Things happened quickly. People are often amazed when I tell them I proposed to Allison less than two months after we met in person for the first time. When we look back, though, we are not so amazed. After a lifetime of looking for something, you know it when you finally find it.
Here’s how it unfolded.
Nov. 25, 2011 – The day after Thanksgiving
“I always like a date to have a spiritual component,” she told me. “It gets things off on the right foot.”
This was a pleasant surprise. We attended Mass at the chapel and stayed afterward for the rosary. I have to admit that even though I had said in my profile I was looking for a devout Catholic woman with whom I could pray, I felt unprepared. Prayer is a deeply personal thing and I had been doing it alone for the last five or six years. It was difficult for me to shift gears.
By the end of Mass, however, I was feeling better. When it was time for the rosary, a woman walked to one corner of the chapel and turned on a CD player. A Gregorian chant began to play — it was the exact same one that had brought me to tears four years prior while praying alone in my prayer room. It was a piece that had a very special meaning for me, and whenever I heard it I remembered the powerful prayer sessions I used to have when I first came back to the faith. This was just one of the coincidences that I were to be a regular occurrence while getting to know Allison.
December 8, 2011 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception
On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Allison called me up at work for an impromptu date. We met for dinner. She suggested we dedicate our relationship to the Blessed Mother. We went back to the same chapel and in front of a shrine we pledged our love to the Immaculate Conception and asked for her protection.
It was the first time we truly prayed together – without a script. I stumbled. I felt awkward. I was self-conscious and paused several times because I didn’t know what to say. In many ways it was like a first kiss. Suddenly I was aware of everything all at once and couldn’t get comfortable.
But this was something I knew was an indispensable part of dating as a Catholic. Chastity is almost immediately attacked when you find someone who might just be the love of your life. I cannot stress this enough: Dating without praying as a couple is like taking a knife to a gunfight. Actually, it’s worse. It’s like taking a spork.
We knew we were going to need the intercession of the Blessed Mother if we were going to ride out the attacks. I don’t care who you are — if you’re in love, the temptations are there.
Before I knew it we were praying together on the phone three times a day.
My spiritual life grew richer. Men often experience extended periods of dryness in the faith, and I had been no exception. With Allison in my life, I began to have consolations almost daily. One day at Mass I was saying a prayer of thanksgiving. I thanked God for Allison; she was an answered prayer.
Immediately I was struck by a thought: Allison had been saying prayers for petition over the last few years as well. I was her answered prayer. I was sure of it, and that realization suddenly made what we were doing more solid. More real. We were two people rushing toward each other, not just me chasing her. God had placed us in each other’s lives, and the respect and sobriety that was attendant with that floored me. In my heart she went from something desired to something treasured.
January 1, 2012 — New Year’s Day
We spent New Year’s at the home of some friends. On New Year’s Day we took a long walk in the late morning by the water and stopped at a bench. We began talking about the future.
We had always talked around it. Or rather, Allison would mention it and I would make sure that I didn’t say anything to lead her on. I was still hesitant about making anything definite. It’s one thing to know you couldn’t imagine life without a certain woman, quite another thing to commit to her.
January 7, 2012
One evening a week later we were standing in her kitchen, talking about our day as she prepared dinner. She went to her purse and pulled out a train schedule.
“Here – I was looking at this and if we decided we were going to live in my condo then I could drop you off at this train station during the week and you could take it all the way to your office,” she said.
I couldn’t argue with her logic, but I had never actually asked her to marry me. And here we were: she, leaning with her back against my chest while I peered over her shoulder at a train schedule.
“You know, we’re talking about marriage, but I’ve never officially proposed.”
She turned and smiled at me, took a step backward, and raised her shoulders as if to say, “Well?”
I knew that if I let this woman go I would regret it every day for the rest of my life. I didn’t have a ring. I didn’t have a speech. I hadn’t taken her out for a romantic dinner. I couldn’t help it.
All I knew was that I didn’t want Allison to have another minute go by where she might be wondering if I was serious about my commitment to her. I dropped to my knee and asked her to marry me. I don’t remember what I said. I don’t think she remembers what I said. All I really remember is that she said “Yes” before I even finished the proposal.
She hugged me and asked, “Can we say a rosary now?” We walked into her living room, knelt before her icon of Mary and did just that.