Today’s post is an excerpt of the courtship story of Mark and Kathy Cassanto, who met through an introduction service. Kathy is co-editor of “Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship.”
Kathy: I had been working for a year as a baker in a truck stop restaurant and working weekends a lot so I wasn’t going to church as much, even though I was still faithful. When I got the flyer for the introduction service in the mail, I thought, yeah, what do I have to lose? Actually, I had no concept of it actually working. It was almost like a flyer you get for a six pack of pop. I didn’t think much of it until I got a call back. It was July when I went in, and they were very respectful and seemed genuinely concerned. So I signed up then and did a payment plan. I just didn’t want to put down that much money at once and I only signed up for three contacts.
Time passed and I forgot about it for a while. Then, at the end of November, a person from the agency gave me Mark’s information. I remember writing it all down and they said, “Oh, he’s a big teddy bear of a guy. The reason we’re matching you up is, he’s Catholic and we know you’re Protestant, but you both score very high on the importance of religion and the importance of family in our questionnaires.” So I had some trepidation. I didn’t know what to think because I had been taught not to enter into a mixed marriage.
So I said yes. We had a hard time getting the first connection, and we talked about three times on the phone. One of the best parts with the introduction service is that there was no element of dating because we were both transparent about our goals, where we had been, what we wanted, and so there were no pretenses of trying to be something for somebody else. Right from the beginning, the first couple of conversations, Mark was sharing about his family and his faith journey and we found we had commonalities. We had both been to Circle Square Ranch as kids. He definitely had had experiences of God, and of the Holy Spirit, and so I was drawn to that.
Mark: Being a cradle Catholic, I had been introduced to the Charismatic Movement of the Catholic Faith when I was seven years old. When I was almost eight, I had the gift of tongues. Between eight and 12, I had really good, memorable times of having Christ as someone very close to me. Then it wasn’t as important when I was a teenager. But to come through life’s experiences of discerning my vocation, of university, of previous relationships, and to end up with the conviction in my heart, an understanding of my adult life as I was saying before, that I knew the next step in my life would have more meaning than it ever had before. As I said, in my early conversations with Kathy by phone or in person, I said something to the effect of “everything that I have done or touched, or tried to pursue has always failed.” With Kathy, this seemed to be the one thing that God was taking to fruition.
So our first date was December 1st, 1995, when we first met each other in person, she picked me up at work and we went down to the Rideau Center and to the movie theater and saw a James Bond film. Then we went down to Friday’s on Elgin for a drink, and to relax and have an appetizer. I just remember having a wine spritzer; feeling sophisticated. Ironically, I had hidden away in my leather purse (I still carry a man’s purse) a pack of cigarettes. I had been rarely smoking any longer because it was such a filthy habit. I just didn’t enjoy smoking, and that meant that I really wasn’t addicted (thanks be to God). (I had taken up smoking after working at the bingo hall – if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.) Had Kathy seen me take out a cigarette and light up – that just wouldn’t have gone over well on our first date. One of those things we laugh about now.
What I remember the most from our initial times together, especially the first date, is that — myself more than Kathy — there was a lot of talking, a lot of sharing and it was all from the heart. But there was a trust building quickly. It was as if we were best friends; someone you felt privileged to be with and to share life with. We went to the Civilization Museum for our second date.
By our third date, I just knew that I had found the person I wanted to marry. That’s kind of shocking, and it was something I didn’t share this with her until our fourth date. When I did share it with her, it was equally received. So that was really nice. At one point, I told Kathy that I was going to be traveling to see my Mom at Christmas; she was living in Baltimore at the time. Also, on one of our earlier dates, I had given Kathy a copy of Scott Hahn’s book “Rome Sweet Home.” So about four or five days before Christmas, I asked Kathy to drive me to the airport and some really nice things happened that day, memorable things. One of them was that she gave me the book back. I put it in my carry-on bag, but it was on the airplane where I discovered that there was a letter inside the book that star struck my heart. Sometimes when the person’s not there, when you read someone’s thoughts and feelings, how Kathy felt so far about me, you know, I was over the moon. It made me extremely excited and proud because I could really tell my Mom and family members something.
Kathy: Through all these dates, I was very overwhelmed at his presence because he was always so excitable.
Mark: Extrovert, to the extreme.
Kathy: It was kind of funny because after the first date, I thought, oh man, I don’t really know about this and I looked back in my car and he had forgotten his winter gloves in my car, and I thought, oh no, I have to see him again, at the very least because I have to give him his gloves back. I didn’t know what to think because I hadn’t had much experience.
Something that had happened to me a couple of years before this, when I had been doing my Masters in England. I had hooked into an Evangelical Church and for a series of Sunday night sermons, a man who promoted missions had been doing talks. He spoke about a celebration to the nations, being open to thinking outside the box where you should go in your life, especially as young people, with a view of doing missions. Although I had been exposed to a lot of missionary activity, I had never expressed an interest, but one of things he talked about, struck my heart so deeply was when he was talking about Genesis 12, when Abraham gets his call from the Lord and His promise to make a great nation out of him. His amplified version of Genesis 12:1, said, “Go away for your own reasons, from your country and from your kinfolk.” That struck me. It sat with me for years as he had made them into bookmarks. I had carried this bookmark around for years and I didn’t know what it meant.
Mark and Kathy Cassanto have been married for 15 years and have six children. Kathy is co-editor of “Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship.” Their entire story will be included in this book, due to be published in June of 2011.
text copyright 2011 Full Quiver Publishing
Photo copyright 2011 Mark and Kathy Cassanto