We met when we were 16 and 17 years old, during one of the many retreats for families that the Emmanuel Community organizes in Paray-le-Monial every summer. Lost in a sea of hundreds of teenagers, Camille noticed Paul because his English was so good (little did she know that he was half-American ;-)) and his faith so strong. Paul remarked Camille because she was one of the only girls who was willing to participate in the athletic games organized for the teenagers.
We became pen pals for a year and a friendship developed over those letters.
We saw each other again the following year, in Paray-le-Monial again, at the Youth Forum in preparation for the WYD in Rome. Through the many conversations we had during that retreat, our friendship grew into something more and we started dating in Rome (blessed by Pope John Paul II as Camille’s mom liked to joke).
That was the start of a long distance relationship across an ocean, while Paul was in college in the US and Camille in high school in France. Our friends didn’t understand the point of being with someone you couldn’t actually “be” with, and with us being so young people probably didn’t think much of it. But Paul was definitely taking things seriously. Man of efficiency, after only dating for a year, at the age of 19, he proposed to 18 year-old Camille. Things were clear: the purpose of this relationship was to discern marriage. We found a priest (from the Community) who knew Camille well to give us regular accompaniment and help us reflect on the right questions and give us a solid foundation. Looking back, we are very grateful for his help and support and for treating us with such reverence even though we were quite young (something we didn’t realize then but that we are very aware of now…). He was a blessing! Our continued summer retreats in Paray-le-Monial provided us with more tools, more teachings, and encounters with radiant couples from the Emmanuel Community with 5, 10, 30 years of marriage who were willing to share their wisdom with us. We read many books on communication, engagement, marriage, natural family planning, studied the Love and Truth teachings that were provided to us by Paul’s parents… We might have been young but we were certainly well formed!
And so, after 3.5 years of getting to know each other and each other’s families, we got married on December 27, 2003 in Bordeaux, France.
What gave us the confidence to get married at the ages of 20 and 21? We can say, without hesitation: our faith. Our faith helped us discern God’s Providence in all the little things that allowed us to meet and spend time together, and feel confident that He was showing us how we could be a gift for each other. Our faith told us that God was entering this covenant relationship with us and would sustain us with His graces. Our faith assured us that “anything is possible with God.” I will add that neither one of us was subscribing to the idea of a soulmate, the “perfect fit”, but rather the belief that what makes a marriage is commitment to one another and a decision to always love the other. It’s liberating!
Our faith was always at the center of our relationship. It is what got it started, what has sustained us through the rocky phases of our marriage and what breathes life into our couple. And it is in the Emmanuel Community that our faith has found both its source and its expression. We give thanks to God for this beautiful community where we have learned to know and love the Lord, where we were formed on a spiritual and human level (in conjunction with the education we received from our parents of course), and where we experience the joy that the Lord wants to give. We give thanks for the beautiful families that inspire us, for the brothers and sisters young and old, lay, consecrated or priests that encourage and support us, and that serve the Lord and His Church with us. What a blessing to be part of a community! It’s a definite help for our marriage.
The daily grind of marriage and family life isn’t always easy or joyful and there is plenty we need to work on to be a couple and a family that reflect the glory of God, but after 15 years, 4 children on Earth and one in Heaven, we can say: “Thank you Lord for the gift of each other, for what You have done in our lives and for the path ahead! We know that whatever happens, You’ll be there. Jesus, we trust in You.”
Camille & Paul (CA)