US Woman to Marry Swiss Guard in Rome; Pope Tells Them ‘Have a Lot of Children’
How a Novena and God’s Providence Led to the Blessed Meeting — and Engagement
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — She was 29 years old with a dream to see Italy before she turned 30.
So Miranda Emde convinced her mother, Martha, to go with her, and off they went. In October 2013, they toured Rome, Milan, Venice and Assisi for three weeks. But Miranda fell in love with Rome. She went to Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica every day while she was there — and she didn’t want to leave.
The day before they were to return home to California, Miranda had an idea. “I’m single still. What if I could live here [in Rome] for six months and do something for the Vatican?”
She and her mom asked around, but ended up wasting a few hours without finding out how to get a job at the Holy See. At that point, Miranda wanted to give up. “I said, ‘Let’s just go back to the hotel.’ My mom said, ‘No, we are getting the information before we leave. We are going to walk by St. Anne’s Gate. Talk to the Swiss Guard who is there.”
When “she feels strongly about something, you just listen to her,” Miranda said of her mom. Father Angelo Sebastian, who aids orphanages in his native India and is a friend of Miranda and her family, describes her as “St. Martha,” who prays several Rosaries a day and is a “very faithful and holy woman.”
“As I’m just looking over, I see Jonathan,” Miranda recalled. So she went over to Jonathan Binaghi, a Vatican Swiss Guard, introduced herself, and said, “I’m visiting Rome and curious about opportunities at the Vatican in marketing and communications.”
They only talked a few minutes, as he was busy talking with other people as part of his duties. But he was extremely helpful and gave her contact information of several individuals who could help her with her job search.
“I could tell he wanted to talk more. Towards the end, he said, ‘I get off work at 8. Can you meet for dinner?’ And I turned him down. I said, ‘Sorry, we have to be up so early [for our flight.]’ He wrote down his contact information.”
The helpful Swiss Guard made quite the impression on her. “We felt a spark [and] observing him in those couple minutes, I picked up something different — how he handled people,” she recalled. “He’s so kind — very kind and dignified. His presence is just not what you see all the time.”
Miranda remembers walking away and joking with her mom, “Oh, I think I just fell in love! What are the chances?”
Seeking God’s Direction
Once back in the United States, she and Jonathan started to email one another. Communication was slow and inconsistent, but theirs were quality conversations. Emails turned into texts and phone calls. The entire time, Miranda kept surrendering to God’s will. She was always asking God for his direction.
She already had a trip planned to attend Pope John Paul II’s canonization Mass in April 2014. So she and Jonathan planned to spend an extra week together after the celebrations. Jonathan picked up Miranda and her friend from the airport. He arranged private tours for her and their Rome tour group.
That trip solidified their relationship, as Jonathan expressed his serious feelings for Miranda. By the end of the trip, Miranda thought, “I’m pretty sure he is the one.” While they definitely had a great time together, they also made sure to talk about the important things — faith and family life.
“With that trip, I just remember thanking God — ‘I can’t believe [Jonathan] exists.’ I just prayed, ‘Continue to show me if this is the direction you want us to go.’”
Their relationship progressed, and Miranda made several more trips to Rome. After meeting his family in Switzerland — the homeland of all Swiss Guards — they started to discuss weddings plans. They even received a special blessing from Pope Francis after attending a private Mass. The Holy Father told Jonathan, “Have a beautiful family with a lot of children,” according to OCRegister.com.
The Right Answer
Jonathan came to visit Miranda this past May to ask Miranda’s parents’ permission for her hand in marriage and to look for a job (he left the Swiss Guard, as guards must be single).
“What is the meaning of love?” Chuck Emde asked his daughter’s suitor.
“Give yourself ... ask for nothing,” the Swiss Guard replied.
That answer earned him permission to propose.
On May 16, he proposed. Of course, Miranda said, “Yes.”
But Miranda’s love story hasn’t always been a fairy tale.
“We all have our plan — we think we know what’s best. I’ve always had to fight against that. I always go back to ‘I tried my plan, and it doesn’t really work out so well,’” she recalled.
That was when trust in God’s plan for her truly grew.
So, in April of 2013, Miranda decided to do two things — write a list of non-negotiables (including faithful, gentlemanly and family-oriented) that were important to her in a future husband and pray a novena to St. Anne. “I wasn’t a big novena person, to be honest. I didn’t do a lot of them before. But I heard that St. Anne was a patron saint of unmarried women and helps to bring people together.”
St. Anne’s Assistance
She, along with family members and close friends, including Father Sebastian, prayed a novena to St. Anne, with the intention for her and her future husband. She also wrote a prayer along with it that she said personally each day.
Six months after they prayed that novena, Miranda met Jonathan. And he fulfills everything on her list — and more. He has a deep faith, and Father Sebastian, who is also leading their wedding-preparation classes, describes him as “a very compassionate and kind man. He’s very humble.”
Everything about their love story shows God’s hand has been involved — not only did Miranda meet Jonathan after praying a novena to St. Anne, but they also met at St. Anne’s Gate. And, during their courtship, Jonathan was invited to become a member of the Brotherhood of St. Anne’s, the oldest brotherhood in the world for laity, and he has always had a special devotion to St. Anne and our Blessed Mother.
The journey wasn’t always easy, though. Miranda had to constantly trust, surrender and pray.
“The moments I’ve been tested or discouraged, when I’ve chosen to lay everything down in prayer, he does give a sign,” she said of God’s providence. “But he wants us to get to that point — of always going back to him and trusting him.”
Father Sebastian said that having faith means “to finally say, ‘Yes — I need to surrender myself to what God has for me.’ Miranda had her own moments of impatience, as anyone would have. You know: When is he actually going to do something? But she never gave up that faith, never gave up that hope.”
And that faith is what the priest says is the beautiful part of this story. He described both Miranda and Jonathan as “people of faith who don’t compromise their faith for values of the world. You don’t get to see very many people like that in today’s world. And that’s a blessing.”
The Big Day
So, when is the big day?
Miranda and Jonathan will marry on Oct. 17 at Rome’s Santa Caterina della Rota, which is overseen by the Brotherhood of St. Anne. Cardinal Raymond Burke will be the celebrant. They will have a private Mass with Pope Francis the next day.
That is better than any fairy tale.
Emily Brandenburg writes from Orange, California.