I grew a beard and now I’m getting married – Yes, you read that correctly. I heard this statement and statements like it for years but refused to grow a beard for a long period of time. In the past, I would grow one for a few weeks and then eventually shave it.
This all changed last summer when on July 16, 2017, I decided to take the plunge and grow out a beard, and yes, I was open to meeting a good Catholic woman. So many of my Catholic guy friends, who have beards and were either married or engaged to be married, said to me for a very long time – Perna, if you grow a beard, the right woman will come into your life.
Between you and me – I thought they were all crazy, absolute lunatics…and then it happened! On August 18, 33 days after I started growing a beard, I met my soon-to-be wife, Megan, at a Catholic Beer Club at Helton Brewery in Phoenix, Arizona.
Here is the story: Although I had been to Catholic Beer Club gatherings before, I really wasn’t that interested in driving 35 miles on a Friday night to 20th Street and Indian School Road to attend this one. One of my former St. Mary’s students, and now a good friend (himself getting married in October), persuaded me to come with some grandeur story of good beers and Catholic women. As I was standing in the bar drinking a pint, two women approached me (Yes, you read that right…they approached me…and it was the beard that did it too) – Megan and her wingman, Kim. They were taking a poll on who would wear name tags in a bar so you know who belongs to the Catholic Beer Club. Megan was adamantly against them, but everyone else seemed to be on board with the idea. As they were walking around the bar, Megan saw me and mouthed to Kim that she thought I was cute. Kim did a 180 turn and said to me, “excuse me sir, are you with Catholics and beer?”
I said yes and Kim asked me the question about wearing name tags. With a resounding -NO! – I answered her question (I wear name tags at work events and at the Knights of Columbus meetings…that’s it!). Megan got excited that I agreed with her. We then did this super cheesy high-five, and as they say…the rest is history! We ended up talking all evening at that bar (2 hours and then went to Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers on 7th Street and talked for another 2 hours. I was completely drawn to her and didn’t want to leave her presence. Between her blue eyes and her disposition towards me, it was surreal when I began to imagine my life in the future with her. We talked till 2AM, then set up a date for the next Tuesday, and said goodnight. In retrospect, I can tell you that it was very natural from the start. There was never that awkward feeling often associated when you first meet someone or go on a first date.
She knew at this point that she wanted to marry me; I knew the following night that I wanted to marry her (although at one point at Helton Brewery I said to myself that I could marry this girl). Neither of us could wait until Tuesday to see each other again so we saw each other Saturday night, Sunday night, and then finally for our official first date on Tuesday. For several weeks following our date, parishioners from the parish would approach Megan (at the Saturday Morning Speaker Series) and tell her how they have been praying for me for a long time to meet a good Catholic girl. We were constantly met with well wishes and prayers. Even to this day, people always ask when the wedding is going to be and are we excited.
Our relationship blossomed and grew quickly. We adhere a big part of it to praying the Holy Rosary during the 54-day Novena to Our Lady of Fatima last year here in the Diocese of Phoenix. We would often walk around my neighborhood praying the Rosary for our relationship and for our family members. A big part of our prayer was seeking out God’s will from the start and trying to align our will with His.
About one month into our relationship, it hit me what all my beard-growing Catholic guy friends had said to me in the past – if you grow a beard, you will meet the right woman and get married. It turns out that these men weren’t crazy or lunatics but were right on the money! Although I am not going into the details here – the first time I said, “I Love You”, was on the top of the San Francisco Peaks at 11,610 feet (see picture below). Let me tell you – it was as smooth James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Gene Kelly, and Frank Sinatra put together.
Knowing that she was the right woman that God had finally prepared for me (the Lord and I had some rather heated conversations over the years), I proposed not 4 months after meeting her on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in my backyard in front of the Our Lady of Guadalupe statue. I knew Megan well enough that she wanted the proposal to be just the two of us. Being that I am old school and consider myself traditional, I called her father to ask for her hand in marriage. It was confirmed months before that I should propose but that night at Mass for the Immaculate Conception, the readings spoke to the both of us as well.
Since then, over the past months, we have attended Natural Family Planning classes, God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage and have met with a couple from the parish to discuss the practical and important topics we will face together in marriage. There is a genius in the 9-month preparation period for couples here in the Diocese of Phoenix. Although at times as practicing and faithful Catholics, the length of the preparation seemed long and sometimes irrelevant for us, there were conversations that we needed to have that we may not have had if the preparation was done differently for us, which was discussed briefly since I work for the parish.
Please pray for us on September 8 since this is the day of our Nuptial Mass at the parish. September 8 aligns with the day I proposed because it is the day we commemorate the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you would, please offer up 3 Hail Mary’s for our sacramental marriage. The Hail Mary is one of the prayers we often pray together. Ask for the intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, and Pope St. John Paul II – saints we often turn to in prayer.
I leave you with the words of the great Polish Pope and Saint, John Paul II,
“This apostolic mission of the family is rooted in Baptism and receives from the grace of the sacrament of marriage new strength to transmit the faith, to sanctify and transform our present society according to God’s plan. Particularly today, the Christian family has a special vocation to witness to the paschal covenant of Christ by constantly radiating the joy of love and the certainty of the hope for which it must give an account: “The Christian family loudly proclaims both the present virtues of the Kingdom of God and the hope of a blessed life to come” (Familiaris Consortio, #52).
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