A few months before her move to Kentucky, Johnna signed up for an online dating site. She didn’t want to put too much pressure on herself to find a husband, so she approached it instead as a way to meet new people in a city where she knew no one.
Looking back, Johnna thinks this must have been the best way to approach dating, because she went on a date with Adam her first week in town!
During their courtship, Adam was the strong and steady rock in a swirl of new experiences for Johnna: a new city, new job and, eventually, a new faith. As a recent convert to Christianity from Judaism, Johnna was intrigued by Adam’s Catholic faith.
From the beginning, they had many conversations about why Adam was Catholic and what that meant for their potential life together.
And so, as Johnna fell in love with Adam, she fell in love with the Church.
Eventually, she enrolled in RCIA and came home to Catholicism eight months after they began dating.
In Johnna’s Words: When Adam and I first started dating, I had just started a new job as a faith-based community organizer. This meant I was working with different volunteers from various denominations.
I was Episcopalian at the time, and had been for five years. But there weren’t many Episcopal churches involved in the organization I was working for. Instead, the first church I worked with was a Catholic one.
Right off the bat, I started having conversations with the Catholic parishioners of the church. I asked about their faith and the Church’s strong social justice doctrine, and I was amazed.
I grew up in Alabama, which I later learned has one of the lowest Catholic populations, so many things I had heard about Catholicism weren’t quite true. When I started talking to these incredibly faithful men and women, they revealed the beauty of the Church to me.
I have a close friend—now my matron of honor—who is also Catholic. I began asking her questions I didn’t feel comfortable asking strangers. And since I found out early in our relationship that Adam was Catholic too, I started asking him questions as well.
I appreciated my previous church homes for their ability to inspire joy and happy emotions in me. But from Adam and the Church, I learned the beauty of logic and stability.
Faith could be so much more than a Sunday morning high and a feel-good building. It could be history, learning, and deep understanding.
And as I began to appreciate the depths of the Church, I began to learn what it truly means to love another person. My past relationships had been emotionally exhausting--mainly because I had looked at love as an emotion or feeling. Adam helped me realize love was a choice.
Staying mentally, physically, and spiritually fit is important to us as a couple. So, many times, I began to think about our workouts in terms of our faith. He and I intentionally made time for fitness because we knew it was important, even if we didn’t “feel” like it. In the same way, we began to make time for Mass and prayer together even if we didn’t “feel” like it.
I finally realized love was the same. I decided each day that I wanted to learn more about Adam and continue to share a part of my life with him. And despite panic attacks and bouts of depression that were a result of my job, he made the same decision with me.
As time went on, I became confident that Adam would continue making the choice to stay by me no matter what was going on in our lives, in the same way Christ made the decision to offer himself on the cross for the Church.
So when I came home at the start of my Christmas break to find Adam down on one knee, holding out a ring, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
I remember a conversation with a woman, the RCIA teacher, right before my first date with Adam. We were talking about my desire for marriage and family. She suggested I read the book of Tobit and pray to St. Raphael. And of course, she also let me know I was welcome in RCIA class on Sundays before Mass. Just to drop in and check it out.
She even gave me a bible and a St. Raphael prayer card. I didn’t know how I felt about praying to saints yet, since it wasn’t something that was looked kindly upon in my Southern Baptist-filled hometown. But I decided to give it a shot.
I didn’t think about it on my first date with Adam. But a few months later, after I was officially enrolled in RCIA and was picking my patron saint, I asked Adam who his confirmation saint was.
Lo and behold, it was St. Raphael.