Katrina Fernandez, the Crescat, recently blogged about Dating the “discerning man.” She wrote it for the ladies. She also referenced another one on Seraphic Singles from last year.
I thought, as an Friar, a Seminarian, an active discerner, who is working at growing in my vocation in religious life, I would add my own thoughts.
I was never in the situation described, where I thought God would want me to dump the girl I was dating for the priesthood. I was single for a while, then I made a commitment to being deliberately single, then suddenly I had to turn down an opportunity when it presented itself. After my single commitment I arrived at the conclusion that I was called to religious life. Suddenly two more girls (almost randomly from my perspective) professed their love for me. Each of them did not want to be just friends, it was either all or nothing, and so I was dumped. It was sad for me on account of one of them who I actually valued as a friend.
In all honesty, I sound really cold about it, but I continued to bear a tremendous amount of displaced guilt for something I was not responsible for. Its hard for me to talk about. The pattern continued, some girl would profess her love for me, when all I thought I was doing was being kind and/or friendly. This is not me trying to get into a blame game. What I found in the process was that a woman’s heart is so intricate, so wonderful, so connected, so incomparable in all the world, but to the average man it appears overbearingly emotional.
I don’t know, any man is doing a bad job, who hopes to gives his life with the ultimate reverent care for the Eucharist, when he can quite easily be irreverent to the girl he is dating, by conclusively ending a relationship so he can discern. I had gone out with a girl, who kept telling me I would make a good priest. Maybe a guy who feels a tug to discern might want to get some input from his girlfriend. I think that is part of discerning, and God may be speaking through her.
I also believe that we also need a very specific and concrete short term single commitment to discern our vocation. Volunteer programs are especially helpful for this. I also, impractically, believe that dating should be put off until adulthood, but anyways, I am not very confident in enforcing this lol!
I think another thing, which is also really difficult is even being around women. I have been attentive to a few young women who really feel cheated by seminarians who play games with their hearts. Sometimes it might just be easier to not talk to associate with any women in general. It is easy for me, perhaps because I know who I am, and where I belong. It is also, perhaps easier, because I am called to celibacy, that it is easy for me to love and be loved in way that is celibate and chaste.
It is important that people who are actually in a seminary, or religious order, have a clear sense of boundaries. For instance, I refuse to individually drink alcohol with single women. I am incredibly conscientious of the time I spend with women and where. So if you cannot have enough personal boundaries, you can do a whole lot of damage as a priest. Women who think a seminarian is attractive, a man without boundaries can do a whole lot of boundaries as a husband and a father.
Finally, I don’t believe having absolutely no contact with the opposite sex is essential to a wholesome life. It is not for me personally. I am of the conviction that women, as Sisters in Christ, will always have a unique gift to offer that God would not offer through any other means. These are usually particular insights that are ought to be uncommon around any group of men, if not that women my be somewhat inherently valuable in essence. But that is just the way I see it. And it does not follow, in my mind, or in my heart, that marriage has anything to do with it.
A balance between the boundaries and genuine appreciation. So when most guys are like frustrated for getting friendzoned, I am like “SUCCESS!!!!”