Archive for the ‘Engagement’ Category

Just under five months ago, I asked Casey to marry me.
That’s going to happen today.
Almost immediately after I proposed, we talked about how we didn’t want to wait too long and that we were ready to be married to one another.
We just didn’t realize how quickly five months would go by.
Even up to today, we’re making last minute adjustments and prep. No matter what’s ready, we are crossing the finish line together by 5:30. We’ve come to realize that today isn’t the finish line, however. It is the start of the longest, most life-giving marathon there is: marriage. Along the way, we know there will be faith, family and friends with figurative water cups to help nourish and sustain us. We will never be thirsty without those things in our lives.
I know one thing: I am emotional as I type this. As a boy, I dreamed that I would marry a sweet and smart woman who brought me joy, made me laugh and made me better. As a man, I will stand in front of the altar and know I’ve found her and much, much more.
I will aim to be her equal.
A look at Cassandra Michele Anderson puts the world in perspective. All of its possibilities come into focus.
I don’t know where life is going after today, but I go into the unknown with great joy, anticipation and humility.
This blog will continue beyond today and become our marriage and family blog.
When I proposed, I asked Casey if she would be interested in doing a blog with me. As a professional writer, this was a natural outlet for me, but I figured Casey could use it as a teaching tool for the teenagers she works with. They would see the Sacrament of Marriage is something truly special. I may be the writer, but Casey is this blog’s best contributor and I learn something each time I read her musings. She makes me laugh and think at the same time.
Thanks to you, the reader, who has followed along. You’ve contributed so much to our journey and we hope you continue with us.
The journey is only starting. Bring the water cups.


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Early in November, Matt and I met up with David Spence, our friend and wedding photographer, for an Engagement photo session.  It was unusually chilly, but we had a blast wandering around downtown Ellicott City and pausing every so often to capture affectionate moments against lovely settings in the neighborhood.  Here are just a few samplings of the amazing work David did with us…

cuddling because it was romantic... or really chilly outside?


"One Way"


dapper Matt


posing on the Trolley Path brings out the cuteness in all of us...

… and my personal favorite…

just. plain. sweet.

Many, many thanks go to David at Spence Photographics for being so awesome, fun, and brilliant with our photo session… we cannot wait to see what he captures on Friday!

Counting down….


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One of my favorite faith-themed websites is Busted Halo, where articles, blogs, and videos explore young adult faith lives.  One of their most creative features are annual Advent and Lent count-down calendars.  Each day, there is a new reflection and prayer reminder that sheds unique light upon the season….

I think that their take on the meaning of the Advent season is just fantastic!Take two minutes to get the synopsis:

I have always endeared to the Advent season… the anticipation of Christmas and all its seasonal glory speaks to my sensibilities and my spirituality.  Both religiously and secular-ly, every aspect of Advent makes me a little bit giddy (the first snowfall! the lessons and carols! the blessing of the manger scene! the lights and decorations! the music! the Charlie Brown Christmas Special!).

This year,  our last month of engagement is almost entirely during Advent (25 out of 30 days, anyhow), and all of the meanings and themes of Advent take on a whole new meaning for me personally.

Christ is entering our world … and Advent is the expectant waiting… hopeful anticipation… and cheerful preparation of God breaking into our lives!

Oh my goodness, have I developed a new appreciation for hopeful anticipation!  Five days after Advent ends, December 30, Matt and I get to receive a brand new (for us) sacrament — and God will break into our lives in a new way.  And the connection between the spirituality of Advent and my spirituality of engagement go even farther than that.

When we celebrate Advent, it is meant to be a quiet time of reflection and preparation for Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  Our Lord chose to enter the world as a human being… submitting to our restrictions of time and space… out of pure love for humanity… in order to communicate that love to us in new and definite ways.  We look at the Virgin Mary’s obedience to God’s will as our supreme example of discipleship.  We look at the presence of the shepherds at the birth to demonstrate God’s preferential option for the poor.  We look at the gifts of the Magi for their forshadowing of the sacrifice Jesus would make for humankind. Personally, looking at nativity scenes in art and in decorations, I find myself prayerfully pondering the wonder and mystery of God’s existence as a helpless infant. We were not expecting the Messiah to arrive in such an unassuming way.  We hoped for a superhero of sorts, or at least someone born into nobility or a warrior-leader or a legacy rabbi…  but a humble family of a carpenter?!?  This defied conventions.  The day Jesus was born, God showed us the beauty and value in humility, vulnerability, and purity. 

To me, engagement is just like Advent because we are anticipating and preparing for the presence of Christ to enter our lives in a new way.  Jesus is present to us in the signs of the sacrament, and the sacramentality of our marriage will carry out beyond our wedding day for years to come.   God is love, and so every time we share love with each other and with our family or community, we are experiencing God’s presence — even when that experience is mundane, like taking out the trash, or meek, like offering forgiveness for mistakes, or quiet, like taking time to pray for each other.   Each encounter is no less loving, and no less holy — God’s incarnation in the small and unexpected.

Like Mary and Joseph, we’ve come to realize that God has a plan for our lives, and that our faithful partnership will offer something special to the world.  Like the three wise men, we seek to follow Christ and to offer generously of our own gifts and talents.  Like the humble manger where Jesus was born, we will encounter God in simple, unassuming, and unexpected ways throughout our marriage. We have hope and delight in knowing that Jesus is near…

Advent reminds us that there is joy in the waiting.

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In 34 days, I’ll be standing in front of the altar waiting for Casey. I’ve always been waiting for her and three years ago I penned this blog for The Catholic Review about my status as a single man.

It’s an odd place to be when you are 30, Catholic and single in a church that is all about family building.

Everyone and their mom claims to know someone who “would be perfect for you.” So, you go on a series of blind dates that leave you wondering if the people who set you up really know you at all.

“The Big 3-0” is the point of no return in the real world. You’re not- in theory, at least- a kid anymore. The bottle opener still on the key chain should have been gone after your 25th birthday party… at the latest. All of your friends had their weddings three or four years ago and those bottles you used to open for them at parties are replaced with ones that contain baby formula.

So, when the family gets together to give you a watch for the landmark birthday, it’s not by accident. It’s one of those non-so-subtle reminders to make like Simba in The Lion King and get on with the Circle of Life already.

So, where do you go from here? Some, like my childhood friend recently did, enter the noble life of the priesthood. Some people keep at the dating scene, whether its through local parish singles groups or Web sites.

Who can resist E-Harmony, with its 29-dimension match system?! Seriously, look at those people, laughing and dancing in the commercials. They’re not just harmonious. They’re e-harmonious.

I turned 30 last month and joined the Review two weeks later. As a single guy, I didn’t think about the “point of no return” much leading up to the big day, but have lingered more on it since I transitioned from sports writing to covering the church.

It’s easy not to think about the married life much when you’re eating hot dogs and covering games until 10:30 p.m. every night. Sports writers can be as emotionally stunted as the athletes they cover.

Families, though, are the essence of the church.

Single men and women are the stragglers, trying to find a place to belong. Who wants to be the loner sitting in the back pew? Trust me, we’ve seen you looking at us and it’s uncomfortable for us, too.

Even though we may not be running on everyone else’s clock, we can still be an important voice in the church. Finding that voice is the challenging part.

Casey tells me that she used to read my blogs and think we might be compatible. We were each on a similar plane, but on different tracks. One day soon, God willing, we might walk to the edge of Pride Rock and raise our own cubs to the sky. OK, Casey might kill me if I do that, but wouldn’t it be sweet to have an African chorus welcome your child into the world?

It’s extraordinary, really, to think of life’s possibilities. This weekend, I’m going to Mass by myself again. This time, it’s to look for a parish that Casey and I will possibly share as a couple, raise our children in and grow in our faith together. I know my future in the church now – as a family man.

I guess it’s time to get a watch.

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A little more than a week ago, I packed up all my earthly belongings (except those Star Wars toys my mom promised to not throw away) and moved to Catonsville to the house Casey and I will share for at least the first year of our marriage. With the help of my mother, my friend George and Casey’s family, we also moved Casey’s stuff into the house during the same weekend.

One thing that hasn’t moved in is Casey.

I’m there alone until Dec. 30, the day she becomes my wife. Sure, she comes over and we have dinner or watch a movie together, but right now it’s mostly just me in there. While I was covering the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) for The Catholic Review, Casey spent an extraordinary amount of time unpacking boxes, putting things in their proper places (which I’m still trying to figure out) and getting the house in order. All of it was preparing the house to be our home.

And, that’s the thing. While I have adjusted to living in Catonsville, it’s not home yet. The most important piece for me – Casey – isn’t there yet. All of the material goods in the world make a home fun to be around, but love fills it.  I look forward to New Year’s Eve morning, when I can look across the bed and see the face of my wife and know I get to spend every day of  my life growing with her, supporting her and loving her.

The cliché goes, “Home is where the heart is.” My heart will be full Dec. 30 and each day that comes after.

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Today I dropped our wedding rings off at the jeweler to be engraved– yet another detail that will personalize our wedding day, designed to last for years and years.  My Maid of Honor came along for the ride, and we engaged in a fun guessing game of what I would have engraved… what would YOU choose to inscribe in your rings??

As a circle has no beginning and no end, symbolizing eternity, wedding rings are amongst the most recognizable symbols of marriage and fidelity.

“I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness. As I place it on your finger, I commit my heart and soul to you. I ask you to wear this ring as a reminder of the vows we have spoken today, our wedding day.”

In the meantime, I defy anyone to watch this and not try it out yourself!



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Recently in the news I’ve been hearing about a saddening law proposal in Mexico.  Apparently:

(Reuters) – Mexico City lawmakers want to help newlyweds avoid the hassle of divorce by giving them an easy exit strategy: temporary marriage licenses.
Leftists in the city’s assembly… proposed a reform to the civil code this week that would allow couples to decide on the length of their commitment, opting out of a lifetime.
The minimum marriage contract would be for two years and could be renewed if the couple stays happy. The contracts would include provisions on how children and property would be handled if the couple splits.
“The proposal is, when the two-year period is up, if the relationship is not stable or harmonious, the contract simply ends,” said Leonel Luna, the Mexico City assemblyman who co-authored the bill….

What the what?!?

As someone preparing for marriage, I cannot comprehend what could possibly be going on in the mindset of someone who would choose to opt for a temporary license.  How could I ever look at Matt and say, yes, I agree to offer my total commitment to you, and to make vows before God and my community to love and support you for better or for worse, in sickness and in health…  but I’m going to put a time-limit on our relationship.  This marriage is conditional, and my love could be finite… we’ll have to see how we feel about it in a few years.

Seemingly, I’m not alone in my scoffing at this news.  The radio morning DJ’s I heard this week were commenting on how decidedly un-romantic this concept was.  Stephen Colbert wagged his finger at Mexico City for this in his Oct 5 episode.

Yes, I understand that the divorce rates in our society are disturbingly staggering… and just as so many people seem to be regarding marriage as disposable, these lawmakers are claiming that temporizing licenses would help avoid the complications of eminent divorces… it still alarms me that if our society accepts ideas like this, then they have lost touch with the point of marriage.  This rant could go in a hundred different directions here, but the point I will focus on today is that of discernment.

Discernment is about taking the time before we get married to prepare for our commitment to be life-long.  We need to acknowledge that unless we prepare for the best and the worst case scenarios now, our future marriage could be endangered.  Discernment begins early in a dating process and involves courting, getting to know one another’s family backgrounds, learning about your personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and compatibilities.  This means not only getting to know your partner, but also truly knowing yourself.  Before being ready to commit my life to loving and honoring my husband, I needed to take the time to contemplate my own values, my life goals, and my own insecurities.  Discernment means having the courage to open up lines of communication and having the toughest conversations about touchy issues (finances, family, religion, politics, personal values). Most importantly, discernment includes prayer… and listening to what God is telling each of you through quiet meditation, through the conversations with each other, and with family and friends, and even in those intuitive gut-feelings that the Holy Spirit gives us.

Discernment is a slow process.  I was dreaming and praying of the kind of wife I could be long before I even met Matt… and then even as our friendship began to develop, we were carefully examining our dynamics, looking for the compatibilities that came naturally as well as the challenges that would take work to overcome.  In our case, discernment was gradual and casual at first.  The closer we became as a unit, the more deliberate our discernment conversations of marriage became.

When you’re this careful… this intentional  about considering making a commitment to marriage, you can’t help but acknowledge that at some point in the future, things won’t come so easily.  You know beforehand that there will be stressful days and years which most certainly will offer challenges that obscure your focus on each other and will test your marriage.  But you enter into the covenant anyway, because you know that this is a commitment worth the effort it will take to last.

Finally, the engagement period itself is an important part of the discernment process.  Just because a beautiful diamond ring is on my finger, does not mean that we are past the point of figuring out how to deal with potential issues before we make our eternal vows.  The difference between saying “I will” and saying “I do”, is that getting engaged was a statement of intention and betrothal… and getting married is a covenant.

Why does it seem that those lawmakers are ready to allow marriages to be made with an escape clause?  I’d speculate that all too often, people could be making the decision to marry too hastily, too quickly, too rashly, and without taking the time to really weigh the consequences of their decision.  Of course, some rational judgment is lost when you are young and in love… those awesome feelings of twitterpated butterflies are all you want to care about, and it’s so darn romantic to be infatuated!  But if marriage were designed to have a shelf life of butterflies and puppy-love, then none of us would have grandparents celebrating wedding anniversaries after 50 years.

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