What is Love?

This article was posted on: July 8, 2024

Seeking truth and love with an open heart

Seeking truth and love with an open heart

What is love, really? When I was young, I used to think it was all about a prince and a young maiden who meet for the first time and immediately fall in love with their one true love. They then overcome a few struggles with joy in their hearts before living happily ever after. The story of Samuel and Sierra Obert follows chapters in that book as they meet, defy the odds to find true love and live happily ever after.

Sierra didn’t start attending church until she was 14 years old. She got involved with a nondenominational high school youth group and was baptized before she turned 16. Sierra continued practicing her faith in her hometown while attending a local community college for two years before transferring to the University of Northern Iowa for her junior and senior years.

While on campus, Sierra joined the Assembly of God ministry, where she met Samuel, who had also joined the ministry through a friend. Samuel relayed that he joined the ministry during his freshman year to meet more people.

Samuel has always considered his Catholic faith an essential aspect of his life. His middle and high school teachers instilled in him a deep love for the beauty and depth of Catholicism.

In his first year of college, Samuel questioned whether he would allow others to persuade him to change his beliefs or remain steadfast in his Catholic faith. By his second year, he had fully embraced the Catholic community and church on campus. Samuel participated in Bible studies and retreats to deepen his faith.

We love because He first loved us. (1 Jn 4:19)

Sierra noticed Samuel was no longer part of the ministry group. When she saw him on campus, Sam explained that he was now focusing on his Catholic faith group and church. 

Sierra was unaware of the differences between her religious service and that of her Catholic friend Samuel. Curious, she asked her Catholic girlfriend to take her to Mass on campus. Sierra anticipated just checking it out and never returning. However, during the Mass, she felt the presence of God and an urge to delve deeper into her experiences. Despite not being in a romantic relationship, Sierra continued to attend Mass with Samuel and asked him questions afterward. Throughout her senior year, Sierra explored the Catholic faith and sought to understand it better.

The same year, during a talk at a spring Catholic retreat, Samuel experienced a turning point in his faith. The conversation focused on Jesus hanging on the cross and saying, “I thirst.” Samuel said, “In that moment, I felt a particular and personal thirst from Jesus for me. Jesus expressed His deep, deep thirst for my soul, my heart and the hearts of everybody. He longed for all to come to know Him and love Him.”

After attending a talk that opened his eyes, Samuel experienced Eucharistic adoration for the first time. He shared, “As I gazed upon the Eucharist, all the pieces just fell together. In that profound moment, I realized that the same Jesus hanging on the cross was thirsting for me. As He gazed upon me and I returned that gaze to Him in adoration, I realized He was continually and perpetually thirsting for me.” Samuel said, “For the first time in my life, I realized what love truly is: to give your entire self for the sake of someone else, to lay down your life, to sacrifice. I saw that in Jesus on the cross and in Jesus in the Eucharist. During that time in adoration, I realized I wanted to change my life, to start loving myself better and other people better.”

Finding Joy Together Through Faith

During the summer of 2019, Samuel stayed in the college town to attend classes while Sierra graduated and moved to a new location. Sierra and Sam were not dating or communicating during this time, and both had moved on. However, Sierra continued to explore her interest in the Catholic faith.

At a daily Mass one summer evening, Sierra, feeling frustrated, told God to tell her what to do. Should she become a Catholic or not? She was exhausted after nine months of trying to figure things out on her own. During the homily, the priest talked about people asking Jesus for more miracles and how Jesus responded by saying, “I have given you everything you need to see.”

The priest explained that everything needed was present in the Eucharist. Sierra took this as a sign that all she had to do was say yes, and she decided to join the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) the following month.

Upon experiencing Jesus’s love, Samuel felt convicted about wanting his future wife to be Catholic. It was a difficult struggle for him because he now realized the love he had for Sierra. Sierra was not Catholic, but Sam knew she was sincerely searching for truth with an open heart.

Later that summer, Samuel visited Sierra in her hometown. During a lengthy conversation, Samuel asked if she would pray the rosary with him. Sierra had never recited the rosary before, but Samuel walked her through it, and they prayed together. While praying, Sierra shared a story with Samuel about when she felt called to become Catholic during a church visit. She had asked the Lord for an answer and felt Him say yes, leading her to join RCIA.

Their relationship officially began on the night they prayed the rosary together for the first time. Since then, the Blessed Mother has been a constant presence, weaving a thread through their lives. Sierra was officially received into the Catholic Church in November 2019. 

Grounded with family, prayer and Mass

Samuel and Sierra married in the month of Mary, on May 21, 2022, at St. Mary Parish in Iowa. During their first year of marriage, Sierra worked as a teacher at Blessed Sacrament Elementary in La Crosse, while Samuel served as a FOCUS missionary at the nearby Roncalli Newman Center. However, their lives quickly changed when they had their first child. Samuel switched jobs and started working for a collaboration of five Catholic parishes, where he oversaw their middle school, high school and confirmation programs. Meanwhile, Sierra decided to stay at home and raise their growing family. They also bought a house and moved to a new location. 

Samuel finds motivation in the idea of coming back home to his family, as it connects him with his identity, purpose and what truly matters to him. However, managing everything can be challenging due to his job and Sierra’s various commitments to their parish.

He believes that many families have lost touch with the essence of rest, silence and being together. In La Crosse, there are opportunities for adoration which can help families recalibrate their busy lives. Samuel and Sierra recommend that individuals should quiet their lives, listen to what God wants them to do and experience His love.

For them, encountering Jesus in adoration opened their eyes, minds, hearts and ears to hear what God wanted them to do with their lives. This experience set them on a different trajectory, with God leading the way.

Samuel and Sierra, now parents, sometimes find it challenging to establish consistent family prayer routines like praying the rosary daily or reading Scripture. However, they understand that their home serves as the domestic church. Despite their busy and chaotic schedule, Samuel reflected that the Church’s liturgical year always remains the same, and their family can develop similar annual traditions that root their family in the Church’s liturgical life. Sierra agreed and added, “We hope our home reflects our daily focus on Jesus and that our family strives to become holier through our vocation of marriage.”

They both find inspiration in their parish’s monthly newsletter, Restore the Roots, which teaches them more about their faith and how to incorporate it into their homes. (See the Jan/Feb 2024 issue of Catholic Life to learn more about it).

Now united in the sacrament of marriage, Samuel and Sierra’s love for Jesus in the Eucharist was and is their first true love.

Story by Cathy Greenseth
Published in the July/August 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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