The following excerpt from Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship is entitled “Is God Calling You?” and recounts how Tom and Patty Strunck met, as well as the beginning months of their courtship.
Tom: My relationship with Patty McNair started years before I ever knew who she was. While young, I was shy with girls and easily fell into schoolboy crushes that never amounted to anything. During one teenage crush, I decided to do something constructive: I prayed a Rosary for the girl every day. It took a couple of months to realize that relationship was going the same way as all the others – nowhere – so I was inspired to change the intention of the Rosary to “my future wife and children.”
Patty: During my third year of law school, my father developed a cough which was diagnosed as pneumonia; however, that diagnosis was altered to lung cancer upon the discovery of a tumor in his left lung. Dad decided he would not have surgery or chemotherapy but would use radiation to shrink any tumors. That decision would hasten his death.
Tom: I prayed a Rosary for my future family nearly every night through my last years of high school. In college, my praying grew irregular, but one common intention was “my future wife and children.” After graduating in 1984, I attended law school, where I met Patty. She was a year ahead of me and hung out with a popular and partying crowd. Although she was undeniably cute, I found her somewhat obnoxious. Most especially, I did not like the way she laughed.
One fall day in 1985, while descending the escalator outside the school library, I noticed Patty with a group of her friends. Something about her particularly struck me. I walked past the group and briefly pondered whether to ask her on a date. As I opened the door to exit the building, I was overcome by an unusually intense thought: You are going to marry her. With the door half open, I froze, at least until Patty’s obnoxious laugh came floating down the hall. “Not only am I not going to marry her,” I said to myself, “I will never go out with her.” I continued outside, shaking my head.
In January 1986, I was attracted to a flirtatious law school classmate. She and Patty were friends. I invited my classmate to an upcoming dance, but she already had a date. She suggested I take Patty instead. So Patty and I went to the dance together, double-dating with my classmate and her boyfriend. The dance turned out to be a lot of fun. Patty was outgoing and easy to talk to.
Patty: Tom was cute and I needed a date. We had a nice time together. Initially, I thought that Tom was not my type; he was a little awkward and stiff. But there was something about him that was different from other men I had known. He treated me with respect. We kept dating each other through my last semester of law school.
Tom: Before Patty, I had never dated the same girl more than three consecutive times. With Patty, spending time together was natural and I never noticed we were on our fourth, fifth or sixth date. I enjoyed doing anything, or nothing at all with her. After a couple of weeks, she told me that her father had been diagnosed with lung cancer and refused chemotherapy. Over time, his declining health would serve as the glue for our increasingly shaky relationship.
Patty: Dating Tom and Dad’s cancer intensified at roughly the same time. The more ill Dad became, the more I needed Tom. This was especially true when my car broke down because Dad had always taken care of my automotive needs. When he was unable to do this, Tom became my chauffeur. We spent lots of time together. He came from a devout Catholic family and was able to answer questions I had concerning suffering, life, death, and God. Still, Tom was not someone I would consider marrying. I was 24, emotionally immature, and not even thinking of marriage.
Tom: Although Patty was not thinking about marriage, over several months of dating, the thought had crossed my mind. Even so, Patty and I were not deeply compatible. She had no religion while I was undergoing a somewhat rocky renaissance in my spiritual life. We frequently clashed over politics and morality and I thought these disagreements would be unhealthy for our potential future children.
Patty: As Dad’s cancer progressed, Tom invited me to attend Easter Mass at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, which was two blocks from my house. I found it deeply moving, so much so, that I continued to attend every Sunday. I enjoyed Mass, but with my dad in such poor health, I was very confused. Tom was the best man I had ever dated, as he kiddingly reminded me at the time, but I wanted something more to fill the growing hole in my heart.
Tom: Going to Mass together was a comforting experience, especially given her father’s declining health. But it could not make up for our differences. Several weeks before her graduation from law school she suggested we see other people. I was disappointed because I really liked her, but mostly, my pride was offended. I told her to make a choice: see me alone or never see me again. If it hadn’t been for her broken-down car and continuing need for rides, our relationship would have ended then.
Tom and Patty Strunck have been married for 23 years and have six children. This is an excerpt of their courtship story entitled “Is God Calling You?” which will be published in its entirety in Full Quiver’s new book, “Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship.”
Text Copyright 2011 Full Quiver Publishing
Photo copyright 2011 Tom and Patty Strunck