Dating the “discerning” man…

… “I’m discerning a vocation”. When I, as a single woman hear those words from a man, especially one I’m interested in or dating, they get interpreted as the Catholic equivalent to “it’s not you, it’s me”. I hear them and move on. In fact, I’d go as so far to say whenever I hear a man is discerning a vocation I immediately place him in my Friend Zone and he becomes off romantic limits. There’s a whole slew of men like this on Catholic Match. I’d wager they’re over there on Ave Maria too.

I respect a man’s desire to consider the priesthood. I encourage it. Lord knows we can always use more wonderful priests. Don’t let me get in the way of that. I wonder, and I’m just wondering out loud here, why they do that though- why do men who are considering whether they have a calling place personal ads on dating sites and extend dinner invitations to women? A genuine calling to serve the Lord isn’t supposed to be a second choice… if I can’t find a wife I guess there’s nothing else to do but become a priest.

In all fairness women do this too. They think, “if I don’t get married by 40 I guess I’ll become a nun”. Even I’ve entertained thoughts of getting to a nunnery, but when I was honest with myself those thoughts were not serious. Usually my desires are accompanied by the need for spiritual solitude and prayer. Once those needs are met, in adoration or at a retreat, the desire to take the habit disappears. So maybe this is why so many of my married friends tell me not to immediately discount a man who says he’s considering a vocation. Maybe, they say, the man is only in need of spiritual rejuvenation or a partner that will help live his faith more profoundly. Fair enough. I suppose.

My married friends also encourage me to not give up on the discerning man because they are obviously pious men. They claim men who are discerning before saying “I do” make the most wonderful husbands. They become men and fathers who are unafraid to be the spiritual head of their domestic church. Of course this sounds tempting and attractive to women looking for this very thing. And I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth – when a happily married women takes her time to give me, a singleton, her married advice I listen attentively.

But I can’t help but wonder, especially when not every married woman holds the same thoughts as my friends. My go-to-girl for all things Single Woman is Dorothy Cummings who blogs at Seraphic Singles. She strongly cautions against dating the discerning and has written extensively on the topic.

I tend to agree with Mrs. Cummings on this. I truly feel that someone considering a genuine vocation needs to figure all that out before throwing a personal ad up online or chat up women in mass. What do you think? I’m I wrong to think they should be working with a spiritual director before trying to start a relationship? It’s that thinking that leads me believe the “I’m discerning” bit is a man’s attempt at politely letting a woman know he’s not interested in her without hurting her feelings.

I also look at vocations like relationships; the ultimate relationship between God and man. A woman wouldn’t start a relationship with a man who admitted to her he was unsure about relationship with another woman. She’d tell him to figure out what he wants first and call her, maybe, when he’s decided.

And finally, here’s a thing – women like, no we love, men who know exactly what it is they want. A man who doesn’t know and dates while he is “discerning” is a man who simply has not made a firm decision and cannot commit to whether he wants a wife or he wants the collar. Very few woman, myself included, find the trait of indecisiveness attractive. Granted there are women who enjoy a challenge but I’m not one of them. I’m too old for challenges, games, and indecisiveness. And for that reason I label this post under the “Why I’m Still Single” category.

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • http://twitter.com/byzcathwife priest’s wife

    discern celibacy ‘versus’ marriage first— I get the feeling that lots of men decide they want to be a priest and figure that they can ‘handle’ the celibacy requirement. A Roman-rite priest’s celibacy, while perhaps a challenge, should be a positive thing- and I don’t think anyone should be on catholic match when they think that celibacy might be their vocation

  • guest

    as someone who survived a fail engagement to a guy who was “done” discerning and had left the seminary, I had a negative experience. There was a lot of turmoil, it was a tough relationship. Looking back, neither of us were happy people and I knew at the time he wasn’t happy with his life in general, he was always unhappy.  We stayed together way too long because we were both catholic. That was it. While its nice to think that our religion was a bond, it really wasn’t. It was an ugly relationship but I don’t begrudge or hate him for it. I think we both found what we really needed in life and moved on, but it was hard. I would definitely caution a daughter or single woman to be pleasant, remain friends, pray for the discerner but keep some distance. Its not worth the heartache.

  • N.Garcia

    I kind of get the impression (as a guy), if a guy STARTS  in a relationship - obviously not via dating site - with casually dropping “I’m discerning if I have a vocation to the religious life” somewhere in conversating, it will hook a woman of caliber. I say this as a single catholic noob having witnessed such only once…but I’m trying to ‘discern’ all the Catholic dating hacks I can.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      Interesting. It never, in a million years, would have occurred to me that men might use that line to weed out women who would not be interested in a practicing Catholic man, completely unaware they are running good women off. 

      • N.Garcia

        I’m not going to suggest that it hadn’t occurred to you *as a woman* (or as a million year old woman), perhaps as a particular person in a particular circumstance (using a dating site – probably not exclusively), it didn’t occur to you, but it might occur to some guys, also in certain circumstances to mention it about them, as a truth of their path. I should have clarified that “relationships” often do develop from merely Catholic social circles, where ya might drop something like “I considered the priesthood, but I don’t think it’s my CALLING” (vs. “*I* want 6-digits and a family)”. But in a dating site? - I agree with many other voices here.

        Only half in jest did it cross my mind as a “hack” to drop the P bomb(the guy who’d  done it…well, this chica he’s engaged to now is…blessed with..blessedness, I can tell you), but as someone who is OPEN to various ways of living a family life (that is NOT to say ‘undecided’ about the future - but is to say open to a frugal family life of mission, relief work, social justicey stuff, for ex) - expressing the ‘extreme’ as something you HAVE *seriously* considered, doesn’t necessarily state “not the marrying kind” or Charlie Brown ‘wishywashy’. It can express how seriously you take your faith and how open you are or seek to be to God’s guidance, over one’s own “ambitions” and “decisiveness”.  But not on a dating site.

        • N.Garcia

          related to ‘discerning’ people and marriage – I have to admit, one of the thoughts I was left with after the March for Life was that I REALLY wanted to date a nun. Of course they’re all taken. It wasn’t  [just] the modest habits (can’t says I’d be drawn to the pratical short haircuts, pastel scarves and blazers of the ‘other’ nuns present). The resolve, the whooping and hollering joy I watched…frankly, I don’t see that in so much of that life commitment with the young cath women I’ve been around who may judge *themselves* decidedly decided about their future. If people who resolve to dating and a calling to the married life had the nuns joy and zeal and…dang blast it! – MOXY (language!)…I think we’d have more and stronger marriages. Already being married is probably part of their uninhibited joy, etc, but I haven’t seen that in plenty of married catholics lives. I wonder if the “hook up” culture and feverish materialism will actually cause a backlash surge in vocations.

  • Guest

    For what it’s worth (and granted, it’s just my own experience) – I was discerning a vocation at the time I met my husband. I told him at that time that I was discerning and that I didn’t feel that we should date because of that. However, my Spiritual Director suggested that I revisit that idea. He told me that part of discerning my vocation was discerning what vocation God had for me – not just whether I should be a sister, but whether I should be married. I needed to be just as open to the idea of marriage as I was to that of religious life if I truly wanted to be open to God’s will.  So, he suggested that I go out on a couple of dates and just see what happened. The rest is history… =-)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      I’m glad you had a happy ending. I’m still a bit horrified a Spiritual Director would tell someone discerning to “play the field” though. 

      • Guest

        I don’t think it was really a matter of “playing the field” and I know that the advice my Spiritual Director gave was specific to me – he definitely doesn’t suggest that approach to everyone. But, in my particular circumstance, he knew my backstory and I do believe that God gives Spiritual Directors the wisdom they need for those they counsel. My Spiritual Director knew I had a vocation to marriage before I did – and he gave me a nudge in that direction.

  • Lydia Cubbedge

     Oh, the fun men and women I know have had with devotees of Our Lady of Perpetual Discernment! I think the problem isn’t so much the men genuinely discerning but the ones who can’t make up their minds.  A good friend seriously dated a guy who, one week, was talking marriage and the next was saying they needed to break up so he could discern. Now, that wouldn’t be a problem except that a month later he was dating another woman. And then he broke up with her so he could discern. There seems to be a problem among these guys (and gals) about figuring out God’s will, a kind of fear of making a great big mistake and a need to GET IT RIGHT.

    If you’re really pursuing a vocation you don’t have any business putting up a profile on a dating website. It’s disingenuous, to say the least. It’s like saying “I’m dating the Church, but she won’t mind if I take you out, too. Right?” If you’re on a dating website, people will (and should) assume you mean to discern the vocation of marriage, which actually does take a lot of prayer and effort.

  • Robert King

    Marriage is a vocation, too; it also requires discernment just as seriously as a religious or clerical vocation. I think people often make the mistake of seeing religous/priestly life as “serious discernment” but marriage as something you just follow your feelings into.

    I was dating a lovely woman in college, and mentioned to her that I had sometimes thought of being a priest. She recognized this as a case of trying to discern mutually exclusive vocations. Her words, “That’s not fair,” still ring in my mind. It wasn’t; it was unjust to her, and inconsiderate of her discernment of marriage. It was my selfish attempt to have my cake and eat it too. It was very humbling to be confronted with my faults, and looking back I certainly could have handled it better.

    She’s now married to a great guy and they have lovely kids.

    I went to seminary for a few years before discovering that, well, I didn’t seem called to clerical ministry. So now, belatedly, I’m taking marriage seriously as a vocational discernment. Oddly enough, I think of it as sacrificing the comforts of celibacy for the greater good of a family.

    In the very early stages of discernment, someone can hold both marriage and celibacy in a kind of theoretical tension. But once someone has decided to look at all seriously at a vocation (whether by dating someone or by building a relationship with an Order or a diocese), then it’s time to stop looking at mutually exclusive vocations – until there’s a firm “No” on the one being looked at. Otherwise, it’s deceiving oneself and probably hurting someone else.

  • Jon

    And when Father Vocations Director says, “You’re sure about this? How do you know, have you dated any women?” How should young Mr. Discerning respond?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      How many dates Mr. Discerning has *before* considering a religious vocation is different than a man in the middle of the discernment process and continues to date – to whom I refer. 

      I noticed some comments that spiritual directors were actually encouraging the discerning to date. There’s this one wholly confusing article on Catholic Match, to give an example- http://www.catholicmatch.com/blog/2012/07/advice-from-my-spiritual-director-saying-no-to-a-second-date/

      BTW- for a Catholic dating site their writers give HORRIBLE advice. I’m constantly dismayed and flabbergasted at what they publish over there. 

      • Seraphic

        Ahem. Hello. It is a dating site, Kat. A business. The whole point to asite is to get people to hand over their $15 a month or whatever it is. Of course they would want discerners to date, especially if it means giving CM their $15. 

    • http://twitter.com/HouseUnseen Dwija Borobia

      No one asked me, when I decided to marry, whether or not I’d discerned if  I was called to the religious life instead.  One doesn’t have to sample all the possible vocations in life before choosing the one God is calling them to just as a woman doesn’t have to date every man she sees before knowing who she’s called to marry.  So to say that a responsible man must  “discern” a possible vocation to the priesthood at the same time has he “discerns” a possible vocation to marriage is just silly.  

    • Seraphic

      Mr Discerning should talk about the great female friends he has, and all the women he worked with on school projects, and what he learned about women from his mother, sisters, friends, and what he learned about marriage from his parents and married relationships, and what he learned just from having crushes on girls, even if he never actually dated them. 

      Mr Discerning should also figure out if Father Vocations Director is actually asking him if he has SAS, so that he can tell Father Vocations Director that he does not have SAS.  

      It is not fair to date girls just so you can “prove” to Father Vocations Director that you are not gay. It is not fair to use girls as a means to ANY end.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mary.kotomski Mary Kotomski

    I don’t know why we as Catholics feel compelled to only date Catholic guys. Down here in Florida, there aren’t any single Catholic guys. So why not look to other Christian guys instead of remaining single forever. It’s not a sin to marry a man who isn’t a Catholic. I think that a lot of single  Catholic women are shutting themselves off from a large dating pool of good and Christian men by only wanting to date Catholic men. We have a young adult group at the two Catholic churches in the city where I live and there are only women in them.

    • D_erford

       Hello, Mary.  It is not a sin to marry someone who is not Catholic, and while mixed marriages do sometimes work, there are many problems that arise from them if both partners are serious about their faith.  Do the kids get baptized as infants?  Which church do they go to?  Will the Protestant parent allow the children to go to Confession or receive the Eucharist?  The issues for the parents are hard enough, but even more confusing for the children who must ask themselves if either of their parents’ churches are the true church since the parents cannot agree themselves.  For consistency and a more powerful witness to the Truth, both parents should be the same faith.

    • Daftpunkett

      Mary, I agree with the other reply. I’m replying on my cell phone so bear with me. I am married to an agnostic. We are very happy, I married him because I love him. We have a great relationship, he respects my faith and agreed to raise our children catholic. But here is the sad and unknown outcome of marrying an agnostic, one day I overhear him telling our toddler, in a sweet and kind way, that mommy’s first love is Jesus. I realize that there is a gap between us, we arent fully united in our hearts through faith. I see him struggle to understand my commitment to my faith, I see him struggle with understanding what faith is. I think my spiritual life perplexs him and leaves a barrier between us. I always invite him to be part of my world but I never pressure or force it. I always pray that God gives him the gift of faith. Now imagine two people completely united in faith and love, neither one struggling to understand an interior life of the other. That is one reason (and the best one I can give) why you should look more favorablely on marrying within the faith.

      • http://www.facebook.com/mary.kotomski Mary Kotomski

         I would love to marry within the faith, but the problem is is that there is no longer a dating pool of single Catholic men. You either get men that are old or ones that are married. I can’t see myself marrying a man who doesn’t believe in God. But I’m tired of being alone. I k now that Florida isn’t the best place to find anyone. More and more people are either shacking up with each other, or they are having children out of wedlock. I’m not looking for anyone right now since I’m unemployed and in college full-time. I have enough on my plate for now. Also, I’m now 40 and probably will never find anyone since men want women younger than 40 for purposes of having a family. When I was younger, I was too fat and ugly to meet guys so I just stayed home. I tried Catholic Match and never got to a in-person meeting. Also, there were far too many people who lacked a sense of humor. After seeing “Who the Bleep did I marry,” I’m afraid that online dating isn’t the best option.

  • D.A. Howard

    As a dating man. I discerned priesthood in  my twenties. Then I discerned marriage in my early thirties. The only vocation of which I was sure was the permanent diaconate. I wanted to get married for practical reasons. 

    I think I have found my future wife, but am not sure right now. I have never met a woman I loved more. She is the reason I think I have a vocation to marriage. She is awesomeness on sliced bread. I would NEVER confuse her with the discernment issue, it would not be fair. Men should know which vocation they hsve  before they date. Marriage is a vocation, not a backup plan. Give  the women you date the respect of knowing what you want. It is not right to leave them hanging.

    If someone thinks they have a vocation it can be settled in a year. Fasting, prayer, days of recollection, retreats and a spiritual director all help clear things up. After doing on these I knew I did not want the priesthood or religious life. I belong to a secular order now (we can marry) and have found my place in life. That is when the vocation to marriage bloomed in my heart.

    Fellow men, get your heads on straight. Do not lead women on or keep them hanging. They DO want to get married. Be respectful, they have a vocation to manage as well.

    God bless all you women who pursue marriage. We need holy mothers and wives. Be prayerful, respectful and a sacred vessel of the Lord. I will keep you in my rosary.

  • Greg

    I’d like to start out by saying that women do the same thing when discerning a vocation to the religious life. I know a wonderful sister who dated a man the entire time she was
    discerning her call to monastic life. At the end of it the man proposed
    and she had to make the final decision. She chose monastic life.

    The fact of the matter is that dating is largely how you discern a call to the marriage life, in much the same way that a trip to a monastery or seminary might be factors in discerning a call to a religious vocation. As long as marriage hasn’t been eliminated as a possible vocation, a man (or woman) probably should date to get as much of the experience that they can (shy of doing anything sinful obviously) and see if they’re being called to it.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it doesn’t see practical to me to tell people to assume celibacy until proven otherwise, especially since most people will probably decide on marriage. That’s just my thoughts on the matter.

    • Miss Doyle

      It isn’t practical to assume celibacy until proven otherwise?
      I think it’s entirely practical! Dating shouldn’t mean not being celibate.

  • Brad

    Hi Katrina, I can only contribute here by stating, for whatever it’s worth (ok, probably not much!): a well-meaning woman should try to remember (for her own sanity’s sake!) that the male brain is quite simple (which, as a man, I don’t use as a pejorative term): if the bachelor wanted to be married, he’d be married, pretty much.  If he wanted to be a priest, he’d be a priest, pretty much.  If he is neither, he is happy with being a lay bachelor on a gestalt level.  If he has persevered (notice how that word implies that it took quite some effort on his part, even if that effort was subconscious) in maintaining his bachelorhood, he will have some (often!) regrets and wistful moments of what-might-have-been, but those moments will not be sharp enough to move him into changing his state of life, assuming there is still even time to do so.  The well-meaning woman should, in my opinion, not waste her time with him, despite any advice she is given, or gives herself, to the contrary.

    May God bless you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      Magnificent, straight forward advice that every woman needs to hear. Especially at my age, the mid-thirties, a man who’s lived half his adult life and STILL has no idea… run, run very fast. 

      • Juarez

        My husband used to treat me really bad, and he was always jealous at me. My life was a hell… Well not anymore, I purchased the “Mars comprehend” 2 weeks ago, and I should say that though the results weren’t immediate he changed for good sooner than I expected! He bis treating me like a princess now and he seems to be deeply in love with me! I’ve never saw him like this, GREAT JOB! prophetharry@ymail.com. Juarez. Portugal.

  • Jim

    Having discerned a vocation and having entered major seminary (I didn’t finish), I can fully understand why a man would continue to date while doing so: to avoid tunnel vision that becomes a self-fulfilling  manifestation of his own will, rather than a discernment of God’s will in his life.  If you only give yourself one option, there’s not much true discernment going on; rather, it’s walking an already-determined path.  If you do that, finding out at some point later that this indeed isn’t the path for you is that much more crushing.  And it may be even worse if that only option was due to the people around you taking all other options away from you.

    During the early stages of my discernment, I continued to date a wonderful lady who was fully supportive of my search.  Ultimately, yes, we had to break up when my discernment led me to another path, but we remain close friends to this day in large part due to her support during that time.

    Even time in seminary is an ongoing discernment.  Some seminaries have a dropout rate as high as 40-50% as the men continue to figure out their paths; one gentleman in my class didn’t complete the first semester.

    So, lighten up a bit on men who seek God’s will in their lives.  It’s not an easy task.  We need people to support us, not to walk away from us.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=741582747 Hilary Jane Margaret White

       Why on earth would you do that to a woman you cared about?

      • catholic101

        The answer to that question Ms. White is selfishness.  Some people only care about themselves.  Me, me, me is what’s #1, not God or God’s creatures. 

      • Jim

        Because the nature of discernment is not knowing which direction is right.  You’re trying to figure it out.  I was already seeing her when I began the discernment, and the closeness of the relationship and having someone who supported me in my search was quite helpful as I tried to see more clearly what was going on in my life.  As I began my discernment, for all I knew I’d remain with her; with that possibility, it would have been ludicrous to break up.  It was only once the discernment got to the point of choosing which path to follow that the decision had to be made–and at that point I made it so that both of us could move forward.

        Discernment doesn’t begin with “I’m going to be a priest” on the first day.  It’s a long process, and during the early “I want to know more, so that I can figure this out” it’s perfectly reasonable to be gathering the same “I want to know more” about the alternatives as well.  It’s only at the point that a decision need be made as to which path to follow that the other must be abandoned.

        • ceani

          Jim, I too have been discerning the priesthood and have been in the major seminary. Some of what you have said earlier resonates with me – the 40-50% drop off rate, the need for support, etc. However, I have to disagree wholeheartedly with the idea that you should be able to date as you’re in the seminary because you already are dating. I’ve always looked at my seminarian experience as being already in a relationship with a very old (2000 year old) girlfriend. As some people have already pointed out, dating someone else is totally unfair both to her and to the Church. That “tunnel vision” that you’ve alluded to is actually the exact attitude you need to take to the seminary, just as it is the attitude you’d be taking when discerning marriage with your fiancé. Then just as you will find out, with your fiancé whether it is truly your vocation to be married or not, so too you’ll have to trust that God will show you whether this call to the priesthood is genuine or not. Can’t do both. :)

        • Miss Doyle

          You’re right about the nature of discernment – but consider dating as another form of discernment too – to marriage.
          You can’t give your full attention to one if you’re trying out something else as well.
          That’s just not fair – it’s not all about you!

    • Charlotte

       Read this again, Jim, and try to imagine how it sounds. It’s a little disconcerting to hear such an unabashedly utilitarian attitude towards another person coming from a potential priest. You’d deliberately play with another person’s feelings because you want to keep your options open? Not good.

    • Lydia Cubbedge

       Having relationships with people who are supportive is one thing. It’s another thing entirely to get a woman’s hopes up by labeling your support relationship as dating. You can have a supportive, caring, affectionate relationship that is strictly friends without the romantic angle. If you fall for each other, great! If you don’t, no harm no foul.

  • tthomasaquinas

    I’m a seminarian, and I wanted to comment on this issue. I know what you’re saying and I sympathize with you in a way. But yet, I also kind of found my current vocational path through dating.

    When I was graduating High School, I had had little contact with dating life, and was basically already planning my ordination day. If anything, I was one of those ones that a spiritual director should of said “you should date first.” However God got a hold of me first. It was through struggling to interact well with my girlfriend, and a two year period of being single and wrestling with God’s Will in my life that my vocation to priesthood matured and brought me where I’m at today. 

    First of all, I want to say that I would see great value in a priest discerning a vocation by dating a nice young Catholic woman. I was told by a Fransiscan priest from Mother Angelica’s order that Mother Angelica even said that she didn’t want any members of her community to join without experiencing that interaction with the other sex. There’s a value to the dating process insofar as a man is brought closer to Christ through the sharing of his time with a good Catholic woman who is willing to be a formator and for a period of time, a companion. A good spiritual director discerns that with his directee and knows what’s best for his growth and maturity, even if it means taking some time off of formal formation to struggle in the real world.

    However, I do want to say that there are guys who hear that and think “I need to check this off my list.” There are guys who uses “discerning a vocation” as a way of saying “It’s not you its me.” (I know of a guy who said that he was discerning a vocation, broke up with a girl, and then never entered a seminary.) Unfortunately, guys play that card as a way of saying that they don’t want to be committed to deeply to any relationship. And I think that those guys are cowards who lose sense of why they are “discerning a vocation” or why their spiritual director told them to take a break. Dating should be unpredictable, and personally, if a spiritual director does say counsel a man to leave in order to “date,” he should not be concerned with coming back in a year, or checking off advice of his spiritual director, but to actually fall into the unknown, the real Will of God, and not the “will of God that isn’t really God’s will but my will.”

    ALL MEN should be discerning God’s Will, and ANY single man on the face of this earth might be called at any time to be a priest. But any man who I believe puts too much emphasis on letting women know that they are “discerning” is not doing God’s Will, but his own. 

    • Robert King

      Sed contra, the Church has constantly taught that woman has equal dignity with man.

      Respondeo, the problem with “a priest discerning a vocation by dating a nice young Catholic woman” is that the woman is meanwhile discerning marriage to that nice young Catholic man, and therefore the discernment is not mutual. A discernment that is not mutual is inherently unjust to at least one of those in the relationship. And injustice is a … let’s say it’s a less-than-ideal basis for a vocation to priesthood or religious life.

      If you’re going to date someone, give them the respect of putting priesthood/religious life on the back burner. If you’re going to pursue priesthood or religious life, give the Church the respect of putting marriage on the back burner.

      • tthomasaquinas

        I agree with you 100%. If you’re going to date someone, she deserves the respect of being the person who commands your focus. You’re not even truly discerning God’s Will properly if you’re holding something back, no matter what the vocation is. But, everyone does have to realize that there is one person whose opinion really matters, and if He calls you to something other than what you’re doing right now, it is your responsibility to do whatever He tells you.

    • Seraphic

      LUCKY GIRL! Being ditched by a guy who decided he wanted to be a priest instead will not have hurt her AT ALL! She will certainly not be thinking this afterwards when she goes without a date or a boyfriend for months or years afterwards. And she will not at all feel used when she finds out that spiritual authorities counsel men to use women to find out if they could be good priests. Oh, did I say use?  How about “implement”? How about “interact”? 

      • Tony

        When you are dating, you are deciding if the woman is right for you, and she is deciding if you’re right for her.  There are a number of things that can be deal breakers.  Either one can discover character flaws that are not able to be overlooked.  Either can decide that the other “just isn’t right” for them.  The woman can decide she has a call to religious life, or the man can decide he has a call to the priesthood.  Dating is for discovering impediments to marriage.  A vocation to the priesthood is definitely an impediment to marriage.

      • tthomasaquinas

        Well, if you’re referring to my relationship, you’re absolutely right. She’s not only a lucky girl, she’s a very smart one. She dumped me, not for deciding that I wanted to be a priest, but by not being courageous enough to stand up for her. I would have dumped me too. I just want to be clear, it was not MY choice to go into the seminary that caused our breakup. In fact, she used the discernment card on me. But you are exactly right for using the word “use.” 

      • catholic101

        I don’t believe in karma because I’m a Christian, but I know  men who have done this to women and the women they burned are married and happy while they are depressed and miserable.  These discerning men dated various women for a long time, realized that they didn’t want to be priest until a late age, and by then, were nearly 40 and desperate.  The women they ended-up marrying all were the kind that a man with high standards would not consider in a million years.  My advice to discerning men that if it takes you a long time to realize that your vocation is marriage, don’t lower your standards just because your biological clock is ticking. No good will come of it and your family will lose all respect for you.  Trust me. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000820240057 David Rudmin

    Actually, I don’t think there’s a problem with dating AND discerning a vocation.    I was the opposite extreme, avoiding women like the plague, and not one, but several priests told me that I needed to interact with the opposite sex, (1) so that I can know what I’m giving up if I choose to be a priest, (2) so that I’ll have a healthier, more integral and organic form of chastity than just total avoidance, (3) because I may ‘give it a go,’ and REALLY discover that I’m not called to marriage AT ALL, in which case I am that much freer to give my heart to my vocation, without regrets.  You have to ‘test the water’ in  both pools, to see which you flourish in, the best.

    • Robert King

      One doesn’t need to date in order to interact with the opposite sex. It is entirely possible to have close, celibate friendships between men and women. Attraction may or may not become a factor, but it is not an insuperable obstacle.

      • catholic101

        So how was this fair to the women that you were told to be dating?

    • Peregrinus

      See my comment to Tony Tellez above, David.

    • Miss Doyle

      Sorry David but that logic is rubbish.
      It’s almost the same as when someone argues ‘you can’t possibly know what it’s like if you haven’t done x, y or z’.
      If God calls you to one particular vocation, He won’t give you the ability to seriously entertain thoughts and feelings for another. He will give you the grace needed to concentrate on the one He has in mind for you.

  • YIM Catholic

    Some of the best guys available aren’t even Catholic, so they aren’t “discerning a vocation.” Some of them marry a Catholic and then, BAM!, against all odds, become Catholics too.  Don’t be closed to the miraculous. ;)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      Frank, don’t make me come over there and shoot you for giving such horrendous advice! I’m too old to date or marry “potential” or a man with the hopes he’ll convert in the future and I am never going to advise any woman – no matter how young – to even consider the same. 

      Bad! Bad, Frank! 

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yimcatholic/ Frank Weathers

        I reckon I married a saint, or something. We just fell in love and then I finally came around.  The Lord works in mysterious ways, and on His own time. :D

    • Tewkes

      Well, that is exactly what happened to me! As I was attending RCIA, my husband got tired of waiting out in the cold truck (I don’t drive, long story) for the class to end, so he started coming in to keep warm in the back of the class. One thing led to another, then suddenly we both were welcomed into the Catholic Church April 15, 2006!

  • Michelle

    When my husband and I started dating I had no idea he was discerning the priesthood.  I was swept off my feet shortly after we met and was madly in love with him.  He felt the same too.    He then broke it to me that applying to seminary was just something he felt he had to do.  I was devastated.  I felt betrayed and I think rightly so.   I kept dating him not knowing what to expect.  It was agonizing.  He was not accepted into the seminary and we viewed that as God’s way of telling us we were meant to be.  We have been married eight years and have four children.   I’m not sure if we went about it the right way or not.  Right or wrong that’s the way it happened for us and we’re sure glad we found each other.  I’m also glad that he does not have the lingering “what if” concerning a religious life because he applied and gave it his best.

  • Mr. B

    As a man preparing for marriage and who has discerned the priesthood in the past (discovered that I really really want to have children of my own with one special someone), I definitely agree that someone who is still “discerning a vocation” really should not be on a dating website. If you still aren’t sure that you feel a call to marriage, you shouldn’t seek out that call. A religious vocation should never be a “well I guess” decision. If you feel a deep desire to be married, there’s a good chance that that’s exactly what God is calling you to… and by continually ignoring that and telling people “I’m discerning a vocation” when you really feel like you are called to marriage only makes it harder for the one God has made for you to find you because you aren’t truly opening yourself to His call!

    And guys, if you think saying that you’re “currently discerning a vocation” to try and enamor women, it really doesn’t work. You should show your commitment to God by following His call and being a good man. Being a good “maybe priest” is not the same as being a good potential husband, they are two different vocations. Show that you’re a gentleman, that you respect women, and that you love God. That’s all you need. 

    Furthermore, if you’re saying this because you really do feel called to religious life, but want to do a “just in case”, again, you’re ignoring God’s call and delaying your own happiness in life. He calls us to our vocations for a reason, because He knows what’s best for us. Don’t try and force ambivalence, trust God.

  • yawsep1587

    Well, no worries if he’s a Melkite Catholic or a member of another Eastern Catholic church that ordains married men! :)

  • Fr. Jim

    Gentlemen, some direction.  Pick one or the other.  Discerning while dating or dating while discerning is the surest way drive yourself and those around you batty.  One cannot be of two minds and meet the needs of his beloved.  It’s like having a conversation at a restaurant when the person you’re with keeps looking past you to see if someone else more interesting is in the room.  Its not only rude but makes you look like an conceited idiot.  There, hope I wasn’t too direct.

  • Filiusdextris

    I can see why the indecision wouldn’t be ideal, but I can think there are a bazillion other things more important to complain about in a guy before this.  If he is seriously considering a vocation to the priesthood, that’s more likely than not a ton of faults that other Catholic women looking to date don’t have to deal with.

    • Miss Doyle

      Don’t kid yourself! Priests were and still are human like the rest of us – along with all the faults!

  • Guest

    I don’t think it is fair to lead a lady on. If you are discerning, then discern, but don’t toy with a woman’s emotions in the process.  How selfish can a man be? I guess when his mommy told him he was special, he took that to a whole new level. 

  • Richard J White

    Dating should be considered just as valid  a “discernment” of a vocation as seminary is… Why do we demean the fully valid sacrament and VOCATION of marriage by downing men and even women for fully being open to God’s Will? Until I just got engaged a couple weeks ago,  I considered our dating a very serious form of discerning God’s Will… My now fiancee also considered it part of her discerning God’s Will for our lifelong vocation. I am excited and relieved that through many different forms of response we are now on our way towards marriage, but I think the Catholic Church severly shortchanges those in the married life by making it some sort of default after choosing not to be a priest, brother or sister. Time we set aside this ridiculous notion that the only people who should be discerning God’s will in their relationship status and future are those considering the religous life and ordination. Time to start making sure the same level of faithful prayer and spiritual direction goes not only into deciding whether we are called to marriage but also who is in God’s Will to be our spouse. Vocations directors for the most part focus the overwhelming majority of their efforts on priesthood while ignoring the much more common and arguably far more vital in today’s world of a healthy spiritual and fatihful man and woman making a holy husband and wife and eventually inspiring mothers and fathers for the next generation of Catholic Christians.

    • Skorlan

      If you think people who are called to marriage have a problem with spiritual directors who believe the religious life is the only true vocation, you should be grateful that you were not called to the single life. I cannot number the times someone has suggested that I should really be a sister. To which I can only reply that I didn’t work my way down from second soprano to tenor my freshman year in high school because I preferred the company of women.

      All of the vocations in the church are important. God chooses one of them for each of us, and if we spend a fair amount of time in prayer we will soon know which one is right for us. Of course with marriage there is also that little complication of with whom, but generally you should be able to determine which calling fits you.

      • Hanna

        Since my last boyfriend left I felt so lonely. I wished for my heart to be filled with love and happiness and prophetharry did that! I have met my lover again unexpected and we agreed to come back together as one, It seems that the Gods are smiling at me and prophet harry is the reason why. I will be his faithful follower for ever. Hanna, UK

  • Chryseus

    I was on AMS for years and found more than a couple of men who told me they were “discerning” after we started dating.  One man told me he thought he had a call to the priesthood after a year and a half of dating and just prior to our anticipated engagement (he never did pursue the religious life).  While I cannot state the motives of these men with any certainty, I suspect that it was a cop out, or fear, or both.  These were not young men just out of college, these were men in their 40′s and 50′s.  It seems to be the Catholic way of getting out of a relationship while still smelling like a rose! After all, it’s the priesthood, an extremely noble pursuit. It’s like a man breaking up with you because he says he has to go fight a war in some distant land.  It hurts, the woman is left alone, angry and confused, and he is the conquering hero riding off into the sunset.  I would say stay away from men who are “discerning.” 

    I am now engaged to the man I know, without a doubt, is the one the Lord has intended for me.  We did not meet through the internet, we live in the same city and we were right under each other’s noses for years. It wasn’t until God’s perfect timing through some crazy circumstances that we ended up meeting and eventually courting. He believes firmly that the Holy Spirit didn’t just nudge, but shoved him to me. He wasn’t even looking for a wife, but was receptive to God’s will. When he hears about friends searching for a mate through the internet or wherever, he says, “God doesn’t need your help to find you a spouse.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      I’m glad you found that happy ending, you deserve it after being put through all that. And yes, I agree. Using the discernment card is often used as a means of exiting a relationship while smelling like a rose. Aptly put. 

  • http://twitter.com/Roseblue Suzanne Fortin

    Why waste a woman’s time? Seriously? Why do that? If you’re a woman and you KNOW you have a vocation to marriage, why waste time with someone who may not be worth the investment? It’s really selfish to date a woman who’s keen on marriage, using her company and her devotion as some kind of prop in your “spiritual journey”.  I know there are various kinds of dating, but if you keep leading her on, not sure of where this is going, not sure that you even want marriage, and then after a year decide you want to go into the priesthoood…that’s selfish. It’s true, you might not know what you’re giving up by not dating, but then, by not having sex, you don’t know what you’re giving up, either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=741582747 Hilary Jane Margaret White

    Dorothy’s married name is Cummings-McLean. 

    • Seraphic

       No hypen.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

        I hope you don’t mind I addressed you with “Cummings” only. I figured since your blog and books use your maiden name only that was how you wanted to be addressed online. Plus I didn’t want to confuse people who only know you by your blog and book – not IRL or from FB. 

        It’s the same reason I use Fernandez online and not my real legal name. Fernandez is my maiden name.

        • Seraphic

          It’s all good. I guess I’m Ms Cummings, though, when Cummings, as Mrs C is my mum. 

  • GE

    I do understand you. I had on-and-off felt strongly attracted to a priestly vocation for some time when I met my fiancée. After a few dates with her, I felt this was perhaps what God intended for me instead. So we began a relationship, but I was quickly beset by horrifying doubts which lasted for months. Finally I was able to discern clearly that my real vocation lay with her (and in hindsight I can see that I would not have chatted her up in the church porch if my vocation thoughts were really serious), but it would certainly have been better for us both if I had found out beforehand in which direction I was to go.

    So ladies – don’t be absolutely put off if you meet a wonderful man and he discloses to you that he’s having vocation thoughts. But for your own sake and his, do prod him to seek spiritual direction and make up his mind.

  • Sue in soCal

    Many date while they discern at the direction (or misdirection) of priests, rectors, and a whole slew of spiritual directors because there is the (mistaken) belief that you cannot know your calling until you have tried a “normal” life. So, off these young people trot to relationships and studies and jobs that are anything but pointed at a priestly or religious vocation. This has always struck me as rather odd. Using this same logic, those who think they want to be brain surgeons should first explore the career of plumbing or architecture. Those who wish to pursue marriage as a vocation should be sent spelunking or any of a number of solitary pursuits. Until those in the position of helping young people discern a vocation take the calling to a vocation seriously we will continue to have vast examples of this silliness of discerning by doing anything but that to which you feel you are called.

  • c0lixxiv

    I guess we should always remember what complex, fragile creatures human beings are before assuming there’s an absolutely one-size-fits-all answer to any question which is not actually a de fide matter. That said, I’m rather horrified by the idea that any  spiritual director could suggest to a serious discerner (of either gender, and as opposed to someone who has simply disclosed a vague attraction to priesthood/consecrated life) that it’s appropriate simultaneously to continue to date, and particularly to be on the look-out for people to date. As other posts have suggested, that does seem appallingly disrespectful and utilitarian, a sin, frankly, against both charity and truth. But I’d like to share something of my own experience which may be of some consolation to some who need it, please God. Some years ago I was in a serious relationship, albeit one in which there was a fair degree of self-deception on both sides, looking back on it, since we succeeded in making each other quite unhappy for a rather long time, with a young man who was perfectly honest with me about the fact that he had previously been considering a priestly vocation and that he wished to continue to do so.   I- and I hope I’d be more mature, and in a good way, self-respectful now if, per impossibile, anything similar happened to me again – accepted the status of being a “provisional girlfriend”, ie, we’d stay together until and unless it became unmistakeably manifest to him that God really did want him to be a priest.  In other words, he was following  the kind of line to which I’ve taken exception above. Well, we were together for a long time, and I owe him a great debt – I wasn’t a Catholic when we began dating and, humanly speaking, he was the biggest single influence leading to my conversion. But eventually, it all blew up, messily and terribly painfully, for me, but I suspect also for him. Through the grace of God, and by a process that it would be inappropriate to describe in detail here,  the end of this relationship became the springboard for my own discernment of a vocation to religious life – and I made final profession last year. Even human weakness, even, perhaps, the effects of objective human sinfulness can be taken up by the Lord and woven into something that can be used for His service. I’m still learning to thank  Him more and more sincerely for the opportunity to discern a vocation in circumstances which, though desolate for me,  made me, I hope,  more sensitive than I might otherwise have been to the pain of others who know rejection and loss.  So,I’d say, don’t encourage the “double discernment” pattern, but, if you, or anyone you care about get caught up in it, don’t despair: good can come even of this.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing something so personal with us.  

      ” the effects of objective human sinfulness can be taken up by the Lord and woven into something that can be used for His service.”

      I find this completely true. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Wesemeyer/100000252143963 Scott Wesemeyer

    years ago, when i was contemplating a vocation, i was told i had three years to wait and both the vocation department and my family insisted that i should live like a regular 24 year old who is looking forward to something that may happen in the future.  I had several young women whom i had very chaste friendships with who took it upon themselves to keep a close eye on the well being of the boy who wanted to be a priest.  In fact the vocation director had mentioned that discerning is more like picking a wife than finding a school. When i made it to the psych test of discernment one of the questions was did i date and how active was my sex life (at the time they wanted the mtv crowd not the ewtn crowd) I did go to the friary after 3 years of waiting, but after 6 months, it was noticeably not a good fit.  that was 10 years ago, i am now married with 3 boys and do feel i am doing what i have been called to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/antonio.tellez Tony Tellez

    Hi, the title of this article caught my eye because I am discerning my vocation and I just got into a relationship. Does that mean that my discernment is over? No, discernment last until you take your vows whether it be wedding vows or priestly vows. To be married, single, or religious are all vocations. The question for those discerning their vocation is “what is my call to holiness?” The key is to be open and honest. One benefit of dating someone who is discerning their vocation is that they have a better idea of their moral values. Society does NOT teach men how to be men. To cheat is socially accepted, but not moral. Those discerning know this more than most men.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      But that is what you’re doing… cheating. Cheating on the women you started seeing and cheating on the Church you are thinking of “marrying”. 

      I’m sorry to be so blunt, but this is wrong, wrong, wrong. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/antonio.tellez Tony Tellez

        I appreciate your point of view. To be honest I decided that my discernment is complete (although it is really not complete until I take my vows). The first thing we are told during discernment is to pray and the aim of prayer is to love. It is the process of discernment that taught me to love and now I know how to give myself complete to the woman I love. My call to holiness is to provide for a family and give them an environment to grow in their love for God and the Church. This is the purpose of discerning our vocation and it is the process of discernment that inevitably guides is in our direction towards holiness. Most equate vocation with the religious life… not true. Lumen Gentium Chapter 5 states the many different ways we are called to holiness. That is the purpose of discernment.

    • Peregrinus

      Note Tony, that your position is not the one described in the blog article. The assumption in the article is that men mean that they are discerning a call to the priesthood when they state that they are “discerning a vocation.”

      You are, of course, right that the priesthood is not the only calling for men; and true discernment, at least initially, is a consideration of all possible vocations. One should seek God’s will in this matter, and not simply confirmation of one’s own will or preference. If, however, a man means by discernment that he thinks that God is calling him to a certain vocation and that he is now trying to confirm whether or not that is the case (the apparent assumption in the article in respect to the priestly order), then the man must set aside other possible vocations and focus on the one he suspects is right for him both to be sincere in his discernment (now no longer in the initial stage) and to be honest with those around him, especially his sisters in Christ.

      I assume that the spiritual directors who authorize discerning men to continue to “play the field,” as some have characterized it, suspect that their advisees are really still in the initial stage of discernment, notwithstanding what the advisees themselves think. It is erroneous to assume at that stage that one is called to a particular vocation simply because one feels a certain affinity for some elements of it; and one can waste valuable time by eliminating one of the two general vocations from consideration simply for that reason (as some of the comments here testify).  

      • http://www.facebook.com/antonio.tellez Tony Tellez

        Interesting comment, but “the field” that is played is the world in which we live. One cannot discern their vocation (their call to holiness) without facing the realities of the world. Prayer in discernment should be in adoration to take us out of this world and into one where we can meet God.

        I feel a resentment towards men who discern their vocation and ultimately decide upon marriage (prerequisite dating) as if they have failed. Yet it was the process of discernment that teaches men how to love properly and not be misguided by the views of society (the field) on what a relationship should be like. With respect to our sisters in Christ, I can tell you that if it wasn’t for discerning my vocation then my view of love would be guided by my two older brothers and my father… all of which cheated on their wives.

        • Peregrinus

          Some of your comments immediately above are not clear to me, Tony. Consequently, I am not sure where your disagreement with my observations (indicated by “but” in ths first line) lies.

          I would point out, nonetheless, that one should not use the process of discernment to learn how to “love properly,” as you seem to advise. This lesson should already be learned prior to engaging in discernment of one’s vocation precisely speaking. One must, to paraphrase Karol Wojtyla’s teaching in Love & Responsibility, know how to give oneself in love (i.e., to love properly)  before one looks to do so in a particular way in a specific vocation.

          You state that “one cannot discern their [sic] vocation without…facing the realities of the world.” I agree; but the way in which one faces the “realities of the world,” including the realities in oneself, depends to a great extent on what one understands one’s place in the world to be. “Facing the realities of the world” does not require a man to court or even date a woman, if the man recognizes that he probably has a calling to the priesthood or religious life. Indeed, a man who truly faces the realities as he understands them will refrain from doing so, unless he wishes to act contrary to those realities.

          • http://www.facebook.com/antonio.tellez Tony Tellez

            I think a lot of confusion comes from the author’s use of the word “vocation”. Vocation does not mean priesthood, it means answering your call to holiness (Lumen Gentium). Let me clear up a couple of my comments:

            1. I agree 100% that a man discerning the priesthood should not date. However, a man discerning his vocation can absolutely date because marriage is a vocation and dating is a prerequisite to marriage.

            2. I agree you don’t need to discern your vocation to learn how to love. All you need is prayer, but this is what helped me. I faced the reality of making a decision of giving myself completely to God and our Church by becoming a priest. In the process of doing this, I learned what it meant to give myself completely, not just to God, but to anyone even those who don’t like me. 

            For me, loving a woman became more real because of the discernment process. Men who discern their vocation should not be immediately cast into the “friend zone” without at least digging deeper.

            Every Christian needs to discern their vocation. A requirement of vocation discernment is prayer. The aim of prayer is to love. We are transcendent beings and have a longing for God, but God has a greater longing for us. This is how prayer leads to love and how I learned how to love because God is pure love and I try to meet Him in prayer. This is what discerning my vocation taught me.

          • Peregrinus

            I appreciate your clarification. I appears to me that we have no real disagreement now that we have defined our terms, so to speak.

            Congratulations on discovering your vocation. May you live it well and be a clear sign of Christ’s love for His Church.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez


            I think a lot of confusion comes from the author’s use of the word “vocation”.”

            I think you are being disingenuous here. It is clear when I reference the word “vocation” I am referring to the priestly vocation.  

          • Antonio Tellez

            I couldn’t be more genuine. I’ve studied vocation discernment in my quest to get a second masters degree, this one in theology. When I see “vocation” I think of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium. I’d be happy to forward you one of my papers. It’s a great cure for insomnia.

  • http://www.facebook.com/antonio.tellez Tony Tellez

    “I truly feel that someone considering a genuine vocation needs to figure all that out before throwing a personal ad up online or chat up women in mass.”– I completely agree. The hard part and what people don’t understand is that vocation discernment isn’t over until vows are taken whether it be religious vows or wedding vows. Therefore, a discerning man is stuck between a rock and a hard place because he cannot decide upon the vocation of marriage until they have had time to date. The same goes for seminarians. Seminarians are still discerning until they become ordained. This puts the “discerning man” in a tough situation. How can he decide on the vocation of marriage until he has had time to date since vocation discernment isn’t complete until he takes his vows? I work with our vocation office and I would appreciate feedback as it would help me to discuss this with men who are discerning.

    • Miss Doyle

      Tony, discernment usually begins when someone considers responding to a perceived call from God – whatever vocation that might be.
      If you are discerning the religious life/priestly life, you go and make contact with an order/approach a seminary or whatever and follow that path until it’s natural conclusion – whether it ends before the taking of vows or not.
      During this time of discernment God will lead the person to whatever He wants.
      If a person doesn’t feel called to the religious/priestly life, he may date and this may lead the person to discover God’s will for him in marriage to that particular person.
      If a man doesn’t feel called to anything in particular – then stay single!

      The same should go for women too. 
      For instance, I’m discerning a particular lay vocation and as part of the discernment process, it takes years before I’m allowed to make a permanent commitment – so in a real sense, this will be time for the discernment to be taken seriously. While I’m doing this, I’m hardly going to start visiting convents. 
      In terms of marriage – I have no idea if God wants this for me too (it’s compatible with this lay vocation too, by the way). My opinion is that I won’t know unless I meet someone I’d be prepared to marry. I have an aversion to dating just for the heck of it because I’m not certain. I don’t want to waste my time, or his. You date because you think you may be called to marriage.

      The take home message should be – a vocation is a call from God, not some nice idea that comes from us.
      When we say discern – it means to give serious thought and prayer to what we think we might be called to, whatever it is. It’s a descriptive word, and not only to be used when talking about the priesthood or religious life.

      • http://www.facebook.com/antonio.tellez Tony Tellez

        I love your last paragraph. I am going to use that in my discussions. I forgot something basic… the word vocation comes from a Latin word (the same word used for vocal), which means “a call.” 

  • Jason Pascucci

    There is some equivocation with the terms ‘vocation’ and ‘discernment’ at the moment. You’re using the term in the ‘old’ model, which doesn’t reflect current and increasing use.

    But, here’s one thing: the simple fact that someone says he is ‘discerning’ puts him above 90% of the single male Catholics out there, so  don’t be quick to put out blanket statements like the above, which seems like you’re writing in a fit of pique.

    We’ve been moving beyond equating a “Vocation” to just religious or priesthood. You’re going to see more and more of it, first as we HAVE to stop talking about “a vocation” as some specific special God-reaches-down-and-anoints-you thing even before you enter seminary or an order. It doesn’t work like that.

    The “anointing” doesn’t come until the Church gives the rite: Orders, Matrimony, or Final profession. Then, discernment is over.

    It’s the case that about half the men who go into seminary don’t go on to become priests or religious, so discernment really is discernment. (That said, if you’re actually in seminary, you shouldn’t be dating. Just like you shouldn’t be dating a different woman if you’re dating one woman with an eye towards marriage. The “hands off” thing you reference above subverts the proper paradigm.)

    This is primarily because we have seen, for men, you cannot properly understand God’s call to holiness without understanding all the Vocations as a piece. The fundamental understandings of the priesthood explains more fully being a husband in marriage, and vice versa: without understanding the role of husband and father, you cannot understand the right relation of a well-lived priesthood.

    In the meantime, during ‘discernment’ it’s a bit more of a free-agent rule: the first team to catch someone gets to keep them. There should be no talk of being ‘hands off’ of someone, unless they are already doing the equivalent of dating someone else. Each situation is unique, and many who are ‘discerning’ might be actually free to pursue multiple paths, but might be constrained for one reason or another: debt, for instance, or certain personal struggles. Or lack of spousal candidates who have a certain ‘fittingness’, such as due to age. Etc.

  • Email 4 Anonymous

    So is the suggestion to never even attempt dating without completely closing the door to the priesthood?

  • Mary

    I have a friend who is discerning and dating right now, and honestly, I think it depends on the woman you’re with. My friend is with a very holy woman. They both go to daily mass, adoration, have strong prayer lives. He is also honest with her about his discernment. I think dating someone is on the same level as going off to a seminary or nunnery. I think you can date and be thinking about the vocation of the religious life, or be in seminary or nunnery and still be considering the vocation of marraige. Both are healthy desires, and until you are ordained as a priest or married at the altar, I think it’s good for us to consistently consider our vocation. It’s good to try dating, try discernment retreats for religious orders, talk with married couples and priests, and to continue to pray on God’s will for you. The more we expose ourselves to healthy ways of understanding how these vocations work, the more confident we’ll be in what God desires of us. In the end, I think people who are serious about it know that if they’re expecting for something to go wrong with the person they’re with or expecting some kind of sign, it’s not going to happen. In the end, God will give us two wonderful options, two paths, and he will allow us to choose. Hopefully our will is His will.

    • Miss Doyle

      No Mary, each possible vocational calling deserves the proper attention given to one or the other. Not both at the same time.
      By the way, it’s a convent, not a nunnery!

  • http://www.facebook.com/neal.l.meyer Neal Meyer

    As someone who, at different points in his life, seriously discerned both vocations (and God choose for me to be married), I can say:  Men, if you are discerning, really discerning, don’t go on a dating website!  

    Think of the poor girl you might date.  If you do end up going to the seminary, she’ll be crushed.  On the other hand, she could, intentionally or otherwise, help YOU  loose your vocation to the priesthood (this is why I tried to avoid being alone with single women when I was discerning, I was able to make the decision to leave the seminary with a clear head).  If you are discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, contact your diocese vocation director, or the vocation director of the community you are interested in.  In St. Louis, there are vocation discernment groups for men considering the priesthood headed by seminarians, and an annual retreat where you stay at the seminary and pray with the seminarians and meet the archbishop (at least there was when I was discerning).  Don’t have a protestant “me and Jesus” attitude, seek out help from the Church.  The vocation director might even get you into contact with a spiritual directory, who can help.  

  • Sem2B

    I’ve only seen this work when the man and the woman were both discerning. Two of my friends dated each other while discerning religious life or marriage. They had a great relationship but in the end they dissolved it so that she could become a nun and he a priest. They are still close friends and are very happy with their vocations.

    This anecdote aside, I would not recommend it. As a man in discernment myself, I would have to say it would be cruel to the woman I’d be dating since I’d be holding back a part of myself that should not be restrained prior to marriage. Actually, to avoid the issue altogether, I asked my bishop’s permission to go to the seminary to discern; and where it is required to be on a dating fast. Besides, decisiveness is a bad habit and unbecoming of a man.

  • Antonio Tellez

    I couldn’t be more genuine. I’ve studied vocation discernment in my quest to get a second masters degree, this one in theology. When I see “vocation” I think of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium. I’d be happy to forward you one of my papers. It’s a great cure for insomnia.

  • Sheila

    I had a crush on a discerner once.  I didn’t know he was discerning, so we had this vaguely flirtatious friendship going on.  When he dropped the “discerning” word, I dropped him.  I didn’t want to be the girl who tried to compete with GOD for a man’s attention, you know?  Still less did I want to tempt a guy away from his vocation.  Well, the guy never did become a priest.  Instead he dated my friend off-and-on for years — on when he “felt” called to marriage, off when he would suddenly decide this was all just a distraction from his real vocation to the priesthood.  Eventually she had enough and he went on to pull the same act on other girls.  Definitely feel I dodged a bullet there.

    When I met my husband, I asked him early on if he had considered the priesthood.  I wanted to know that he had ALREADY thought about it and decided it wasn’t for him … which he had.  I wanted a man who knew what he wanted, because I knew what I wanted and didn’t consider “dating” to be an end in itself.  I would be very leery of the perpetual discerner … if he isn’t actually in contact with a religious order, he probably just doesn’t feel like committing to anything right now.  And commitment-shy guys are a dime a dozen.

  • Bobbyb

    I am a married woman and a mother of 8 wonderful children, my husband and i encourage all of our children, the young men and women to discern their vocations be they married, holy orders, religious life or the single life, first! No need to one on one date, until you know what God is calling you too! If you go to God with a sincere heart and give some of your time he will not be out done in generosity! I know this, to what ever vocation god is calling us we will find our greatest happiness in doing his will! Many blessing to all young people, Seek and you shall find!

  • http://www.facebook.com/antonio.tellez Tony Tellez

    I am going to print every one of these comments. These are all valuable comments for the everyday man/woman discerning their vocation. Thank you for the article and for the comments.

  • Jastay3

     What does “friend zone” mean? Is friendship supposed to be a sort of garbage can?

  • Dominic

    I was going to point out that I plan on entering the priesthood, and, as an Eastern Catholic, I’m still free to enter the vocation of marriage as well… but then I realised that I’m not discerning. And you’re absolutely right. Fellas, discerning for marriage and discerning for the priesthood at the same time is a disaster, especially for you in the west.

  • David Zacchetti

    Leaving the matter of dating aside,  I would like to know what that individual is doing as part of the discernment process.

  • Cui Pertinebit

    From this man, who discerned a vocation: when discerning whether one can be celibate, he should be trying to live without women, since that is what he will be doing, well, forever and ever. I did not date at all, when I decided to aspire to celibacy and religious life. In my opinion, almost no man who is “dating,” is actually “discerning” anything; what he is saying, is: ‘I think it would be “cool” to have a calling and do the priest thing; but I’ll just keep dating in the meantime, until Jesus comes down on His spaceship and recruits me for the Catholic Jedi Academy.’

    Believe it or not, the fathers speak of the priesthood as a calling, but they speak of celibacy as a voluntary gift we aspire to offer, not a state to which we discern an avocation. Holy Church has restricted the episcopacy and, in many times and places, the priesthood and diaconate, to those men who have a priestly vocation, AND are willing to demonstrate the extra commitment that the choice for celibacy indicates, as a way of keeping the spiritual calibre high and only admitting men who are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. A man who wants to be a priest should test his mettle in the celibacy field – not just physically, but emotionally -  and see whether this is something he can, and wills, to offer. To date women at this important time, is a major indication that the man is not serious.

    Not to mention: it seems discourteous to tell a woman, up-front, that she is being weighed against the Lord God Almighty throughout the relationship. If a man is discerning a vocation, but truly feels that, for some pastoral reason or other of his own, he needs to spend time in relationships with women, manliness and courtesy would seem to recommend keeping the “discerning a vocation” matter to himself. To mention it up front, let alone on a very public website, seems to be either an obvious attempt to talk himself up (and appear pious, and so, a “catch”), or an attempt to reserve an “easy out” if he decides he doesn’t like you. Both are unmanly and lacking in sobriety. A man who is truly discerning a vocation may be a good catch; a man who trots the fact out on a dating website is a schmuck. In the one-in-a-thousand chance that a man is discerning a vocation AND needs to date, he could at least save that bombshell for the third date, when he’s gotten to know you better, but not so well that you’ll be heartbroken if you want to end it.

  • Rachida

    I am so glad that the spell prophetharry@ymail.com casted for me, made i and Mohammed to come together! He is now everyday to my side, and we are about to get married in a month! I can’t believe that prophetharry succeeded in changing the mind of our families that were against our marriage! prophet harry magic is the best ever, Rachida, Marocco

  • sleepingrose

    Actually SADLY most vocation directors/spiritual directors ENCOURAGE and they frown upon guys discerning a vocation for not “experiencing the world a little.” Sad but true.they tell them to date, go to a “real college” and then come back if they are still interested.this is awful and i have seen boys have a vocation from childhood that was torn up becasue of this.they are now married-and I will always wonder if that was Gods active Will plan.

  • Cass

    I’d just like to add my two cents as a discerning young woman. It is natural to have leanings towards both vocations. I know of young women who were in a relationship and then God put it on their heart to look into religious life. They became sisters. and it has happened vice versa! It’s good to have a healthy respect and openness to both vocations. Obviously, if one is seriously discerning…or on the other hand is holding onto religous life as a backup, that isn’t healthy. But to pray about entering into a relationship while still being open to priesthood/religious life, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that to a point. But a spiritual director is always a solid option.


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