Katie Hartfiel is a wife, mother and author with significant experience as a youth minister.
A graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, she has written a book, Woman in Love (WomaninLove.org), with the intent of guiding young women on the path of prayerfully preparing themselves for marriage while praying for their future spouses. She shares her testimony through her ministry, Hearts United, Inc.
How long have you been married, Katie? Do you have children?
Mark and I have been married for eight years. We have two daughters, Maria, 4 1/2, and Clare, who just turned 1.
Your book, Woman in Love, is written from your personal experience, with excerpts from your journal. What prompted you to share your story? Who did you write this book for?
I spent eight years as a parish youth minister and recently left my position after the birth of my second child. During our annual confirmation retreat, I would share parts of our story during the women’s session. I found that several of the girls began writing letters to and praying for their future spouses after this talk, and I was so touched to see how deeply it impacted them. It was incredible to witness the zeal in which these girls totally bought into the idea of praying for and saving themselves for their husbands-to-be (HTB). Their hearts became alive with hope that God was good enough to meet their deepest desires.
However, it wasn’t until last year [that I got the idea], when my husband’s boss, Steve Bollman (founder of the That Man Is You! men’s program), shared our story in a talk of his. Afterwards, a gentleman approached Mark and said, "Please ask your wife to write a book with this story so my teenage daughter can read it." It was the first time that I felt the Lord tug at my heart and ask me to share it in this way. It wasn’t long before I began writing the book, hoping that young women (middle school, high school and college girls — and young adults) would find a solid reason to hold out for purity and find the plan the Lord had in store for them.
You persevered in prayer for a man you didn’t even know yet, as you waited for God to bring him into your life. What motivated you to persevere during the difficult times in your life?
Grace. Honestly, I could’ve done a much better job at times when it came to persevering. There were many times when I felt frustrated, impatient, distracted and downright lonely. However, I was so convicted upon the understanding that, if I was called to marriage, God knew who I would end up marrying. If that was the case, then that man was out there somewhere at that very moment. He had the same struggles and the same temptations, and he had a name and a face. I knew that if this were true, then I didn’t want to spend my heart on others just to pass the time until he arrived.
When you began this prayer journey, did you share what you were doing with anyone? If so, what was their reaction?
Yes, several of my friends and I shared in this mission together. The idea actually came from a friend who ended up as the maid of honor in my wedding. There were about six or seven of us who spoke freely and often about our husbands-to-be. It was such a blessing to have friends who not only understood how hard it could be, but also desired holiness for me.
In an age when instant gratification seems to be the norm, how can young women get past that and develop the patience to wait for the beauty of what God has in store for them? Why should they bother taking an active role by praying for their future husbands when they could just take the attitude that "all good things come to those who wait?"
We know that prayer doesn’t change God; it changes us. Throughout my experience of praying for my husband-to-be, I was pleading with the Lord for the soul of this unknown young man. I asked that if he hadn’t experienced the love of the Lord, that the Holy Spirit would enter his life and overflow his heart. The result was Mark’s sudden conversion one summer night while he wasn’t even in prayer. We later discovered that this experience coincided with the timing that I began going to battle in prayer for my unknown future spouse. However, the Lord didn’t stop there. I wasn’t expecting the ways the Lord would work in me. As I began to raise my standards for the man I desired to marry, I started to ask myself if I were the type of woman that this sort of man would be attracted to. I found that, through the journey, I, too, was drastically transformed.
I often tell single girls to stop waiting for their love story to start … because it already has. The journey toward one’s future spouse is invaluable. This is the only chance they have to become the women they want to give to the men they will love with everything they have!
You talk about guarding the other’s soul and body in your book. The desire to protect the other runs counter to the cultural norm of watching out for oneself. How did focusing on guarding the other’s soul and body become something important to you and Mark? What fruit did it bear?
I think that caring for one another’s body and soul is a natural consequence of love, as the Lord intends it. When we love someone, we want the very best for them, meaning we love with eternity in mind. Mark definitely taught me that loving was other-centered and self-sacrificing. The practical application of this means that loving someone never means sinning together.
Our decisions for chastity within our dating relationship definitely carried over into virtue on many levels. Additionally, our desire for purity then has also created a solid foundation for chastity within our marriage as well. God is never outdone in generosity.
How do you think a relationship begun as you propose in your book differs from the way relationships usually develop?
I think the dating relationship has changed drastically in the last century. For most of history, dating or "courtship" had one purpose: to discover if the relationship would end in marriage. In our culture, dating is often casual or recreational. The question of marriage might not even come across some individuals’ minds. In fact, one of the criticisms I have had regarding Woman in Love is that teens shouldn’t be thinking about their future husbands at such a young age. On the contrary, my mission is to help young women discern God’s plan for their lives and have that discernment ever at the forefront of their minds. This definitely applies to dating relationships at every stage of life.
What advice can you give to young women who are burdened with relationship baggage or come from broken homes?
For those from broken families, remember that you are not your mother, and your future spouse is not your father. Your love story can end very differently. When your parents fail you, look to the ones who never did, your heavenly Father and Blessed Mother. Never forget that they are crying with you. Be Christ in your home, even when it seems impossible.
For those with baggage from previous relationships, I’d like to share this passage from Woman in Love:
"Jesus himself looks to you this day and utters the words that he spoke in Scripture, ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Revelation 21:5). St. John Vianney tells us, ‘The good Lord is more eager to pardon a repentant sinner than a mother is to rescue her child from the fire.’ Your First Love, and the one who knows and loves you perfectly, desires to look into the eyes he created as a window to your soul. He wants to gaze at you like a lover and see the brokenness that lies within your heart. Like a knight to the lady in distress, he wants to save you from all that threatens your ability to be one with him. Yes, truly, he wants to forgive and make all things new."
Laurie Ghigliotti writes from Atchison, Kansas.