I hope he’s from a big family who likes to eat. I hope he’s funny. Oh, and it would be nice, God, if he had blue eyes.
Some people fall asleep counting sheep (or do they? Raise your hand if you’ve ever actually done this?). From the time I was thirteen, fresh and on fire from hearing Crystalina Evert’s testimony of writing letters to her future husband after running into the arms of the Church, I’d fall asleep counting, on my fingers, the qualities I hoped to find in the man I’d marry.
It wasn’t until four years later I first put pen to paper and let spill my heart to the one I hoped to find. I wanted so badly to meet him, I wrote, and I hoped I could prepare myself well for whenever our first meeting would take place. That first letter was upbeat and hopeful, yet as months passed and I remained immersed in that intense longing for love–before college, I’d never had a serious boyfriend or been on more than a few dates–more pages were written, filled more often with loneliness and endless questions. Writing to this stranger was a consolation through the agony of my first broken heart, my frustration that the Lord seemed to be taking his time with my dating life, my envy at watching my sister and my friends enter into happy relationships.
The more I wrote, something changed. This man, whom I hadn’t even met, was–God willing–becoming more of a concrete, real person to me. As I encountered Christ in a new, radical way during my college years, things like food and eye color fell away and my desire for a holy, virtuous man with a spirit of sacrifice and a love for Our Lady became foremost in my prayers about my husband. I knew now that the pull on my heart towards marriage, and to one particular man in it, revealed the deepest longing of the human heart, whether it goes recognized or unknown: the pull toward the Father.
The future Saint John Paul II wrote that “the value of the person…is for all humanity the most precious of goods.” The thought that my husband would, God willing, be the one to sanctify me and bring me to heaven, sank in deep. Even in my daydreaming, I started to realize whatever good qualities he possessed, in general, would be nothing compared to who he would be in particular.
And what a person he was, and is, in particular. It wasn’t wrong that my younger, less spiritually mature self had tended toward itemizing or quantifying this man, as it’s hard to do more than imagining someone you don’t yet know, but I simply hadn’t yet encountered him yet. It’s hard to see until it happens, but what a gift to see more fully and to realize, through authentic love, that generally dreamy qualities, praiseworthy as they might be, don’t hold a candle to the reality of a specific person, created for out of Love, for love, for all eternity. A revelation.
I want to either cry or burst out laughing when I stop to think about how well I’ve come to know and adore the man the Father entrusted to me. For so long, I was just living my ordinary life, aching for someone I didn’t even know yet. I am in total awe when I consider the ways the Lord prepared us for each other, and how my husband possesses so, so many qualities that I never could’ve imagined would be so perfectly suited to me.
I decided, like Crystalina, to keep my letters a secret from my husband until I gave them to him on our honeymoon As I spent the year we were engaged telling this story in chastity talks all over the East Coast three to four times a week, this wasn’t the easiest feat. I kept almost spilling the beans!
Life looks different these days, with toddlers demanding more of the time we might have once spent writing idle love letters. The purifications of newlywed life and new parenthood are somewhat in the rear view, though choosing love and choosing virtue are a continual pursuit. The reality of our life together mirrors the reality of who my husband is, as a person: imperfect, unideal, yet fulfilling and beautiful, still shared with the man I have chosen and vowed my love and fidelity to. My husband’s value to me, and moreover, the objective reality of his unfathomable value from the moment of his creation, remains.
But what if you pray in fear of never finding that reality? Truly, I have known that emptiness, that cry of the heart, myself. So many times, I’d consciously avoid thinking about or seeking out stories of holy romances, convinced it was never going to happen for me.
Only the Father knows your eventual vocation, yet starting now, you can prepare yourself to become the best bride or bridegroom you can be. Practice small, habitual sacrifice and fasting, whether from food, spending, or media, create a prayer ritual for yourself, and spend time contemplating who you are as a human person, made in God’s image and created for ultimate union with him. Whether you have yet to know who your spouse is, whether you’ve found him or her and are preparing for marriage, or whether you’ve walked down the aisle and into your vocation, it’s awe-inspiring, the uniqueness with which each of us has been created and with which we’re able to be healed and called on in weakness and to offer our specific strengths in service of those in our lives.
Love literally is heaven-sent, in the glimpse we’re given into knowing the details and specifics of another, and that’s what I want to leave you with. You are valuable. Your desire for the fullness of love is good and is true to your creation. Every human person possesses depths that surpass any list of attributes, qualities entirely their own, and discovering them is a gift.
Father, we are made for divine intimacy with you. Show me how to love you freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally. Cast your light unto my feet, that the path to my vocation be graced with discernment and clarity and that through my particular calling, I might glorify you always and be drawn into ever-greater communion with you.
For those called to marriage and waiting to walk this path, console and guide them. May they know you, Lord, are the ultimate fulfillment of their longing and may they wait in patience and active growth in you. For those preparing for marriage, anoint this sacred time with your Holy Spirit, Lord, inviting couples to rest in your peace. May their anticipation for the sacrament point them to a longing only you can fill. For married couples, draw spouses into your love, beauty, goodness, and mercy, that they may always pursue your example.
We pray, Father, that all of your children, through the vocations you call them to, witness to the face of your unending love. Joyfully we await your heavenly wedding feast.
Stephanie Calis is the author of the book Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner, a #1 Amazon bestseller in Weddings, and the blogs Captive the Heart and Spoken Bride. A former full-time speaker, she seeks to engage the culture with the truth of authentic, sacrificial love by meeting people where they are and meeting them in matters of the heart. Stephanie married her husband in 2011 on a 105-degree day, and they are certified Natural Family Planning teachers who specialize in introducing couples to Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. They have two children.
Pauline Books & Media will be providing copies of Stephanie’s book as a giveaway to readers! To enter the raffle, click here!