Both full-time ministry workers for the Church, Nayeli and Ivan had seen each other a few times at diocesan events, but they didn’t speak for the first time until Nayeli responded to one of Ivan’s tweets. Their friendship deepened, and Ivan asked her out the following year.
Nayeli knew she was in the presence of a holy man, sincere in his pursuit, yet there was no peace in her heart. In a difficult, but necessary decision, she broke up with Ivan and began discerning religious life. She knew she needed to discover if the Lord was calling her to be his bride as a religious sister.
Ivan moved on, yet time and again, God continued to bring him and Nayeli back together through friendly encounters and social media. They remained friends through her discernment.
Fast forward a few years, and Nayeli felt certain the Lord was calling her to marriage. On the feast of Saint Patrick, Ivan invited her to get a green beer and catch up. A beer turned into a night at the movies, and they both knew this was where God wanted them. He wanted them for each other.
Ivan began pursuing Nayeli once again, and she began sharing her heart with him. On Easter Sunday, Ivan asked Nayeli to be his girlfriend and invited her to discern the sacrament of marriage with him.
In Nayeli’s words: All along, we were made for one another, even from the very beginning of time--but it was all based on God's timing. It always has, and always will, work out according to God's timing.
All during Advent the year we began dating, I kept asking God to help me be patient for engagement. Ivan and I knew we were called to marry one another, but the thought of when he would ask was killing me. Since all of our relationship had been rooted God’s timing, I knew this would also apply to engagement.
I’m a planner. I plan work, school and all of my family events, so the last thing I wanted to do was plan an engagement. I wanted to be surprised, swept off my feet. That meant not snooping or asking questions! It didn’t help that I was getting asked about a ring 24/7; so again, I asked God to give me patience. I was getting antsy but I knew I needed to give it back to God.
A few days later, a friend and I were going to a young adult event at my home parish. She bailed on me, and I wasn’t feeling it to go by myself. My best friend Stephanie called and begged me to go, saying I hadn’t seen her and it would be fun and needed.
I went to the event, where there was a dinner. Out of nowhere, Ivan's sisters were “in the neighborhood” going to the new Catholic coffee shop. I invited them to stop by the event afterwards for Adoration. Stephanie asked me to save her a seat on the first pew, where she usually sits during Mass. I felt bad leaving Ivan’s sisters, but I knew they would understand my sitting elsewhere for prayer.
As the holy hour began, a reflection played over the speakers about waiting. I cried. This was everything I had prayed about during Advent. My best friend, my sister in Christ, put her hand on my shoulder and started praying for me. It was a very heartfelt moment, but I just assumed that is where God had led her at the time.
The director wrapped up the evening and dismissed the attendees, but asked Stephanie and I to stay behind while the Blessed Sacrament was reposed. Stephanie and I sat there for a minute. She asked if I saw the tabernacle key; it wasn’t there. She rolled her eyes, saying she’d be back, and it was just me in the front pew, before Jesus on the altar.
I knelt, finishing my prayer in thanksgiving, and saw a shadow. I turned to see Ivan walking up the aisle. “Hi, my love,” he said. At that moment, I knew.
He took my hand, led me to the front of the altar, and spoke the sweetest words I’ve ever heard.
There we were, standing in front of Jesus in the monstrance as Ivan got down on one knee and asked the words I’ve longed to hear for years: “Will you marry me?” As I cried, the words that kept going through my mind were the greatest love story of the Scriptures: "This one, at last, is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." At last, Ivan was asking me to be his bride, to start a new journey towards the sacrament of marriage. A new journey to get one another to Heaven. I was in awe of the goodness of the Lord. I was in awe of the one who God made just for me. In awe of the beautiful journey we were about to embark on.
Photography: Good Harvest Photo