February 14th is a day when love is celebrated by couples. We want to take this Valentine’s Day to honor “the icon of God’s love for us,” (Pope Francis) sacramental marriages! To display the beauty of a sacramental marriage, we are aiming to post one love story a day from our married brothers and sisters until we reach Valentine’s Day. May their stories draw you closer to the Source of their love. Happy reading!
Bérénice is from Grenoble in the French Alps (most beautiful mountains in the world :-) ) and Pierre-Eloi is from Versailles (yes, the castle near Paris). Both landed on the sunny French Rivera volunteering for a Catholic NGO “Le Rocher”. It is a mission of the Emmanuel Community which works in education and assistance of youth in less fortunate neighborhoods http://assolerocher.org.
These neighborhoods were created during the economic boom of post WWII and were designed for the working class, welcoming immigrants to France’s blooming economy. With the economic busts after the seventies, families fled these neighborhoods and new generations of immigrants arrived, this time finding little employment opportunities. The neighborhoods became scenes of poverty, illiteracy, crime, drug traffic and loss of hope. Even churches were empty there. Missionaries from “Le Rocher” live in these neighborhoods, pray together daily, revive parish life and organize homework assistance, employment coaching, women’s groups, dad’s groups, summer camps, visit the elderly and families of neighborhood youth. Interns from social services or educational fields are welcome as are volunteers.
This is where it started for us: we were both on a mission at Le Rocher, brought there by our faith and our will to put our efforts and our energy under the guidance of God’s will. Ironically, things were tough between us. We were both committed and motivated for the work yet we would often argue, have different views or ideas on best practices for the mission.
Individually, through our daily experience of compassion with the people we met and our daily hour of adoration, we were growing in faith and learning life-long lessons. As it were, we were assigned the same rotation of chores and discovered that the chore we most appreciated doing together was washing dishes: facing the kitchen sink, passing dirty dishes, and chatting about life, sharing memories, debating on fun or serious subjects. That is where things started to spark. We began to acknowledge that the other wasn’t so bad after all and our mutual esteem grew until one day, our team had planned to go see a movie. People started to cancel one by one… until only Pierre-Eloi and Berenice were left.
Discovering that it would actually be a date, and that he was very pleased and excited by the perspective, Pierre-Eloi told Berenice : “Um, you know… actually before we go to see that movie, I’d like you to know that it means something very special for me that we go there just the two of us.” Berenice replied ” If that is the case, then I prefer to cancel”…
Fortunately a few weeks later, Bérénice realized that she was also interested in knowing Pierre-Eloi a bit better. One month later, we told our families that we were considering marriage! The marriage took place in the Alps, of course. Eight years later, here we are, blessed with 3 beautiful girls and are now living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Roll Tide!
The sequel to the French Love Story is the American dream… of course !
Bérénice and Pierre-Eloi (AL)