Other Husband & Wife Articles

Love at First Sight
By Andrew Haines

“My wife and I first met at a bus stop in Assisi, Italy!” 

What a conversation starter!

With our first child on the way, Kathleen and I have had some wonderful opportunities to stop, smell the roses, and relive a bit of the excitement that kicked off our relationship. As with any young couple, meeting involved lots of unexpected twists, turns, and surprises. Our courtship was literally an epitome of “Romance,” since the city of Rome was a big part of it.

The Setting

In the spring of 2008, I was a seminarian studying theology at the North American College in Rome. (See – already something juicy!) I had originally entered as a seminarian with the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, about three years earlier, having spent two years completing my undergrad at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.

Although ordination was not my destiny, I wouldn’t trade those three years of seminary for the world. I learned the love of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the meaning of personal prayer. And I also learned – with real conviction and confidence – that the Lord was not calling me to the priesthood.

During my time in Rome, I began to realize more clearly that my vocation was not the spiritual fatherhood of a priest, but marriage and biological fatherhood. And in that spring of 2008, I decided, with some great deal of pain, to return to the United States and pursue that calling – whatever it meant.

Before learning of my plans to come home, though, my parents and sister had arranged to visit me in Rome. And so, with a heart full of uncertain anxiety, I did my best to play a good tour guide: I showed them the Colosseum, Saint Peter’s, the Spanish Steps, and every back-alley church and restaurant I could think of.

But of course, any good vacation to Italy – if you’re Catholic – includes Assisi. I arranged for us to take a day trip.

Little did I know that this brief trip would set my course for a lifetime.

The Meeting

You meet lots of people if you’re an English-speaker in Rome. So I wasn’t really surprised, at a bus stop in Assisi, to bump into a short, cute American girl who was on a solo pilgrimage to Italy. (Okay, I was a bit surprised!)

To be totally honest, I don’t recall what we first talked about.  (Kathleen will tell you I made some inane comment about her backpack being bigger than she was.) But whatever we discussed for those few moments, I know the rest of that day in Assisi was spent daydreaming: “That girl back there at the bus station was pretty nice,” I said to my sister, probably ten times. “Don’t you think?”

I wondered if I would ever see her again, and then Providence intervened.

Walking out of the Basilica of Saint Francis, on our way back to the bus station and to Rome – forever away from the mystery girl whose face I couldn’t shake – we ran into an unexpected guest.

“Hey!” shouted her already familiar voice. “Are you guys leaving? We should get a picture together!”

To my thorough astonishment, the backpack-laden americana had stumbled across us once again. And I wasn’t going to let the moment pass.

The Ending

When I touched down in America later that summer to begin my new life, I did so with a good deal of fear, yet some security in an acceptance letter from the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s M.A. Philosophy program, and a very important e-mail address.

Over the next year, Kathleen and I talked and dated long-distance – Ohio to northern Virginia, where she was from. And almost two years later to the month, I now live in northern Virginia, where we have an apartment, and a son on the way.

Sometimes, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction. And when I remember the events of our courtship – our continuing Romance – I’m convinced that Providence usually arranges something even stranger – and infinitely better – than anything we can imagine.

Andrew Haines is a graduate student in philosophy, and president of the Center for Morality in Public Life (https://ethikapolitika.org/author/andrew-haines/). He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Kathleen, and their unborn baby, whose due date is in December.