It takes three to get married … literally
Living in today’s culture and wanting anything lasting can feel like a movie that should star Tom Cruise, #MissionImpossible. In today’s generation, hookups, cohabitation, and swiping left or right are in superabundance, while commitment-minded men and women are the exception to the rule. My parents are celebrating nearly 50 years of marriage on Valentine’s Day, and other couples like them in that generation can boast the same.
I spent 10 years in a mainstream TV newsroom and met countless men on a daily basis — journalists, politicians, celebrities, coworkers, cops, and brothers of friends. During those 10 years, it seemed an impossibility to meet and connect with anyone who was like-minded. None of the men I met wanted dating that could lead to marriage, and they especially didn’t want anything that the Church talks about as a lifelong commitment. Anyone on this narrow road could feel like a Catholic unicorn.
Any single gal or guy can attest to the fact that singleness can breed busybody helpers who want to “fix” your singular situation. I regularly encountered good-hearted people who wanted to help me find “the one.” There were dates with priest chaperones (actually many dates with priest chaperones), old church ladies with sons and grandsons, Boston politicians with career bachelors on their staffs. I wasn’t desperate. I also wasn’t budging on my standards.
After a decade of covering news, I moved from Boston to south Florida to take on a new job working for a bishop. This was a huge geographic and vocational shift for me, and I was stirred to mark this change in my life by taking along a spiritual work that might become somewhat of a devotional. I was excited about the change and felt strongly that somehow Florida would produce my husband.
As I thumbed through the shelves of a Catholic bookstore in the suburbs of Boston, I plucked Three to Get Married. Almost putting it back, I was struck by the title — and the author, Fulton J. Sheen … Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. I had never read anything of Archbishop Sheen’s, but I knew of his fame and his TV show Life Is Worth Living that netted him an Emmy award. Suddenly, I felt deep inside that this long-dead, holy archbishop could help me on two fronts: my assignment serving a bishop and my quest for a God-sent husband.
I tossed Three to Get Married in the trunk of my petite Volkswagen Cabrio and made the trek from Boston to south Florida. The book didn’t see the light of day for at least two years until I was in an emergency car sale and forced to pull the contents from my trunk. When I dug around the trunk and saw the book, it was as though it was illuminated, and I heard God speak into my heart: You can’t just have a vocation to marriage and not prepare for it.
I began to read Three to Get Married and then read it over and over. I realized in this process that I wanted something so badly without wholly knowing what marriage entailed. I certainly knew from my parents’ example and other good couples like them, but I didn’t really know the elements of this God-made sacrament. If God was to gift me with a man he prepared and sent, I needed to prepare interiorly for such a lifelong union.
With great pastoral care, Archbishop Sheen delivered the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage and human sexuality that somehow seemed like the best-kept secret of our doctrine, hidden under a rock. With the exception of St. John Paul II’s theology of the body that was slowly permeating the Church, I had never heard a bishop talk about the treasures of the sacrament of Matrimony. I heard so much about the urgency to pray for vocations to priesthood, but how was the Church building up marriages and family life and helping single people prepare and wait for a kingdom-made union?
Archbishop Sheen talked about the differences between sex and love, the three tensions of love, and the fact that it takes three to make love. I already knew that I needed all the help I could get, so the concept of it taking three was no big deal, but Archbishop Sheen dove deep into the union of man and woman in imitation of the Trinity of Love. He said:
Without a sense of Absolute Love, which is stronger than the independent love of each for the other, there is a false duality, which ends in the absorption of the I into the Thou or the Thou into the I.
And later he said:
If love were only mutual self-giving, it would end in exhaustion, or else become a flame in which both would be consumed. Mutual self-giving also implies self-recovery. The perfect example of this recovery, in which nothing is lost, is the Trinity, wherein Love circles back on upon itself in an eternal consummation.
As I read and reread Three to Get Married and began to chew on Archbishop Sheen’s powerful words, they helped me imagine the mystery and power of this sacrament that I so greatly desired. I began to pray to Archbishop Sheen and asked his intercession to bring me this man that I imagined, prayed for, and longed for. I knew that in my struggle of waiting, countless false starts, and comedic introductions that were misses, my solitary walk was not without grace. I was able to see that I needed this time to contemplate, prepare, and be ready for what God wanted to do in me to be the woman I needed to be for marriage.
Shortly after the reemergence of Three to Get Married from my packed trunk, I traveled to New York City with family for a mini Christmas adventure that included shopping on Fifth Avenue, the Rockettes, and a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
We attended Mass at St. Patrick’s. Afterward I noticed my mom and my aunt kneeling behind the main altar. As I knelt down on the third kneeler to unite my prayers to theirs, I noticed that on an engraved marker was a prayer to then-Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen. In this moment, I felt like Archbishop Sheen truly stooped down to me and was showing me that his heavenly friendship was no coincidence. I then realized that Archbishop Sheen was buried in the crypt below the main altar, and I knew I had to get inside!
We were permitted inside the crypt to pray, and I petitioned Archbishop Sheen with five impossible intentions, one of which was my lifelong desire for marriage — not just any marriage, but a marriage that would be a witness to the world. I asked Archbishop Sheen to go before Jesus and lead me to the man that God wanted me to serve and love for the rest of my life. If you help me with Jesus, I will promote you.
When we emerged onto Fifth Avenue, I quickly powered up my phone to check texts, and at the top of my inbox was an email from a priest I had never met before who introduced himself as the director of the cause for canonization of Fulton J. Sheen. He asked me if I would consider helping the cause to promote Archbishop Sheen in south Florida. I knew in that very moment that Fulton Sheen was interceding on my behalf — not just for the marriage piece, but for everything. But he was putting me to work first.
With the gracious generosity of my bishop, we began promoting Archbishop Sheen’s cause for canonization in south Florida, and Archbishop Sheen’s friends and family became my collaborators. I was introduced to local family members of the late Yolanda Holliger Costello, and they told me how their mother met Archbishop Sheen (he set her up with his cousin).
You can imagine my reaction when I found out that Archbishop Fulton Sheen was not just this Emmy award-winning missionary saint-to-be who won hearts and minds the world over, but that he was a matchmaker, as well! I felt as though I was climbing up this spiritual mountain and at each resting spot was another glorious view. It made so much sense. Archbishop Sheen penned Three to Get Married, and he participated in the divine romance in his regular life.
I called beautiful Yolanda, and she personally told me the story about how Archbishop Sheen set her up with his cousin and even paid for the diamond ring! Archbishop Sheen was so involved that when Yolanda’s husband proposed to her, Archbishop Sheen was waiting in the wings with a celebratory bottle of champagne. The love of God is so close, so personal, so intertwined when we permit it.
I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that Archbishop Sheen was doing his matchmaking thing for me from heaven.
His presentation of the Trinity of Love within the sacrament of marriage in the flesh-soul bond of man and woman changed my understanding of what God was preparing me for. The revelation that Archbishop Sheen was a matchmaker, getting in the middle of two made for this union, proves that on a very practical level, God wants to be at the center of the coming together of the lover and the beloved. And he’s also part of every detail, even the “meet cute,” as we say in Hollywood.
As of this writing, I’m closer than ever. That day in the crypt was profound. Of the five intentions I asked for help with, four have been answered — one more profoundly than the next. The next time I write for you, it will be about how Archbishop Sheen brought my husband. Stay tuned.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s cause for canonization was opened in 2002 by the Diocese of Peoria (Illinois). Archbishop Sheen (1895–1979) was born in El Paso, Illinois, and ordained a priest of the Peoria diocese in 1919. He served as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York and later bishop of Rochester (New York).
Pope Benedict XVI declared Archbishop Sheen “venerable” in 2012. The next step is beatification.
A controversy surrounding where his remains should be located has complicated his path to canonization, including the Peoria diocese putting the cause on hold. Archbishop Sheen is currently interred at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, but a niece wants his body moved to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria, according to Catholic News Agency.