“Catholics don’t date,” I thought. With Valentines Day close by, a friend had suggested I write about “Catholic” dating. Now before some happily married Catholic couple protests my biased opinion, I should probably clarify.
Not too long ago I was at a young adult Mass with close to 200 people in attendance and the priest, during the homily, asked, “Girls, please raise your hand if you’ve been asked out by a guy at Church.” So of the maybe 100 girls at Mass one raised her hand. Roughly 1%.
So, Catholics don’t date or they just don’t date each other. Either way there’s nothing absolutely wrong with that. There’s no moral dogma that says you have to date or even that you have to date a Catholic. However, most would agree that it’s good to date when God gives you the opportunity. Imagine God creating Eve and presenting her to Adam. Adam simply shrugs his shoulders and goes back to playing catch with his dog. That would have been awkward.
Now in case you were wondering, I wasn’t the guy who asked out that single girl in the young adult community. I’m not part of that alpha 1% dating a Catholic. If I want to go out for a drink or a good time I usually end up calling a girl from dance class or the gym before dialing someone from Church. Whether or not a drink is a date is also highly debatable but the point I want to make is that we Catholics don’t seem to go out with each other much. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to date a Catholic girl. You can go to Church together; you can sing the Creed together and bet against each other on who will be the next Pope. You can go to confession together. I mean, wait in the confession line together, maybe holding hands. You can laugh about each others’ NCAA loyalties or vegan eating habits because there’s something much bigger in life that you share. For more good Catholic dating to happen though, I do think guys and girls could do a few things to help .
1. Ask more, smile more. Catholic communities may feel like family but they are not, so it’s OK to date within them…and it won’t be weird. What’s weird is when either Casper or Wendy has a thing for the other but neither of them does anything about it. Then, you hear about it through the grapevine and you’re like, “Seriously? Those two!!?? He doesn’t even talk to her,” or “She isn’t even nice to him.” So guys should just say what’s on their mind and ask more. It would also help if girls smiled more so the dude can get the idea.
2. A break up isn’t a failure. It was just a success with an ending. Keep the memory of the good times you shared to together. It’s refreshing to meet someone who has had great dating experiences but just hasn’t found what they’re looking for. As Catholics we tend to take dating seriously because we take marriage seriously. Consequently, we take asking seriously, we take “breaking up” seriously, and just the whole thing can become serious drama from day one. Dating and marriage, though, are two very separate things. Dating starts out with little or no commitment while marriage begins day one with a promise that lasts till death. The path to commitment takes time. If more Catholics could do that and just take dating for what it is I think they’d be less hesitant to date and could, ideally, even stay friends if the romance ends.
3. Get a mentor. Jesus believed in mentorship. He mentored people. As a life coach, people pay me to mentor them and I find others to mentor me. My rule is that if it’s important to you and it involves risk, get a mentor: a mentor for business, a mentor for life, a mentor for your soul (called a spiritual director), why not a mentor for love? It’s easy. Find someone you admire happily married, with a family you’re almost jealous of. Ask their advice. Now you have a mentor, a valuable second opinion when your dating judgement is clouded; someone to push you when you’re afraid or pull you back when you’re reckless.
That said, the Catholic dating world is full of opportunities. Start now. Apparently, Valentine’s Day is not a holy day of obligation, but again I do think it’s good to celebrate it. Even if it’s not your thing, one three hour dinner-dance commitment for the entire year isn’t going to kill you. We should celebrate it and celebrate it well because that’s how we live – in celebration. We celebrate Mass, we celebrate weddings and baptisms like nobody else, we even celebrate saints we’re not sure existed. Why not celebrate love? Or at least, our belief in it? You do know that if you stay in you’ll end up spending the evening watching Downton Abbey with a bowl of moose tracks or playing Call of Duty (ya, I know you thirty-somethings are still doing that) and don’t tell me that’s any healthier. The day after, on February 15th, let the whole world agree, “Those Catholics date, and they do it well!”
Happy Valentines Day.