Ashleigh and Rodolfo met in their parish’s young adult group. It wasn’t long before their friendship, which began over late-night coffee talks, deepened into something more.
And then tragedy struck. Through the grace of God and the strong, Christ-like foundation of their relationship, Ashleigh and Rodolfo grew closer through shared suffering. This genuine love, refined by fire, would lead to a marriage proposal on a family trip to the Emerald Isle, where Ashleigh’s past and their new, engaged future came face-to-face.
In Ashleigh’s words: Like a lot of college students, I fell away from the Church when I was an undergrad. About three years after graduation, I heard a small voice prompting me to go back to church. So I became very involved with the parish I was attending.
One Sunday I knew I couldn't make it to Mass there, so I attended Mass at a parish closer to my home on Saturday night. The pastor made an announcement that there would be a young adult meeting the following Wednesday. I thought to myself, “I can catch a boyfriend at this meeting for sure!”
I had no idea how that first meeting would change my life.
Rudy was the leader of the young adult ministry, and I recognized him from high school. I was intimidated to talk to him because he didn’t seem very interested in making new friends. I, on the other hand, was yearning for fellowship. I was asked by the pastor to join the core team for the young adult ministry, and Rudy and I became good friends in the months that followed.
At the beginning of summer I felt our friendship shifting. Our late-night coffee talks on my parent’s porch became more and more personal. I remember on the Fourth of July when my best friend, who was also a core member of the YA ministry, confessed that Rudy had a crush on me. I thought about it for a minute or two and realized that I had started to develop romantic feelings for him, as well. Rudy and I talked and decided to give dating a try. Those first few weeks of dating were wonderful, and I loved spending time with him.
Six days after Rudy officially asked me to be his girlfriend, my father unexpectedly passed away. I thought for sure Rudy would high-tail it out of my life--who would blame him, after all? Instead, he was a rock to me and my family. Rudy was there every day helping us get through those dark times. He cleaned the kitchen and went grocery shopping. He held me as I cried. He prayed for me and made sure Mass was offered for my dad. I was incredibly blessed to have this man in my life.
This August, Rudy and I will have been together for three years, and they have been the most life-changing years of my life. He has been with me through losing my father, two graduate degrees, finding a “big-girl” job, and so much more. He brings me closer to Christ every day through prayer, Catholic videos, books, devotions, and podcasts--you name it!
He helped me find my faith during the darkest time of my life. He never once gave up on me. He has shown me such strong love; it is a glimpse of the love that Christ has for me. God has truly blessed me with a wonderful man and future husband.
My whole life, I have wanted to travel to the land of my ancestors: Ireland. It was a special place for my father and mother. They took a belated honeymoon trip in the 90s to the Emerald Isle. My dad went back several times after that.
The best thing about my dad was his hospitality. The worst thing about my dad was that he was so hospitable, he would bring home random strangers to live with us if they needed a place to stay. I can’t even begin to count how many Irish people my dad found and brought back for a home-cooked meal and a couch to sleep on while they were visiting LA. Some of those Irish folks became great family friends, and this past March they were able to “pay my dad back” for all the times they had stayed with us.
During the summer of 2018, the idea was brought up of going to Ireland for spring break, since this would be my last real break before graduation. I thought it was a great idea, but being a broke grad student, I couldn’t see myself actually going. But my mom, God bless her, paid for the tickets. When I got the airline confirmation email, I couldn’t believe it! I was finally travelling to Ireland.
Of course, I would be there for St. Patrick’s Day—he is my patron saint)—and I would get to visit The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock, also known as the Knock Shrine. Rudy and I have consecrated ourselves to Jesus through Mary and have renewed that consecration promise three times together. We both have such a special love for our Mother, so visiting Knock was one of the things I was most excited for.
The first three days of the trip were spent with some close family friends. They drove me up to Belfast on St. Patrick’s Day to see the saint’s grave and took me to some places that my dad had been nearly 20 years ago. I was able to recreate some really special photos of my father. I cried a lot of tears, but I was happy knowing he would have been happy for me to be there, seeing the place he loved so much.
The day I traveled to Knock was the first day it was just Rudy and I in the car, since he met me in Ireland as well. He was driving on the opposite side of the car, on the opposite side of the road. Rudy is an amazing driver, but if I had been driving, I would surely have gotten us into an accident!
It took about four hours to get from the east coast of Ireland to the west coast where Knock is located. I remember being so fed up with being stuck in that teeny-tiny car and feeling so ready to see where Mary appeared. By the time we arrived, I leapt out of the car before Rudy could put it in park.
We quickly grabbed some food before the Eucharistic fast started before Mass, and we walked the Stations of the Cross. Then we went to the apparition chapel. As Rudy and I were walking toward it he said to me, “I think your dad has a picture here in front of the building.” I pulled out the stack of photos I had, and sure enough, there was a picture of him right there, standing where we were! I recreated that photo with tears in my eyes, and we went inside.
It was so beautiful to be in that place. You could feel how holy it was. A beautiful, marble recreation of the apparition stood in the front, and the Blessed Sacrament was present in the tabernacle. There were about thirty people praying in the chapel, so we quietly snapped a few photos and knelt to pray.
Sometimes during prayer, Rudy will put his arm around me, and he did, which I didn’t think much of. Suddenly, he leaned over and whispered in my ear; “Ashleigh, in front of Our Blessed Lord and Our Lady, will you marry me?” and pulled out a ring box from his pocket.
I had to focus on a silent cry because of the other people still praying. I was so excited to be in that space, and then in an instant I couldn’t wait to leave so I could hug and kiss my new fiancé.
We stayed and prayed for a little while and offered up the prayer intentions we had gathered from our friends to our Mother. One of the best parts was the old lady sitting in the pew behind us who saw everything and gave me a wink and thumbs up when we left the chapel.
When we left, I started crying again. We found two girls to take our picture in front of the chapel, and then face-timed my mom and sisters to tell them the exciting news. Everyone was crying and laughing. It was such a happy time.
My family was thankful Rudy finally proposed, because they didn’t have to worry about letting the secret slip anymore. Our first act as an engaged couple was the rosary and then holy Mass. What a way to start an engagement! I could not have asked for anything more.
Rudy asked me to be his wife in front of my Heavenly Father, in a place where my earthly father had been 20 years ago. Rudy knows my heart, and it was hands-down the most perfect moment of my life.