Sandra and Shaheen believe that their story began with the intercession of the Holy Family. Shaheen grew up with a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother, and Sandra learned to love and cherish the intercession of St. Joseph.
They now look back on their love story as their “very own St. Joseph miracle.”
From the Bride: Thanks to my mother, I grew up with a deep love for St. Joseph. She would tell me to ask him to pray for me and my future husband, if that was the vocation God called me to live. As a baby I was baptized at a parish named after St. Joseph, and since then I have always felt him walking close to me.
My husband, Shaheen, was born in Amman, Jordan. He was baptized at a parish named after our Lady, St. Mary of Nazareth, before moving to the U.S. He is a self-proclaimed “mama’s boy” because he grew up with a strong devotion to Our Blessed Mother, like he was taught by his earthly mother before she passed away.
This is the start of how our love for the Holy Family shaped the love we have for each other--and most importantly for God.
Shaheen and I are both cradle Catholics who have experienced varying degrees of commitment to our faith. Throughout our lives, we have depended on God’s love and mercy to carry us in the areas we are weak and have failed. Consequently, our love story began in the place where we get to experience God’s love and mercy at its best: the confessional.
At that time, my husband was regularly attending confession every week. One day he got off his work shift unusually late, causing him to miss confession at his regular parish. As a police officer, being stuck on a call is not unusual, but it was unusual that the only parish offering confession instead was my home parish: St. Anthony Mary Claret. It was his first time visiting there and meeting Father Douglas.
Shaheen went into the confessional, and after he received absolution Fr. Douglas asked him to stay. He had a question. Father asked Shaheen how old he was and if he was married. When he answered “no,” Father asked “why not?” Shaheen thought these were odd questions, but proceeded to tell him he had just not found “the right one.” At this point in his life he had surrendered to God’s will in the field of dating. He had experienced disappointment in the past when he tried to take control instead of giving it to God.
Father Douglas then asked him to pray a nine day novena asking St. Joseph to find him “a good Catholic wife.” Shaheen prayed the novena, and on the tenth day his friend Mike came over to his house for coffee.
At this point in my life, I spent most of my volunteer time in working with children or adults significantly older than me in religious education, youth ministry, and music ministry. I was yearning to find a group of young adults to share the faith, but had not invested the time to find activities or a group. I asked one of my good friends, Justin, to let me know if he knew of any events coming up.
I was also working and finishing up my schooling to become a school psychologist, so free time was scarce. Justin ended up inviting me to a Young Catholic Professionals event a couple weeks later. I saw a lot of old friends there and met some new people, one of which was Mike. On the first day after Shaheen finished his novena to St. Joseph for “a good Catholic wife,” Mike went over to his house, and that was the first time I came into the picture.
Mike told Shaheen about me and had plans to set us up if we were willing. Shaheen was not initially interested in dating because of a recurring issue; he would meet people who said they were “Catholic” (knowing it was a deal breaker), but while dating, Shaheen would realize it was not their true priority.
My husband said he was not interested at that time unless the person was completely serious about their Catholic faith. As I let the idea marinate that weekend, I met a woman who helped me chaperone a group of youth ministry students. She told me she just “went for it” and met her husband on a blind date.
Once Shaheen and I met, the rest was history. One of the first questions he asked me was if I had special devotions to any saints. I revealed my love of St. Joseph and how my mom told me even as a child to ask St. Joseph to pray for my future husband.
I had no clue that Shaheen had just prayed the St. Joseph novena. He hesitated to tell me, thinking it might scare me off, but he realized that if I was who God had intended for him, I wouldn’t leave. Once he shared this with me and our family and friends, there was no denying that we had just experienced our own St. Joseph miracle!
Three weeks later we became boyfriend and girlfriend, and six months later we were engaged. Eight months after that we were married and received a blessing from Pope Francis. We are preparing to hold our firstborn in our arms by the end of this month. Again, in the month of St. Joseph.
We chose to celebrate our nuptial Mass on the feast day of St. John the Baptist, June 24. He is one of our favorite saints for multiple reasons. He is my husband’s confirmation saint and a favorite of mine because he’s the patron of spiritual joy and Jesus’ cousin. Most importantly, he is one of two saints, along with St. Thomas More, who died protecting the sanctity of marriage.
My mother-in-law passed right before I met Shaheen, and when my father-in-law called our parish to schedule a day they could offer Mass for her, they told him the only date available was June 24, 2017. It was nice to know she would be present in spirit during our nuptial Mass, especially because her love of the faith was what my husband admired in her the most.
As we prepared for our wedding day, it was initially bittersweet for my mom. My parents and I have always had a very tight bond--until she had a dream that St. Joseph appeared to her, patted her back, and told her not to worry because he was taking care of us.
On our wedding day, we had four priest friends concelebrate our Mass, including the priest who asked Shaheen to pray the St. Joseph novena after confession. Our Mass was celebrated in English, Spanish, and Arabic, to honor our family’s ethnic backgrounds.
We wanted to incorporate our faith throughout the day as much as possible. We assigned a saint name to each table instead of table numbers, placed corresponding prayer cards on the tables, gave out rosaries as party favors, and included the washing of the feet during our reception. Afterwards, a lot of people came up to us to say how much they loved it. Our friends created the hashtag “#StJosephmadeusdoit” on social media to share our wedding photos.
My husband and I have deepened our gratitude for the sacrament of marriage, all its graces, and especially the presence of the Holy Family in our lives that led us to our special day.
Photo Courtesy: Sandra Shaheen | Church: San Antonio De Padua Catholic Church- Anaheim, CA | Reception Venue: Orange Hill Restaurant- Orange, CA | Honeymoon: Rome | Rings- Geiger Jewelers- Brea, CA | Bride’s Dress/Veil/Bridesmaids attire- David’s Bridal- Costa Mesa, CA | Jewelry/Accessories- Givenchy Jewelry | Suit/tux/Groomsmen’s attire- San’s Suit Outlet- Lakewood, CA | Cake Baker- Patty’s Cakes- Fullerton, CA | Makeup Artist/ Hairstylists- Pauline Calanoc- Orange County, CA | DJ Music- DeeJay Ayo- Orange County, CA | Zaffe Band/Arabic/dabke band- Samo’s Dabke Band- Orange County, CA | Mariachi- Mariachi Anacatlan- Orange County, CA