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Matt & Stacy: The Story of Us

Did I ever tell you how we met?

When I was 19, I decided to spend my summer teaching kids about our beautiful faith. Totus Tuus is a diocesan sponsored Catholic VBS of sorts that form teams of 2 young men and women to travel around to different parishes teaching about scripture, the catechism and the rosary to different ages of kids. Since my major in college was Theology, this was the equivalent of an internship of sorts.

At this point in time I was discerning religious life (becoming a nun) and wasn't sure if I was being called to marriage. Although marriage and a family is what my heart preferred, I thought it was the ‘easy’ and or ‘selfish’ choice, so I was open to other vocations. I was going to school in Wichita, Ks and to avoid being tempted by the cute college boys there, I decided to do Totus Tuus with the Diocese of Tulsa, my hometown, because there were no colleges nearby and I figured I would be less tempted….

(Little did I know that one of the new seminarians for the Diocese of Tulsa was a guy named Matt Halbach.)

I remember the first time I met Matt. He was this dork from Iowa who came to Tulsa to be closer to his dad. He was surprisingly funny and confident and just graduated with his Masters in Theology from Franciscan University in Steubenville. So I loved listening to what he was learning.

We had watched many of the same (hilarious and inappropriate) movies growing up so we spoke the same movie quote language which is hard to do with holy Catholics. During training for Totus Tuus, we sat by one another and passed notes of movie quotes and funny comments. This guy wasn't’ the dorky seminarian I thought he was. He was super fun, witty, intelligent, sociable, commanding, an incredible teacher, and so generous with all of his gifts and loved the Lord with all his heart. I found myself craving his presence because I felt God in a way I had never known before when I was with him.

Totus Tuus is Latin for Totally Yours. My prayer that summer was to give myself totally to God and let Him show me where he wanted me to put my heart: In marriage or as a nun. During our training, two monumental things happened to clarify my vocation.

First, Our teacher had led us in a meditation: Imagine you were walking through difficult terrain like a mountainside filled with lush trees, every step strenuous, precarious. You come upon a deep river stream running down below, moving quickly, and it seemed scary to jump in. Yet that’s exactly what we are called to do.

He said it’s hard and difficult to forge our own paths, but God invites us to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives. The Holy Spirit is like the stream surging in the direction God wants for us. All we had to do was be brave and… jump in.

Second, I remember confiding in Matt during training, telling him my anxiety over my unclear vocation. He suggested he and his friends pray over me, something I’ve never experienced and was nervous about. He said this may be a moment to Jump In. So I said yes.

After everyone had left Mass one night, Matt, his friends and I stayed for Adoration. I kneeled down and Matt was on my right side, a friend, Heather, on my right, a friend Nina at my head, praying a rosary, and 2 more friends, adoring the Blessed Sacrament and interceding for us. Matt started speaking in tongues, asking the Holy Spirit to fill that place with peace and understanding. I felt warm tingling and a peace I’d never felt fall upon me. I laid back, Nina holding my head. Matt said some beautiful things that helped free me from insecurities I had. He let God use his voice to heal some brokenness within me.

Next, Heather had me imagine our Blessed Mother. Heather said that Mary wanted to say something to me. Immediately, I imagined Mary looked me in the eyes, smiled so sweetly, it’s like she saw how much I loved her son and how much I wanted to serve Him. Mary told me Jesus wanted me to be like her. I knew that meant as a wife and mother. Little did I know the man Jesus was calling me to was holding my right hand.

The Holy Spirit was far from done working…

Matt would make an amazing Priest and we needed good priests! So I figured I would be a groupie of his or something, becoming a parishioner at whatever parish he was assigned. But the problem was… I was falling for him.

So I went to confession because I’d never felt that way about a seminarian and was pretty sure it wasn't good. The priest told me to stay away from him! So with a heavy heart, I tried avoiding him. We had become pretty good friends after the first three weeks of training so it was difficult.

Yet all along I kept hearing… Jump in.

Why would I avoid something so obviously God? I saw the river of the Holy Spirit flowing towards Matt, flowing toward a relationship with God I only dreamed of, flowing toward a life I had always hoped for but felt guilty pursuing, flowing at an alarmingly fast pace.

Could this be the Jump In moment I was waiting for when praying to be Totally God’s?

Matt and I were on different teams, and the night before we dispersed for the summer, Matt approached me and told me how much he enjoyed my friendship and if he was being honest, he was developing feelings for me, but not just the normal feelings. He was feeling God’s presence in a new and powerful way, echoing my heart identically. He asked if I felt the same. Knowing if I lied, he would continue to become a priest our church so needed, I had to tell the truth because that comes from God.

After we established our feelings for one another, we dedicated ourselves to be Totally God’s during that summer and pray for one another, discern our relationship, and offer up any struggles the other. We wrote one another emails and talked on the phone weekly.

I remember our phone conversations would always end with him praying over me. I admired his ability to pray so freely. He would encourage me to pray over him. We weren’t even dating and he was already leading me closer to God and encouraging my spiritual growth.

Matt and I had not seen one another for over a month and had a break for the 4th of July where Matt came to watch fireworks with my family. Before the fireworks ended, we both wanted to go see Jesus so we went to the only perpetual Adoration chapel in Tulsa: St. John’s Hospital Chapel.

We arrived to dimly lit chapel, the only ones there. I sat by Matt, my hands on my lap, palms up, like Matt taught me, a prayerful posture showing God I was ready to receive whatever God wanted to give. I, once again, asked for God’s clarity in my relationship with Matt. Some praise and worship song lyrics popped in my head, “Take my hand… and lead me to you” and at that EXACT moment, Matt reached out and grabbed my hand, something he has not done since praying over me during training. At that point I heard God’s voice (a quiet whisper in my heart) “Stacy, this is my son, Matt, take care of him.” I dissolved into tears, having received the best gift of my life, both Matt as my future husband and a clear call from God.

Poor Matt, freaked out that as soon as he grabbed my hand, I started crying… like a lot. He said that he felt the Holy Spirit urge him to grab my hand and he argued back and forth, not wanting to freak me out. Hahah

I guess the Holy Spirit is an awesome wingman-dimming the lights, cueing the music, and setting up the PERFECT way for Matt to literally take my hand for life.

It was official at that point. We knew God was calling us to marriage. All that was left was to tell the Bishop he would not be returning to seminary in the Fall. At St. Therese Shrine in Collinsville, OK, Matt was serving Totus Tuus where the pastor, a good family friend of mine, told Matt he knew he would not be returning to seminary. He guessed Matt and I were going to get married and Matt shockingly told him he was right. The pastor was best friends with the Bishop and told Matt not to worry about telling the Bishop that he would for Matt. Literally effortless on our part.

We had Jumped In to the river of the Holy Spirit and it was more exhilarating and effortless than we ever imagined!

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