Freshman year of college at Franciscan University was an intense experience of prayer/emotion/friendship/studying. Besides the fact that I met my husband there, I know that I would not be the same person I am today, had I not gone there.
My Catholic faith was central to my life as long as I can remember, and my confirmation in 7th grade was a major time of growth for me, but it was not until the summer before college that I really decided that I wanted to stop the roller coaster spirituality I had been living and chose to continue going deeper always. I had spent all of high school going on retreats and committing myself to a life of prayer, and slowly giving up on my good prayer habits for whatever was there to distract me (boys, baseball, movies, dances, etc.).
I knew I was missing something by not staying focused on being holy, and was wishy-washy about where I wanted to go to college, what I wanted to do with my life, until I got my financial aid package in the mail and realized I could go to FUS without too much debt. Okay, so I am still paying that debt, but it was so worth it.
It was worth it to go to Steubenville because my first semester of college I really let myself be loved by God and really started to love Him. I spent so much time praying and being prayed over, and crying in Marian Hall chapel in my pjs and crying in my closest friends’ rooms. I was being broken and healed and converted over to God.
And by the end of the first semester my friendship with M was starting to be one of the most important friendships of my life.
We met around the second week of school through my cousin-in-law. She was the niece of my aunt’s husband. Got it? And my cousin-in-law and M knew each other from high school. In fact they had several friends from Ann Arbor, MI who were all at FUS and who all befriended me immediately. It was through these friends that I learned to pray better, and in praying with them that I really experienced the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit the first time. And it was in this setting of friends, M and I grew close.
There was always a sort of chemistry between us (still is). It took him longer than me to admit it, but I began to wonder late first semester if M and I were getting too close.
I was extremely worried because HE was in the pre-theologate program, a PRE-THE (soft “th”, hard “e”). This meant that he was supposed to be seriously discerning the priesthood; he was practically a seminarian.
So, I spent a lot of my prayer time trying to overcome my attraction to him. I prayed for his discernment and tried to let go. M on the other hand did not realize until early February that his feelings for me were any different from any other crush he had had, because pre-the or not, he was still a young man with lots of feelings.
Looking back I see how unavoidable our falling in love was. We just got along so well, we loved spending time together. The time we spent together was wonderful. He loved me for my whole person and I felt the same about him.
But things were getting too intense, I liked him too much for things to continue at the level of close friendship we had developed. He needed space to discern, and he needed to be clear with me what he was thinking in his actions.
Then on Valentine’s day of all days, I confided in a few good friends, including a wonderful couple who let me interrupt their date night in a common room to get advice. They advised me to talk to him and tell him that he was confusing me.
I called him up, and asked to go for a walk because “we needed to talk.” My plan was to tell him that I was attracted to him and to ask him to give me some space, so that I could get over him and he could go on discerning the priesthood.
We met up on a rainy courtyard clad in rain jackets (what a mild February that must have been!). I dove right into my problem. “I am attracted to you,” I confessed to him. “Um, well, I am attracted to you,” he replied, and then we paused. I was a bit shocked and relieved, all of this flirting had actually meant something to him.
But what were we supposed to do? Well, I decided to tell him the entirety of my past crushes and involvements with boys; I am not really sure why. I think I wanted to let him know that I really needed him to be straight forward with me. By the end of our discussion we decided that we needed to put serious limits on our interaction since we had become way to close to be “just friends.”
That worked for one emotionally painful week, in which we eyed each other mournfully and wrote bad poetry, and then I guess he had had enough. He met with his formation director, told all, and then left the program. He was free to date. The next day he asked me out.
It was amazing for about a week, and then we became moody and at times strained. We really did like each other. We really were attracted to each other. We really did feel a love for each other that neither of us had really felt for anyone else. But perhaps we were not quite ready for the full commitment of dating.
By the end of Spring semester and into the Summer, it seemed that M wanted more space and time for discernment.
He came to see me for a day during my summer visit to my grandparents in Cleveland (a mere 2 hours from his house), and the visit was bittersweet. We both knew things were coming to an end. We both intensely cared for each other. We went out for ice cream and went to the pier to watch the sun set over Lake Erie. When he left to go home, I knew things were going to be over soon.
The next week, when I was at home, he finally “officially” ended it. I was heartbroken, but I took it to prayer. I took it all to prayer.
Stay tuned for Part Two. 🙂