“Choose someone God-fearing, and make God the center of your relationship.” When this advice was given in a talk for college students about dating and marriage, a girl in the audience asked, “If we’re going to be thinking of God all the time, how can our relationship be exciting?”
The idea of a God-centered romance is, indeed, alien to today’s culture. This age assumes that a God-centered romance is an oxymoron, a dull and platonic relationship as opposed to a wild, pleasure-centered one. But this is hardly the impression I get from the last letter written by Blessed Bartolome Blanco Marquez to his girlfriend before he was executed for his faith during the Spanish Civil War.
The letter begins:
Provincial prison of Jaen, Oct. 1, 1936
My dearest Maruja:
Your memory will remain with me to the grave and, as long as the slightest throb stirs my heart, it will beat for love of you. God has deemed fit to sublimate these worldly affections, ennobling them when we love each other in him. Though in my final days, God is my light and what I long for, this does not mean that the recollection of the one dearest to me will not accompany me until the hour of my death.
I do not know how Blessed Bartolome Blanco Marquez and his girlfriend met each other and fell in love, but from this introduction, he clearly loved her deeply and ardently.
Reading further, one sees his bravery, nobility, faith, as well as the depth of his love:
I am assisted by many priests who — what a sweet comfort — pour out the treasures of grace into my soul, strengthening it. I look death in the eye and, believe my words, it does not daunt me or make me afraid.
My sentence before the court of mankind will be my soundest defense before God’s court; in their effort to revile me, they have ennobled me; in trying to sentence me, they have absolved me, and by attempting to lose me, they have saved me. Do you see what I mean? Why, of course! Because in killing me, they grant me true life and in condemning me for always upholding the highest ideals of religion,
My body will be buried in a grave in this cemetery of Jaen; while I am left with only a few hours before that definitive repose, allow me to ask but one thing of you: that in memory of the love we shared, which at this moment is enhanced, that you would take on as your primary objective the salvation of your soul. In that way, we will procure our reuniting in heaven for all eternity, where nothing will separate us.
Goodbye, until that moment, then, dearest Maruja! Do not forget that I am looking at you from heaven, and try to be a model Christian woman, since, in the end, worldly goods and delights are of no avail if we do not manage to save our souls.
My thoughts of gratitude to all your family and, for you, all my love, sublimated in the hours of death. Do not forget me, my Maruja, and let my memory always remind you there is a better life, and that attaining it should constitute our highest aspiration.
Be strong and make a new life; you are young and kind, and you will have God’s help, which I will implore upon you from his kingdom. Goodbye, until eternity, then, when we shall continue to love each other for life everlasting country and family, they swing open before me the doors of heaven.
This is an example of a God-centered romance, where the lovers want the Ultimate Good for each other, edify each other spiritually, and inspire noble aspirations in each other. It is a love that is no less passionate, and that does not exaggerate when it proclaims itself to be forever. Such kind of romance was possible in the past, and it is still possible today if young people aspire to love and be loved nobly.
I do not know what became of Blessed Bartolome Blanco Marquez’s girlfriend after he died. Perhaps she too was executed for her faith; perhaps became a nun; perhaps she remained single in the world; perhaps she found someone else and got married. But it is impossible that such love from a noble lover would have left her unchanged. Most likely, she and Blessed Bartolome Blanco Marquez had such a joyful reunion in heaven, giving their story a happy ending.