to the exclusion of someone God had chosen especially for me?
When I finally got a spiritual director he would sigh and slap his forehead every time I asked him, “Does she really have to be Catholic?” Or, “What if my faith was really strong, and she was just a really good person?”
Looking back I have no idea how I became comfortable with that idea or with the situation I was in a couple of years ago when I considered dating a woman who was an atheist. Sure, she was smart and kind and funny.
But an atheist? Seriously?
I remember one woman I was dating asking me, “Couldn’t Catholicism just be your thing and I can have my own thing? Like cooking or canning or something?”
Oy, saints preserve us.
One woman CatholicMatch matched me with told me she was on the site because her mother had recommended it to her. “I’m Catholic, but I’m not fanatical about it,” she had said.
That one stung. Was that how I was presenting myself? As a fanatic? Just for wanting to talk about the place our faith has in our lives…on a Catholic dating site? To someone I may end up being joined in the sacrament of marriage?
What was happening? If I was having trouble just bringing up the faith, what was going to happen when I said pre-marital sex was out?
So last Nov. 4, after visiting my mother in the emergency room (for what turned out to be a false alarm), I stopped off at my church to speak to the Blessed Mother. I wanted to offer thanks for all the things I possessed but had somehow become blind to. I wanted to thank her for all the graces she had obtained for me. I wanted her to pray for me so that I might know God’s will.
As I was kneeling there, I looked down and saw a small stack of prayer cards someone had left. I picked one up and saw that it was St. Raphael.
St. Raphael, patron of the blind.
St. Raphael, patron of happy meetings.
St. Raphael, patron of those looking for a spouse.
So I prayed: “St. Raphael, if God has someone for me, please bring her to me soon. And please pray that I don’t screw it up.”
The next day Allison contacted me on CatholicMatch.
I had seen her profile pop up in one of those “You Have New Contacts” emails from CatholicMatch. I had taken a brief look at her profile (her devastating smile was easy to see even in that tiny photo) and made a mental note to check it out in depth when I had more time.
When she saw that I had “Viewed Her,” she decided to take a chance and reach out to me. Her first email was brief and witty. I was immediately interested.
After reading her profile I emailed her back.
Then I mined her profile for more information. I was stopped in my tracks by the wonderful integration of humor, warmth and especially seriousness about the faith and what she expected of a Catholic spouse. I had hoped to find that level of devotion in someone for so long that I almost couldn’t believe what I was reading. I had waited to hear things like that, waited to talk about such things with someone on a date without being looked at as if I belonged in a monastery.
Frankly, it was as if someone had said, “You’re looking for a match? Why don’t you just shoot for the moon and describe exactly what you want?” And when I did, “Oh, yeah – we have one of those.”
I found myself poring over detailed and personal thoughts about whom she was and what she was looking for and muttering, “Check. Check. Check. Hmmmm…boy, howdy.”
I could not let her get away. I had to talk to her, as soon as I could.
Check back next Sunday (Jan. 29) for the second installment in “Erik’s Engagement Diary.”