“I think we have work to do together”

Patricia Zamudio and I have some wonderful news to share with our Circle family: We are engaged to be married! I’d like to tell a little bit of our story, both because it is a delightfully happy story, and because it feels like a good example of what joining in a common purpose — a holy relationship — can look like in everyday life.

We met at the Circle’s Sedona gathering in early April. Our only previous contact had been a couple of e-mails some time ago about the scholarship project. But when we met, we felt an instant rapport, a connection, a familiarity with each other that seemed unusual for two people who had never met before. It seemed more like a reunion than a first meeting.

Patricia is a college professor from Mexico whose passion is working with Latin American migrants, helping these poor, marginalized people discover their true worth and live the happy lives they deserve to live. I asked her about her work (of course she already knew quite a bit about mine), and we had a riveting conversation. I was deeply moved by the work she was doing for these people whom Jesus in the gospels called “the least of these, my children.” It spoke to something very deep in me.

After that conversation, I felt like something “big” had happened, though the skeptic in me (aka the ego) dismissed it. I was filled with the sense that this encounter was very important for both of our lives. And yes, there were romantic feelings too, which the skeptic dismissed even more. The whole thing had me so stirred up that I didn’t sleep at all that night. In the middle of the night, I prayed to God to let me know if there really was something meaningful happening here, or if I was just imagining things. The sense I got when I prayed was that an opportunity to find the answers I sought would present itself the next day. I just needed to be open to it.

Sure enough, the next day, Saturday, the opportunity came — though I wasn’t sure it would at first, since Patricia and I weren’t sitting together and went to lunch with different groups. During the final break in Robert’s “Love Cannot Be Comprised” workshop, she came eagerly rushing up to me. She said she felt compelled to tell me that she thought I could really help her in her work with migrants, and she asked me for my help. I immediately agreed to help her, and found myself saying, “I think we have work to do together.” A quick hug, a surprising kiss on the cheek, and then the break was over and we had to sit down in our separate places again.

I sat there stunned as Robert conducted the last session. It seemed that what had just happened was the opportunity my guidance had pointed toward. And I was more convinced than ever that something “big” really was happening. I remembered saying to myself, “That felt like a Helen and Bill moment.” Patricia had asked for help, and I had agreed to help her. Something major had just transpired; I could feel it in my bones. It felt like mighty forces had been set in motion. It felt like we had just joined in a common purpose and started a holy relationship. But what next?

Patricia was scheduled to return to Mexico the very next morning, so I had to act fast. I prayed for guidance during the session, and it was clear that I needed to ask her to dinner after the workshop, so we could talk some more about what had just happened between us. I remember thinking, “God, I hope she doesn’t have other plans for dinner.” But I think God had His own plan for us in mind. When Robert’s session concluded, I asked her to dinner and she said yes.

Long story short: We talked more over dinner (Mexican food, of course) and realized that yes, we really did have work to do together. And needless to say, given the announcement that started this blog entry, we discovered that we had more than just a working relationship. The romantic feelings were shared. We were already in love (as I think the woman at the next table who couldn’t stop staring at us must have realized), and our love has deepened ever since.

We’re still unsure about what exact form our work together will take, but it seems to be a creative combination of my work as a Course teacher and her work with migrants. Patricia has been exploring ways to bring her Course perspective more fully into her work, and I am the perfect person to help her with that. I have long desired to both develop a tradition of Course scholarship and apply my Course teaching to work with people in great need, and she (as both a scholar and an activist for migrants) is the perfect person to help me with that. Together, we have the proverbial match made in Heaven. We have a joint special function that feels much greater than the sum of its parts, a mission that feels like something both of us were born to fulfill together.

And we’ve already found some creative ways to combine our skills in a joint endeavor. For instance, Patricia and her colleague Nancy recently put on a workshop on migrant issues for forty Catholic priests and their bishop. For this workshop, she asked me to create a Course-based meditation to help them pray to God for guidance. I did so, using Course passages free of ideas that might be controversial to conservative Catholic priests (no “I am the holy Son of God Himself” here!). Patricia took what I wrote, translated it into Spanish and tweaked it a little bit, and then guided the priests through it at the workshop.

The result: The priests, especially the bishop, loved it! Patricia says that the meditation completely changed the atmosphere of the room. The man who invited her to put on the workshop later told her, “This is the first time [in eight years of workshops with over six hundred total participants] that we have achieved our goals.” The priests came out of that workshop more committed to the work with migrants than they had ever been before. Imagine that! I never thought I’d write a Course-based meditation for forty conservative Mexican priests and their bishop. Patricia never thought she’d be presenting such a thing either. (She tells me that a woman leading Mexican priests in anything is a rare event indeed.) But our collaboration produced what felt like a real miracle, and it seems that there will be many more to come.

Now we’re just taking one day at a time, praying for guidance about the next steps. While we are apart, Skype with audio and video is our best friend! Patricia wants to come to Sedona to live with me. (Arizona, after all, is “ground zero” when it comes to Mexican migrant issues.) The wedding will happen when she gets the proper visa. In the meantime, she’ll come for a two-week visit on July 17, and we hope more will become clear during our time together.

We are very happy to share this wonderful news with our Circle family. And we have one request: Please pray for us! We could really use God’s guidance and the support of our mighty companions as we begin the holy work we are called to do together, the shared life of love that has come to us as a beautiful blessing from God.