If you are alone this Christmas, we'd like you to meet Brian and Danielle. Today they are married, with kids — but once upon a time they were in your shoes, too.*
Is it possible for two devout Catholic adults to meet and marry, and live happily ever after? You decide!
REGINA: What was your last Christmas like before you met?
Brian: During that winter I was living in upstate New York. I was about six hours away from my family and friends. I had a good job and a new home I had purchased just a year before. I was waiting and preparing myself for the person God had for me. I remember feeling very alone and hopeless that Christmas and thinking that I would never meet “The One.” Even as I drove home to my family that Christmas, I remember seeing lovers and young families along the route home enjoying themselves and there I was driving home alone. I remember praying during that Christmas asking our Lord that His will be done. That I would be open to whatever he had in store for me in the New Year. Little did I know that summer I would take another leap of Faith, move about eight hours southwest, find a new job and that I would meet that very one that God had prepared me for all my life.
Danielle: The last Christmas before I met Brian was the Christmas during my senior year of college. I spent most of my time off at home working my part time job in order to make money for the second semester of school. I also spent a good part of the month of December baking for the upcoming Christmas holiday. I attended Midnight Mass with my parents and aunt and uncle and cousins who came in from out of town. On Christmas Day, we opened presents and then went to our traditional Christmas Day movie. It was pretty low key and uneventful. About a week later, we got together with my dad’s side of the family to celebrate a belated Christmas.
REGINA: Can you remember how you felt during the Christmas season that year?
Brian: That Christmas season, before I met Danielle, I remember feeling defeated. I saw many others who seemed so happy and in love. I wondered why I couldn’t find someone to share this kind of love with and why it was taking so long. Then one night in prayer at my family home in a dimly lit room in front of a warm fire I had this tremendous sense of peace. This sense of peace gave me hope for the future and a patience to accept and enjoy the present whatever that may be.
Danielle: I remember being very happy to be at home with my parents during break. As an only child, we share a special bond, and I missed them immensely while away at school. At family gatherings and even at Midnight Mass, I remember feeling twinges of sadness. Everyone, it seemed, had someone special to share Christmas with. I had been praying for years for God to bring that one special person into my life, and I felt frustrated that it seemed He still had yet to hear me. I had never once brought a guy home for the holidays, so the jokes and questions from my uncles about when I was going to get married (or at least date someone), were extra annoying that year. I even remember sitting down with my grandfather at one point and him being very serious that I needed to find someone quickly. Time was running short. I respect my late Grandfather so much, but this conversation actually caused tears on the way home. It wasn’t as if I didn’t want to find someone to share my life with or that I hadn’t been trying. (I had already been on AveMariaSingles for at least a year at that point.) It was just that the one right person hadn’t come along yet. I didn’t want to settle. I grew irritated because all the questions and conversations weren’t helping me practice patience.
REGINA: Did you pray for a truly Catholic spouse?
Brian: In a simple word YES! Ever since I was resolved to seek out my future spouse, my prayer was always to find someone who I could share all of myself. My greatest hope and desire was to find someone who loved Our Faith as much as I did and wanted to live their life dedicated to God and our family. I love children and knew that I wanted to raise them in the Catholic Faith. That is exactly why I choose Ave Maria Singles. Even though I was somewhat skeptical at first about using the internet to find my soul mate I knew that if God wanted too he would use this site to help us find each other and He did.
Danielle: When I was 16 years old, I had the blessing of being able to discern my vocation. I had been praying about my vocation for many months when my baby cousin was born. I knew from the moment I held her in my arms that I was supposed to be doing that for the rest of my life. The feeling of peace was something I will never forget. From that moment on, I knew my vocation was to be a wife and mother. So for me that meant I wasn’t wasting time dating random people in high school. I wasn’t at an age where I could get married or enter into a serious relationship with so much left ahead of me. I also felt strongly that I only ever wanted to say “I love you” to my husband. It was very important to me that I do this. Thus, I turned to prayer. I prayed every day for my future husband. I prayed God would keep him safe and that when the time was right, He’d bring him to me. I prayed that someone just as devout (or even more so) would come into my life and sweep me off my feet. I prayed for the grace to be patient as I waited what I knew would be a while for him. I prayed that I wouldn’t grow tired and just end up settling for the first practicing Catholic that came along. I prayed for trust. I knew I had to trust God to help me fulfill and live out my vocation. And I prayed prayers of thanksgiving for allowing me to discern my vocation so early. I like to plan, so knowing what my future plan should be was comforting to me.
REGINA: Did you ever lose hope?
Danielle: That being said, I definitely had moments of losing hope. In college, I started to date. And one date after another would lead to just a friendship. There was no spark or the guy I was interested in turned out to be a not so nice guy after all. I joined AveMariaSingles before my junior year, and I somehow thought that I would magically meet someone the very day I joined. When very few showed interest in me, I became frustrated. During my senior year, I met two other gentlemen in person from a different Catholic dating site and while they were extremely nice and fairly devout guys, we just didn’t click chemistry wise. And I just knew they weren’t right.
The one time in particular I remember feeling very hopeless was the summer after I graduated from college. I attended Franciscan University of Steubenville and if you didn’t find your spouse while you were there, there was a stigma that followed you. If you couldn’t find a good Catholic guy there, you’d never, ever find one in the real world. I spent a good month feeling sorry for myself and beyond sad that I wasn’t planning a wedding or getting married like many of my Facebook friends. I watched a lot of romantic comedies and poured my heart into writing my Catholic romance novel. I spent so much time just feeling sad.
REGINA: What was your first Christmas like after you met?
Danielle: We spent our first Christmas as a couple visiting Brian’s family in Delaware. (Since we spent most of our time hanging out in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Brian had already met most of my family). It was such a beautiful and joyous time. We stayed with his mom, and I was able to spend a lot of time getting to know her and his brother. We attended Christmas Eve Mass and had Christmas dinner the next day with his aunt and uncle.
It even snowed! It was so special. I remember going to see a big neighborhood light show after Mass on Christmas Eve. I remember walking hand in hand with Brian and being so head over heels in love with him. I remember feeling so at peace and so very happy that I was with the one that I would be spending the rest of my Christmases with. (We weren’t engaged at the time but had had many serious conversations in which we both agreed that we wanted to head toward marriage. Financial and life situations kept the engagement from happening at that point.) It was almost a huge sigh of relief for me. Finally, Brian was here. And he wasn’t going anywhere. My past of being single at Christmas was done. The questions would finally stop. I’d always have someone to hold during my favorite time of year.
One incident I remember in particular was at Brian’s family Christmas party a few days after Christmas. We went to his aunt and uncle’s house, and I had never met them before. The second we walked into the house, his aunt pulled me into the kitchen under the guise that she needed help making frozen appetizers. (They have a personal chef, and I learned that later.) While in the kitchen she was very kind, but it was clear that she was trying to figure out who I was and exactly what I thought of Brian. It was an intense 30 minutes. What I didn’t know until much later was that my engagement ring was sitting less than five feet from me the entire time! After that baptism by fire event, Brian’s uncle took me aside and we instantly bonded over the Steelers and Franco Harris. The rest of Brian’s family were also incredibly kind and welcoming. They all acted like I had been a part of the family for forever and even allowed me to join in the traditional family picture.
Brian: I remember being madly in love and so thankful to God for bringing Danielle into my life. To be completely honest, I am tearing up right now thinking about that sense of Joy and that is not like me. I remember we traveled about 6 hours to meet my family and how happy I was to introduce Danielle to them. I have to say she really won over my family in that visit home. We were so in love and it was a special time in our lives. We still have a picture of the two of us that Christmas displayed in our home today.
REGINA: What would you advise Catholics who are alone this Christmas to do?
Danielle: Pray and don’t worry. So much easier to say than to practice! God has a plan. He’s got this. And Christmas can be lonely and painful without a special someone to share it with. It’s okay to acknowledge those feelings and even voice them once to a close friend or family member. But don’t focus on those feelings. Don’t spend your holiday moping and feeling sorry.
Don’t spend so much time longing for the future that you forget to enjoy the present. (I’m sure my parents would laugh to hear me say this, but now that I’m older, I realize how true it is!) Spend time with family. Volunteer. Pick up some extra shifts at work so that those with spouses and kids can enjoy their families on the holidays. Trust me, the favor will be returned for you one day, too. Keep busy. Bake. Do crafts. Attend tree lightings with friends. Organize a white elephant gift exchange with friends. Do some extra hours of adoration and offer them up for your future spouse. Most of all trust. Trust that God has your back. His timing is always so perfect. It is only now that I can look back and understand why I didn’t meet Brian sooner. Above all, try to remember that God is walking with you. He is good and will not abandon you. Your time will come.
Brian: Trust in God and enjoy your current state in life. Use this time to become closer to our Lord in prayer and in the Liturgy of the season. Don’t focus your attention on what you don’t have but instead appreciate the truly special time of your life that you are in. Use this time to prepare yourself for your future spouse and continue to deepen your love for God. All will be given to you in due time. Persevere in prayer my friends and all will be given to you in time.
*This was before they met at Ave Maria Singles, but that's another story.