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!
At the age of 21 I was converted by discovering the existence of God and his love for me. This changed my life and I began to pray daily and I wanted to serve him on mission through youth groups, the church and the poor.
After 13 years I began to long for the Lord, I told him : “I’m taking care of others but I don’t have the impression that you take care of me.” In fact I realised that I was not really giving myself, I was waiting for something back. At this point I wanted to be married, built a family, but also give my life to the Lord if He called me. I made a retreat to discern my vocation but at the end it was still not clear. But it helped me realise the happiest times in my life where during missions when I proclaimed his name and when I was with the poor, with more simple people. that’s when I experienced deep and real joy.
This helped me when I was 35 years old to choose to go on mission as a social worker with “Le Rocher” (french association for social work in poor neighborhoods), to live, work, pray with in the projects. To live with the poor gave me the opportunity to be free to be myself, to live in more a simple way because they live in a simple manner and this gave me joy.
Because the poor helped me love others for who they are and not who I want them to be, to not look for perfection and to trust in the providence of the Lord. This helped me discern that I don’t have a particular call to consecrated life, and to see simply the people who are around me.
At this point I met Olivier at a summer session in Paray le Monial, France and I appreciated him. But after that time he didn’t keep in contact so I preferred not to think about him. The following summer I met him again, I tried to avoid him, because I didn’t want to fall in love with someone who doesn’t care about me. But he contacted me after all, so I decided to take time to get to know him better.
I was in Paray-le-Monial for work over a summer. One day I saw a friend of mine who was with Gwénaëlle. I went to see my friend noticing that the girl with her was quite nice. We had met before but this time I noticed her in a different way. We talked and it was very nice. So I offered to meet again the following month because I was going on vacation not far from where she lived. And that encounter went well too, she was nice and the conversations were simple.
Then I went back to Paris where I lived, she was in the South of France, quite far. We exchanged a few emails over a few weeks and I decided to go visit her in the fall. It was a weekend, it was rainy, and with a friend we went to have hot tea. We were all just chatting away. During the conversation I made a stupid joke which made her laugh. At that point I realized that if she laughs at my stupid jokes, she’s a keeper, and she might just like me too! I didn’t have the strength to say anything though. So we went home our separate ways. But now I just couldn’t stop thinking about her and wanted to see her again.
So we kept in touch until Christmas time and decided to see each other in January. We did, and the day went so well and I was so happy with her that it gave me the courage to tell her my feelings for her. She then told me she had had feelings for me already. I was quite taken aback and thrilled of this outcome!
We were both 37 years old and realized we pretty much each knew what we wanted in life. We asked a married couple to help us ask each other the right questions in order to discern, to make up our minds and see if we wanted to get married together. They invited us to first reflect on what was our goal for our future. We realized the first desire was to build a family and the second to be close to God by being active in the Church in one way or another. The rest was secondary in a way. We both had worked for non-profits, worked for the Church, were involved in various spiritual activities and knew that that would continue. The difference was that we would do it together and build a family along the way. So we decided a few months later, May 1st, feast of St Joseph the Worker, to get engaged and we got married 5 months later in October in Provence. We now have 3 girls and are working on a mission with the Emmanuel School of Mission in the Bronx, so the Lord had truly put desires in our hearts that He had plans to fulfill!
Gwénaëlle & Olivier (NY – ESM)