Growing up almost everyone meets that “one person”. That one person who would be so perfect for us, if only we had met at some other point in our lives. ‘If only we had met before I got wild and crazy’, ‘if only we had met five years from now when I am ready to settle down’, ‘if only we had met when they were single’, etc. Growing up Catholic there is one other type of person you almost always meet, that one person who would be so perfect if only they weren’t discerning.
The first rule of dating as a Catholic in college: don’t chase the future seminarian/don’t pursue the future nun.
If you grow up in a predominantly Catholic region of the country you are likely to struggle with this dilema more than once. One thing incredibly unique about the Catholic Church is the requirement of religious leaders to live chaste lives. For a lot of outsiders looking in this raises questions about how Catholic religious leaders are able to council Catholics on relationships and what kind of views they are able to have towards love. Anyone who reads my blog knows there is no bigger stranger to love than I. Love is a concept I simply feel as if I will never understand, the idea of one day falling in love with someone seems so foreign I often question if I have a fear of love or simply an inability to feel such an emotion. That being said some of the most hopeless romantics I have ever met are my friends who are discerning religious life.
I personally believe it is possible for a Catholic religious leader to be such a hopeless romantic because they have already fallen in love with someone who could not be any more perfect. I look towards my discerning friends with a sense of wonder the way a child looks at a super hero. After the end of an abusive relationship where I had repeatedly attempted to convince one of my discerning friends I was in love he suggested I read Men, Women and the Mystery of Love – Practical Insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility by Edward Sri. Based on my eventual conclusion of “I don’t believe in falling in love” I put off reading the book until just now.
I assumed based on my choice to remove myself from the romantic world the book would fall on deaf ears had I started it prior to now. I assumed that without a relationship to apply it to the book would seem wasted on a possibility I would not experience until far in the future. I assumed that without a belief in romantic love I would find the book unrelatable. Instead I have found myself comparing every friendship I have ever experienced to the types of relationships outlined by Pope John Paul II. I have found myself questioning the value of every friendship I currently surround myself with. I have found myself questioning the treatment I receive from various people claiming to be my friends. Most importantly I have found myself coming to the conclusion that I don’t believe I am capable of falling in love because the person I should ultimately fall in love with does not exist.
Very few people in my life know that at one point in time I was ‘that one person’ who was discerning religious life. At two very distinct points in my life I found myself making arrangements to tour convents and exploring the possibility of pursuing a religious education. At two other points in my life I very clearly was heading in the direction of taking a position in religious leadership. At this point in my life I have clearly strayed away from the path of discerning because while I have not ultimately ruled out the possibility of my entering religious life, I know with certainty it is not what I am called to do at this time. Perhaps in the future when I am once again eligible to enter religious life I will receive a call, until then I shall continue to ponder the human pursuit of love and why I find myself immune.
Why not go out on a limb, that is where the fruit is.