A few months after moving back near home following her college graduation, Alexa was walking along the boardwalk in Atlantic City with her cousin Judy when Judy mentioned Patrick, the new Theology teacher at the school where she worked. She suggested Alexa visit the school as a guest speaker for Pat’s students.
In Alexa’s Words: Unfortunately I hate public speaking, but I didn't hate the idea of meeting an allegedly cute guy who was my age and taught Theology. "Tell him to send me an email and maybe we'll figure something out," I told her.
That week, I logged onto Facebook and looked up this Pat Smith guy Judy had been telling me about. I quickly found his profile, clicked through a bunch of his pictures, decided internally that I would welcome an opportunity to meet him should such an opportunity present itself, and finally proceeded to do absolutely nothing proactive about initiating communication.
A few months later, I was minding my own business when I received a friend request from Patrick Smith on Facebook. I accepted it and sent him a message. We had the standard polite inaugural exchange, then eventually got to talking about our jobs, our college experiences at, and our faith. We got to the point where the next natural step would have been to meet in person, but neither of us seemed to know how to address that.
Enter Judy again. She knew I had been working with the youth group at my parish on what would be their first annual Living Stations, and suggested I invite Pat to come down and see it. This seemed low key enough for a first meeting. And what made the whole thing even less intimidating was that I was almost certain Pat would say no: why would a man drive an hour to a see a girl he's never met and help with a youth group that he has no affiliation with? I casually invited Pat and he responded almost immediately with a yes, seemingly very excited about it.
It turned out to be a very low pressure first encounter, because Pat and I only got to talk for about fifteen minutes over the course of the night. But it was enough for both of us to know that we had the potential for at least a great friendship, and that we wanted to see each other again.
Three weeks later, at my coworker’s encouragement, I invited him to see the movie Heaven is for Real, which was followed by a series of dates and making our relationship official.
What many people don’t know about our relationship, however, is that we broke up for a period of time, after about eight months of dating. We had very different experiences with the time we spent apart. For me, those months were a time of discernment about what I was being called to in life. I briefly discerned religious life, and also took the time to truly ask myself, for perhaps the first time in my life, whether I was actually called to marriage.
Meanwhile, Pat struggled significantly with our breakup. When we eventually started talking again, he told me he’d prayed for me every day when we were apart. But what meant even more to me was when he told me he hadn’t just prayed we’d get back together. Instead, he prayed for God’s will and for me to find my vocation, whether or not it turned out to be a vocation to marriage with him. That was when I knew we had something different. We began dating again shortly thereafter.
Looking back, it's now so symbolic that we met in person for the first time at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Allentown. Little did we know when we first met there for Living Stations that we would get engaged there and, in June 2018, will be married there. Pat proposed at the Cathedral during an annual Christmas tradition, wherein the youth group gets together to help put up the tree and other decorations.
There were about 25 of us there that day--teens, adult volunteers, and our three parish priests--and we were all busy decorating and socializing. During the event, one of the teens pulled me aside to ask me a question. Meanwhile, Pat and the other volunteers were helping everyone get in position for his plan. A few moments later, I was asked to come investigate a Christmas present with no name on it.
As soon as I picked up the gift, everyone started chanting "Open it!," so I did. Inside was an athletic T-shirt from Pat’s school, with "Future Mrs. Smith" printed on the back. At that point I was pretty sure I knew what was going on. Pat got down on one knee and four of the teens held up signs reading, Will you marry me?
We are beyond excited for our wedding this summer, to answer our vocation and begin living out our call to marriage.