"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
"Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Love is patient...
We live in a culture where instant gratification is expected. When we are looking for a potential spouse, we expect things to be our way and in our timing. Shortly before Kenzie hit it off with Mario, she was at a point where she was okay with being single- but not forever. She was at peace knowing that her prayers of meeting her future husband would be answered, she just didn't know when.
Mario had been praying for a strong, holy, faith-filled Catholic woman to enter into his life. But, like Kenzie, he was content with what the Lord had in store for him. He did, however, keep his eyes open... just in case she happened to walk by... and she did!
They were first acquainted on September 5th, 2014, at a Life Teen Core Retreat at St. Basil the Great in Brecksville. Life Teen is an international, Catholic, youth group with the mission of leading teenagers closer to Christ in the Eucharist. This was Mario and Kenzie's first year serving as core members. Every Sunday, they would see each other and say, "hi" while preparing for Life Teen events. It wasn't until the next core retreat in January (January 10th, 2015 to be exact), that the two had the opportunity to spend more time getting to know one another.
A few weeks later, Kenzie and Mario were at a Life Teen Planning meeting at Panera (January 29th, 2015). Kenzie must have poured some Love Potion into Mario's drink while he was using the bathroom... because after that meeting, he couldn't stop thinking about her! Not only was Kenzie incredibly beautiful and intelligent, but she had a deep love for Jesus Christ that was extremely attractive to him.
Love is kind…
So, Mario began pursuing Kenzie in a way that no other man has ever attempted before- he called her. After a few days of phone conversations, he invited Kenzie to join him for morning Mass. She said, “no.” “Thank you so much for asking me, she explained, but I don’t usually wake up that early and it would be difficult for me to be up and ready that early in the morning.” However, Mario is not the type of guy that gives up easy. He responded kindly and invited her to another Mass a few days later. “I know waking up for morning Mass isn’t easy for you, but if you would be interested in getting together, I know of a church that has daily Mass at 5:00 PM and I would love for us to go together.” Kenzie agreed to the date, admiring Mar for accommodating her. Although most people would have no problem making it to an 8 AM Mass, he responded with kindness and found a way to make the date work. Kenzie was impressed.
On a cold and snowy evening at the beginning of February 2015, Mario picked Kenzie up and drove downtown to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland. The two celebrated the evening Mass and spent some time admiring the beauty of the Cathedral afterward. Following the Mass, the two headed to Applebee's for dinner and conversation. They had a great time. Over the next few weeks they continued to get to know each other a little more one day at a time.
Love does not envy…
On February 28th 2015, the day before Mario’s birthday, the couple went out to The Melting Pot for dinner to celebrate. During this meal, Mario shared his feelings for Kenzie. Though Kenzie felt the same way, she wanted to take some time to grow the relationship and pray about everything before officially committing to date. Mario agreed completely. Although it is common for people to “date officially” when feelings become mutual and it is not trendy to say, “we are taking time to pray with Jesus about the direction of our relationship before entering an exclusive relationship,” the two did not envy other couples or become jealous of those who could easily follow the “norm” because in their hearts they both knew they had to focus on what was right for them and their specific relationship and remain attentive to where the Lord was leading them.
Love does not boast…
Over the next few months, Mario and Kenzie continued growing closer in their relationship together and with Jesus Christ. Prayer became a daily habit at the end of every phone call and every evening spent together. It is amazing how close a couple can grow through the honesty, humility and transparency in prayer. Aside from growing together spiritually, Mario constantly showed kindness, respect, and love toward Kenzie. He kept chivalry alive through sweet little gestures, such as writing Kenzie cards and letters, plus giving her chocolates and flowers-something new each time they got together- which was nearly every day. If there was a record for the man who surprises, gives, and does cute little daily gestures the most, Mario would win the award by far. Being so happy and in love, it can be easy to brag about how good a significant other treats you, but the two continued to maintain a more reserved excitement about their friendship, sharing mainly with close friends and family members.
Love is not proud…
One of the things Kenzie admires most about Mario is his genuine love for Christ and his ability to balance hundreds of important tasks daily while still prioritizing his relationship with God. He has such a purity and sweetness in his heart and it is refreshing to know someone who is doing amazing things and has accomplished so much yet remains humble about it, never going around and "patting himself on the back," but always searching for more ways to grow in holiness, generosity, and love of neighbor. In a world where everyone seems to be "looking out for number 1," this type of authenticity is rare and the type of characteristic Kenzie had been hoping for in a potential spouse.
Love is not rude...
On July 22nd, Mario and Kenzie had a cookout with another couple and their children. While everyone was inside gathering in the kitchen for dinner, Mario was bringing in the chicken and burgers. As he went to pick up the last burger, he got a phone call. It was a priest from Oklahoma, Fr. Bruce Brinnagan. He told Mario he had just listened to the voicemails at his parish and wanted to see how he was doing. Two crazy things: the voicemail Mario left was from 2 years earlier; this wasn't the original priest Mario had left a message for!
Mario caught Fr. Bruce up to where he was currently at in life. Fr. Bruce was very interested in his relationship with Kenzie. "So when are two going to get married?" he asked Mario. The question made Mario pause and briefly reflect. Mario was concerned about taking the direction the Lord was leading him. He really loved Kenzie and wanted to marry her- but he wanted to be sure it was the right time.
Fr. Bruce recommended praying a Rosary Novena. This consisted of Mario and Kenzie praying the Rosary over the next 9 days with intentions focused on God revealing His will in their relationship. Mario was thrilled to have been given this gift of a phone call. He hung up the phone- filled with excitement, faith, and a joyful heart.
Those 9 days seemed to fly by. On that Tuesday, Mario met with Kenzie's mom (Kelley) and stepdad (Kevin). They had a lovely dinner at a nice, Italian restaurant in their neighborhood. Mario shared how much he loved Kenzie and how perfect she was for him. He wanted to marry her! They were very happy and excited to hear this and they approved of the sweet, young man. But the only catch: this had to remain a secret! So her parents never said a word to her about meeting Mario for dinner. Kenzie came home and was surprised yet happy to see Mario. She had no idea of the top secret proposal that was on the horizon.
As the novena wrapped up, it was Thursday. Mario picked Kenzie up from her home and they drove to Akira Hibachi. This was a nice, little surprise for Kenzie, as it happened to be one of her favorite restaurants. Now the whole time they were eating dinner, Mario was concerned that Kenzie would question the little gift bags he had stashed in the car. He was so paranoid that she knew what he was up to. But she never did.
After eating a fantastic meal and getting dessert, Mario suggested they should walk over to Mitchell's to get ice cream. Kenzie thought this was a bit odd, considering they had just eaten dessert. Following the ice cream stop, they headed back to Mario's house to say goodnight and part ways-or so Kenzie thought...
As they drove toward Burton, they prayed the final Novena prayer. Instead of turning to head to Mario's house, he started heading toward St. Helen Church. It was unexpected, but not out of the ordinary since Mario is often up to little surprises and the two often prayed together in the chapel.
Once they arrived, they realized they were not alone. Phil, a friend of ours who is in the Seminary, was playing violin. Typically when they pray together in the chapel it is just the two of them. But they quietly knelt down and prayed in silence for a few minutes (for Mario it felt like hours!). Shortly after, Mario left to use the bathroom. When he came back, Kenzie thought it was a good idea and she went to the bathroom. While alone with Phil, Mario told him what he was up to. Phil assured him he would pray for them and with that he left.
Mario patiently waited for Kenzie to come back. His plan was to set up a "Engagement Love Scavenger Hunt." However, the scavenger hunt was coordinated with different areas and objects inside the church. The problem: the door leading to the inside of the church was locked. Bummer! Uh oh! Mario improvised and created a plan for executing this "hunt" in the chapel instead. Kenzie came back and sat down with him.
Finally the time came and Mario introduced Kenzie to the scavenger hunt. She was excited and quickly got into it. Each station in the scavenger hunt had a small figurine and also a tiny box. After going to 4 stations, Kenzie had navigated a circle around the chapel. She ended up at the kneelers in front of the crucifix where they normally pray. This was the final station. Kenzie found her last figurine and was happy yet confused.
What happened next was completely unexpected- for both of them. Mario asked Kenzie if she knew what was going on. She had no idea. He got down on one knee and pulled out a little, black box. Mario told Kenzie how amazing, beautiful, and special she was. He told her that he loved her and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. And then he asked her to marry him. And she said...
'REALLY?!" He said yes. "Are you kidding?" He said no. "REALLY?!"
So this went on for what seemed like 15 minutes. Kenzie couldn't believe that Mario had already met with her family and discussed this. She was in total shock and disbelief to say the least. She was so caught up in her excitement and surprise (and shock) that she couldn't even collect herself enough to give a whole-hearted yes. They talked about finances, family, and other specific topics that they had yet to discuss. At the end of their talk, there was not a solid yes or no. Both were a bit confused with their minds racing a million miles per hour. They headed back to Mario's house and then Kenzie went home. Even though this was a difficult moment for Mario, he was kind and not the least bit rude about not getting an answer. He even gave her a hug goodnight. Kenzie was not rude toward Mario for the unexpected proposal. They both displayed kindness, patience, and consideration for the other's feelings during the confusing and emotional time.
Love is not self-seeking...
Kenzie knew that she wanted to marry Mario and had actually been hoping he would propose within the next 6 months. Though many conversations had been devoted to talking about morals, values, beliefs, and marriage, the two never discussed the reality of their specific marriage. She was trying to make sure she wasn't caught up in the excitement of the moment before giving an answer and making a solid commitment.
As soon as she started driving back home, she immediately wanted to turn around and give Mario a "yes!!!" but at this point the timing didn't seem right, she was thinking of a million thoughts all at once, and wanted to confirm that she truly had her parent's blessing. When she arrived home (around 1 am at this point) she went upstairs where her mother and sister were watching TV with huge smiles on their faces. "So...?!" they asked. "You both knew?!! And you approve?!!" "Yes! Of course!" exclaimed her mom. Kenzie's mom and sister couldn't believe she hadn't said yes. After knowing her parents were aware of the proposal, Kenzie immediately wanted to tell him, "yes!" She didn't want Mario to have to go through the night thinking the response in her heart was anything other than a yes! "Go! Go after your man! exclaimed Audrey. At this point it was around 2:00 in the morning, and exhausted Kenzie headed back out to Burton so she could tell him in person so that he could have a peaceful sleep.
Once she arrived, she noticed all the lights were off. She debated knocking on the window, but she was afraid Mario would mistake her for an intruder and "punch her when he opened the door." She considered writing a note, but couldn't find a pen. She texted him several times to see if there was any chance he was awake, but he wasn't. As she headed back home she recorded a video talking about her thoughts, feelings, and desire to marry Mario so she would always have proof that she made the effort to go out there to give him a clear and positive answer.
Love is not easily angered...
Kenzie's new plan was to wake up at 5:00 am and drive over to Mario's house to tell him, "yes!" as soon as he woke up. If you know anything about Kenzie, you would know that waking up before 9 am is a rarity, so it wasn't an easy goal but she wanted to be sure she was able to talk to Mario before he began his day at work. At 5:00 am, Kenzie woke up to a text from Mar. "Is everything okay?" he asked, in response to her slew of messages the night before saying, "Hey are you still up?" "I know it's late but could you call me if you're awake?" "If you're up, could you spare just a few minutes to talk- it's important" etc. She said, "yes, everything is okay, I just had something I wanted to talk to you about but it can wait until later." Kenzie didn't want to accept his proposal over text and Mario seemed to be a little 'down' as he headed off to his morning meeting so she figured she would wait for better timing.
During the middle of the day, Mario and Kenzie talked on the phone about how their days had been going and about the events from the night before. They made a plan to meet that evening to go on a picnic and take a walk at Beartown Lakes, one of the Geauga parks. After talking, Kenzie felt better about the situation. Mario, on the other hand, was concerned this would end up becoming a "Dear John" type of situation. Although Mario was sad, confused, and a little hurt, he never became angry. He remained kind and loving toward Kenzie, so much so that she didn't even realize he was so disappointed.
Love keeps no record of wrongs...
Kenzie was filled with excitement that she would finally be able to tell Mario she accepts his proposal in person! She dove to Heinen's, picked up an assortment of delicious foods, and headed home to prepare the perfect picnic for Mario. She packed a picnic basket with chocolate covered specialty cookies, strawberry lemonade, sweet potato chips, and made sandwiches with fresh bread, chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados (nature's butter!) and a homemade chipotle mayo sauce. (Side note: these sandwiches have since become known as "engagement sandwiches" and the couple eats them often!)
Mario picked Kenzie up and they headed to Beartown Lakes. Neither of the two had ever been there before. They walked around looking for a spot to set up their picnic and found an empty gazebo overlooking a lake. Kenzie then confronted Mario on his seemingly dismal mood, and he explained that he was sad about the day before but understood the situation. They talked everything out and realized they were both on the same page, excited, in agreement, and ready to marry each other. "If the offer still stands, I would be honored to marry you," Kenzie said. Both of the two were extremely excited.
"But there's only one problem, I didn't know I would be proposing during this picnic so I didn't bring any of the rings," declared Mario. "That's okay, you don't have to have a ring to propose, you did that yesterday," Kenzie replied. "Close your eyes and wait right here!"
Kenzie waited with her eyes closed as Mario ran into a field of wildflowers and picked a piece of Queen Ann's Lace and transformed it into a ring. He ran back to Kenzie, got down on one knee, and proposed! She said, "Yes! I would love to marry you!!"
The timing could not have been more perfect. After celebrating and enjoying the moment, the sun began to set and the sky slowly displayed a gorgeous sunset over the water. The "blue moon" was out on this particular day so the couple walked back to the car under the light of the rare, "blue moon." Kenzie and Mario were thrilled to share the news with their family and friends. They couldn't have planned the evening better if they had tried!
Love doesn't delight in evil but rejoices with the truth...
Mario and Kenzie both believe and do their best to live what the Catholic Church teaches. In particular, living a chaste life before marriage. They wanted to build a solid foundation for their marriage that will last forever. Following this decision has brought them great joy- although it is not always easy.They both had individually made the choice to remain chaste and not to live with their significant other until marriage. By no means has this been convenient or fun. Very few people choose to go this route nowadays, but it is already paying dividends to both of them. Waiting to enjoy the "gifts" of marriage has taught both Mario and Kenzie patience, self-control, how to love each other more fully, and how to truly get to know the other person for who they are while respecting them completely. It has also taught them humility and how God's plans are always greater than theirs. They hope and pray that their decision to wait until marriage will have an impact on other young people. If you truly love someone, you respect them. It should not be a surprise that both of them are very happy and content with their relationship.
Love always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres...
Mario and Kenzie take their relationship and future marriage with the utmost seriousness. It is something that they value and go through great lengths to guard and protect. They trust that throughout all of the circumstances that life will throw at them, they will always remain strong in faith and committed in their love to one another. They place their hope in Christ, that when they say "I do" on May 14th, 2016, that He will lead them and guide them in every and any situation, hardship, or struggle they may face in the years to come. It was through God that their paths crossed and it is through Him that they will persevere as they live together as one.