Despite Sam Mackenzie's deep-rooted belief that marriage can turn two loving people into monsters, his all-encompassing love for Emma Jordan spurs him to propose before leaving the country bound for Valselo, the Adriatic village where millions believe the Mother of God speaks to three visionaries. Despite Emma's love for Sam, she is unable to envision a life in a remote town on a distant continent. Emma refuses his proposal and spends the next three years making a life without Sam. When she's left at the altar, a loving conspiracy between her parents and parish priest-Sam's uncle-brings Emma to Valselo and an inevitable reunion with Sam. God seems to be orchestrating a second chance, but both believe they have had good reasons to turn away from God's guidance. Will they listen to Our Lady's messages which call humanity to open their hearts to God's mercy and love? Or will they lose each other a second and final time?
Seated exactly where she had requested, Emma Jordan drummed her fingers on the tabletop. She’d picked this spot because the position provided the perfect vantage point from which to spy Sam the second he entered the restaurant. When he did, Emma’s fingers froze. Her breath caught in her throat, and her heart skipped a beat—her customary reaction to Sam’s presence.
Beaming a dazzling smile—one of Sam’s many perfect features—he covered the distance between the door and her table in a few swashbuckling strides.
Grinning back at him involuntarily, Emma recaptured her wits by inwardly reciting for the hundredth time, a self‐admonishing list of reasons she should not be in love with Dr. Sam Mackenzie.
He’s nine years older, and so much worldlier than I am.
He’s totally anti‐marriage.
“You look amazing tonight,” Sam said as he folded his athletic, six foot, muscled body into the booth opposite Emma.
Determined to mask her forlorn mood during what she considered a “last supper,” Emma smiled sweetly. “Thank you, Sam. You look pretty amazing yourself.” I miss you already. Why do you have to go? I don’t want to care. I don’t want to love you with all my heart.
Emma glanced casually at the menu that Sam had unfolded and spread on the table in front of him. “I already ordered a pitcher of soda and toasted cheddar cubes to start. Is that all right?”
“Perfect.” Sam closed the menu and propped it to lean against the wall behind a catsup bottle. “Deep dish or thin crust?”
“Whatever you like,” Emma replied as her thoughts turned inward again. It’s always your way
Why am I such a doormat?
Sam’s green eyes twinkled as he waved a hand in front of her face. “Sweetheart, you seem a million miles away.”
The endearment pierced her heart. Silent, Emma focused on Sam’s perfectly proportioned face. Jet black, longish hair fringed his forehead, temples, and ears, softening the rugged planes of high cheekbones and a squared‐off chin. Kind, emerald eyes radiated his genuine affection for her. He had professed his love for her constantly over the past two years, usually after bestowing her with liquefying, toe‐curling kisses.
Memories flooded her senses as she gazed into his eyes across the table: holding hands strolling along Navy Pier; quick, loving text messages when he had pulled double shifts during his medical residency; and bear hugs while he offered her the sign of peace at Mass—I love you, Emma.
I love you, too, Sam. What an understatement.
Emma questioned her own sanity on a daily basis. Sam had painfully related his family history to her in small doses since she had met him. Elated that Sam had trusted her implicitly, and had confided his parents’ negligence and abandonment, Emma had increasingly appreciated the extent of Sam’s ingrained belief that marriage can turn two people in love into hateful monsters. Insanely, Emma had still taken a nosedive into the bottomless well of loving Sam.
“Are you all right, Emma?”
“Honestly?” Emma paused as the waitress brought the soda and appetizer to the table. The brief interruption helped ground her. Despite her allconsuming passion for Sam—her yearning to be with him while separated due to his work schedule and frequent traveling—Emma had, thank God, never clung to him nor expressed the full extent of her
longings. “Thank you,” she said to the departing waitress.
She ignored the food, and the drink Sam poured for her. “I don’t want to say goodbye to you, Sam. This is so hard.” The corners of her eyes prickled and stung, threatening compromising tears. Furious at the possibility that she might break down and shed every ounce of pride in the process, Emma willed away the tears.
Sam’s eyes gleamed. “I don’t ever want to say goodbye to you, sweetheart.” Cocking his head, he narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips pensively. “I was going to wait…”
He shifted and dipped his right hand under the table. When his hand reappeared above the shellacked wood tabletop, a black, velvet box was nestled in his outstretched palm.
Messages from Our Lady Of The Roses are quoted throughout the story. What inspired you to write these messages?
A1. Our Lady Of The Roses is a fictional character, but the messages she conveys through the Valselo visionaries are based on documented messages associated with apparitions in Medjugorje, a village in Bosnia-Herzegovina that we have visited. A huge compendium of these documented messages is available at http://www.medjugorje.org, for interested Readers.
Q2. The spiritual conflicts experienced by Emma in adult life, and Sam, throughout his life, result from abandonment. What is the most important spiritual lesson spending time in Valselo brings them?
A2. During their faith crises, while feeling alone and unloved, both Sam and Emma feel that God has abandoned them, too. Upon learning that Emma was engaged to another man, Sam turned away from the church with his refusal to celebrate Mass, or pray, or practice other devotions. Emma was disillusioned with church practices, too, particularly with prepartion for the holy sacrament of matrimony. She feels her situation made a mockery of these practices. This belief is illustrated again by her refusal to pray the rosary with the tour group because she didn't "feel like it" or passing the prayer book to another tour group member rather than leading prayers that she didn't feel in her heart at the time. While exercising their free will to turn away from God in the face of hardship, Sam and Emma become even more bereft. Only when they dare to trust the Lord enough to leave their sorrow, anger, disillusionment and distrust at His holy altar will they open to love and its healing power.
Q3. So, the title, LEFT AT THE ALTAR, doesn't refer the failure of Emma Jordan's groom to show up for the ceremony?
A3. It does, in part. But, our intention in choosing a title was to refer to what we think is the most powerful practice for us in living a God-centered life. Once you have left doubts, sin, heartbreak and hardship at the altar and turn your heart over to God, miracles happen in your life.