It was the first time I’d gone to a youngrnadult group married. I was under the naïve impression that the group was arnparochial attempt to envelope young adults in community and enrich theirrnspiritual life through teaching. What I found, however, was a mingling grouprnfor singles with some soft theology on the side. My silver-banded ring fingerrnstuck out like a sore that burned the eyes of those who encountered me. Myrnpresence was, at best, unwanted, at worst, insulting. It brought me back to thernthankless days of seeking a life partner as a Catholic, and the blog post I wasrntoo timid to write then, but safely partnered, feel free to write now.
Sometimes Catholic dating is the absoluternworst. We all have stories. Those gawky young adult group encounters. Those painfullyrnmismatched blind dates. The agonizing relationships. I myself had so many badrnencounters that my Catholic therapist eventually suggested, “I think maybe it’srntime you try dating non-Catholics.” I did not, but it was well-meaning advice.rnShe certainly sat through enough hours of my life to find it a natural recourse.
There was the time a man at a Bible studyrnran after me with a map to his house that he had scrawled on a napkin and arnpicture he drew of his face “so I would recognize him next time.” No phonernnumber. This was odd but I, as many Catholics can probably relate, had becomernused to the many strange sorts of hurried courting rituals that can make singlernlife absolutely uncomfortable.
There was the guy who invited me on a firstrndate to read the Ten Commandments. The boyfriend who told me he would only watchrnmarried porn for Lent. The three guys who entered seminary after dating mern(“You’re single-handedly saving the priest shortage!” my Dad quipped). Therernwas the delusional guitar-playing guy who tried courting me by performing arnsong he wrote for me entitled “Afro Halo.” I wasn’t sure whether to bernflattered or buy new shampoo. Then the guy(s) who asked me on a first date tornMass. That’s always a hard one to get out of, because I was going to go to Massrnanyways but I didn’t think it was fair for him to take the credit.
As a devout Catholic, I saw marital statusrnas so intrinsically tied with my identity in the Church, the result of a Churchrnwith a vocation crisis that so readily boosts vocations it sometimes gives thernimpression that my single life was transitory. A “before” period I had to gornthrough on my way to seeking sainthood.
I felt panicked. A feeling that I’ve foundrnmany in the same position can relate to. The longer I lived singlehood out, thernmore “awkward” I felt in the Church, a cumbersome add-on. As my peers becamernwives, husbands, religious, and parents, the unspoken question hung in everyrnempty conversation, “why haven’t you found your spouse yet?” And the giddyrnolder church ladies always presumed I couldn’t hear their hypotheses, “maybe shernwants to be a nun.” As each day passed, another attractive rosary-praying matchrnwas lost, and a fertility window continued to diminish.
This panic effect is harmful in two ways. First,rnit causes isolation between single, married and religious folks. Each has theirrnown peer group. The “moms” bible study is on Monday mornings and the youngrnadult group is on Friday night at the bar. While it is so crucial torncommiserate with those in your same state in life, I regret that there aren’trnmore opportunities to share a cross-vocational and cross-generational spacerntogether in the Church. When I was single, some of my most spirituallyrnformative moments came from third wheeling at my married friend’s house whilernher little ones ran around. Approaching marriage, my husband and I found greatrnsolace and wisdom in the shared experiences that our friend approaching holyrnorders encountered. And now that I’m married with a child, my friendships withrnsingle friends imbue me with greater spiritual vigor. These were, and are,rnnecessary relationships. They humble our stature in life, widen our scope, andrnground us in a greater perspective.
Secondly, this panic effect made one heck of a bumbling mess of the dating situation. It’s seen in impulsive decisions like running after a girl with a map of your house when the only thing you know about her is that she is ostensibly Catholic. It caused me to spend countless hours in Adoration or Mass eyeing potential husbands instead of authentically immersing myself in worship (“You know you’re holding the Magnificat upside-down right?”). Instead of prayerful, intentional friendshipsrnthat blossom out of shared interests, dates were made with a mere baptismalrncertificate requirement and a nice enough face. “This could work,” I wouldrnthink, “I mean, I could be a Jimmy Buffet fan right?”
There were many painfully mismatched blindrndates made on the Catholic assumption, “He’s a nice Catholic boy.” And it madernme feel guilty, as if that criterion should let all the others fall to thernwayside. I wanted a nice Catholic boy, but I wanted to marry the right one. Thernone who could make me laugh changing a diaper at three in the morning. The onernwho could make a date at a Wendy’s in a cultural wasteland feel like a 5-starrnrestaurant. The one who could selflessly hold my hair through months ofrnhyperemesis. I’ve found that most married nights are not spent smoking pipesrnwhile chortling about Chesterton like I dreamily thought they might. And mostrnmarried mornings are not spent humming the Lord of the Rings soundtrack whilernmaking your spouse breakfast (like he may dream they might). So it’s crucial tornfind a deep spiritual ally, the one you want to share life’s difficulties with.rnGod wants you to find them.
In the throes of single life I felt like Irnwas pleading with a withholding God who enjoyed dangling the promise ofrnmarriage in front of me. On the contrary. I remember a priest told me that wernhave a God who pursues the love of our life with a greater fierceness than evenrnour panicked selves could muster. He said to picture him picking up his robesrnto run with holy haste to make our desires reality.
This is the hope: dating will end. Yourrnspouse could not be in greater hands. And while the mystery of the delay mayrnnever be revealed, we can trust that it will be relieved. Like it was for mernthe moment I sat next to my husband on our wedding day listening to the readingrnwe picked,
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come! For see, the winter is past! The rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth…” (Song of Songs 2: 10-12)
Casey McCorry is a digital associate for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, a documentary filmmaker, wife and mother.
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