In 2011, Julie was a nursing student at Villanova University who’d just signed up for a summer in Europe, including World Youth Day in Madrid. Her neighbor, who’d attended a previous World Youth Day with the Salesians of Don Bosco, recommended she travel with the Salesians’ group for her trip. Rudy was living in community in Chicago, on mission with...the Salesians of Don Bosco. At the conclusion of his service, Rudy's parish gifted him with his own ticket to World Youth Day, one that would take him to Europe with the Salesians and, ultimately, to his future bride.
Before their first conversation during the flight, Julie assumed Rudy was a seminarian. The girl from New Jersey and the young man from Miami landed in Fatima, Portugal with their group shortly before the Feast of the Assumption, where they spent the next three days with pilgrims from the world over, joined in humble prayer to Our Lady.
On the second night, following candlelit prayer in the town square, Julie decided to partake in a practice common at the holy ground of Fatima: crawling on one’s knees, the length of a football field, to the sacred spot where Mary appeared in 1917, on the day the sun danced. Rudy asked if he could join her.
For the next 45 minutes of pain and anguish, Julie and Rudy experienced the love of Jesus and Mary, through each other, in a profound way. This love between the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts became the foundation for a friendship, then romantic love, and, seven years later, for a lifetime of marriage.
From the Bride: Little did I know that what started as my European summer vacation would turn into a life-changing pilgrimage where I not only would experience the love of Christ and Mary amid millions of college students from all over the world, but also meet the man God had been preparing my heart for. My husband.
Having Fr. Steve, the priest who led our trip to World Youth Day where we met all those years ago, celebrate our wedding Mass meant the world. He has been our spiritual mentor and support from the very beginning of our relationship, encouraging us to lean on each other--but most of all, to lean on God and on the Blessed Mother.
Getting married in Our Lady of Victories, the church where I grew up, brought me such joy. Our house was two blocks away, so each Sunday, for as long as I can remember, my family would walk to church. Our Lady of Victories, being the size of a small chapel, is known as "the little church with a big heart." Having over 200 guests crammed in the pews made the church feel so full and joyful.
Inside our wedding bands are the words "Totus Tuus," which translates from Latin to "Totally Yours." Rudy and I both have a great love for Pope Saint John Paul II, who inspired this idea. JPII, through his great love for Mary, often had his crucifixes inscribed with "Totus Tuus Maria."
Before our wedding day, we promised to write to each other the morning of. The idea of elaborate wedding gifts was silly to Rudy and I, for we felt we were already receiving the greatest gift of all that day: the gift of each other, through Christ. Despite this agreement, we did exchange small homemade gifts. Rudy finished his letter to me with the words, "You are my home now," and gave me an inscribed key to our first home. I gave him a small wooden box, with a gift inside that I'd been preparing long before I knew him. It held close to one hundred letters to my future husband that I had been writing since I was a freshman in high school, when I decided I wanted to practice chastity and give the gift of myself to my future husband alone. The wooden box was inscribed with a quote from an E. E. Cummings poem: "I carry your heart. I carry it in my heart."
For the communion hymn at our Mass, we chose our favorite song, "Lord I Need You" by Matt Maher. We prayed together on the altar as husband and wife, both looking at each other and then staring up at the giant crucifix. As we heard the entire church belt out these beautiful lyrics, we were reminded that as we began to take our first steps of marriage, we would need God throughout the entire journey. We continue to pursue him as husband and wife, even more so than before, as we carry out the mission he has laid before us: to get each other to heaven.
We had certain statues placed on the altar, signifying that as we begin our vocation of marriage we ask the saints to intercede for us, pray for us, and help us. We chose Teresa of Calcutta for our love and dedication to service, St. Martin de Porres for my grandfather's presence, St. John Bosco in thanks for our meeting through the Salesians, St. Padre Pio, and especially Our Lady of Fatima, for our eternal devotion to Mary. It was in Fatima that we experienced love in its purest, most humble form. We experienced the love of Christ and Mary through each other.
As part of a Cuban wedding tradition, our godmothers placed a mantilla--a lace shawl--over our shoulders before the consecration. The mantilla symbolizes the indissoluble union that has been established before God, through marriage. Just as we were wrapped in a lace gown the days of our baptisms, we are now wrapped in this lace shawl as a reminder of the promises our parents and godparents made for us at baptism to dedicate ourselves to Christ. At the altar on our wedding day, the bride and groom renew their baptismal vows and make them as one, together dedicating their lives to Christ.
When I think back to our wedding day, the beloved quote by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, which we shared on the back of our Mass programs, comes to mind:
Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.
Photography: Curtis Smith Photography | Church: Our Lady of Victories, Harrington Park, NJ | Reception: Indian Trail Club, Franklin Lakes, NJ | Rings: Diamonds Direct, St. Petersburg, FL | Flowers: Flora Gallery, Chester, NJ | Invitations: Shine Wedding Invitations | Church Programs: Morgan E. Moore | Bridal Gown & Veil: I Do I Do, Morristown, NJ | Bride's Shoes: BHLDN | Bridesmaids' Dresses: Nordstrom | Tuxedos: Biltmore Tuxedo, Ridgewood, NJ | Cake Topper: Willow Tree | Cake Baker: A Little Cake, Park Ridge, NJ | Music: Hank Lane Music | Hair and Makeup: Michelle's Salon, Woodcliff Lake, NJ | Mini Ice Cream Cone Dessert: Milk Sugar Love, Jersey City, NJ | Trolley: New York Trolley Company