It’s not uncommon for faithful, single Catholics to daydream fantasize about meeting the perfect Catholic guy or gal. They think about getting married, and having a holy, happy marriage. Maybe it will be filled with saintly babies. They want to help their spouse get to heaven.
But things obviously don’t always work out this way. In fact, many Catholic Singles might even have trouble finding a fellow Catholic to date at all. At times like these, it might be awfully tempting to try “missionary dating”, dating a non-Catholic with hopes to convert them.
There’s not really anything wrong with the idea of being a missionary. After all, we should be trying to bring everyone to the true Faith! But practically speaking, it doesn’t always work out the way we hope. Here are three things to keep in mind before deciding to embark into the sometimes treacherous waters of missionary dating.
1. You can’t control how people change
While you can have good ideas and great intentions, your best efforts at showing someone how beautiful and fulfilling the Catholic faith is might not have the effect you hope. Sometimes, even those who seem initially open to the faith will become hung up on certain aspects of it that they just can’t get behind.
The reality is that, just like you can’t make someone’s personality more in tune and compatible with your own, you also can’t make someone convert and share your faith. You have to be ready for this possibility. Going into this endeavor blindly believing that you concretely have the ability to change someone is naïve. It’s also a recipe for heartache.
It’s definitely possible that you can help a non-Catholic find the truth of our faith and embrace it while you date them. You’ve probably even seen it happen or heard of it happening in other relationships. But it doesn’t always work that way. If you choose to enter into this endeavor, you need to be prepared for that possibility. Be prepared for what you will do if they don’t convert.
2. Are you strong enough in your own faith?
Chances are, if you’re hoping to marry another Catholic, you do have a good solid love for the faith. You probably recognize what an important part faith should play in your life. But that doesn’t mean you’re immune to temptation.
I once knew a strong Catholic young woman who began dating a worldly guy. She thought she could change him. Everyone around her warned her that it was a bad idea. She didn’t listen, and slowly, her attachment to the faith and her general morality decreased and lowered down toward his level.
She married him. But she regretted their marriage a few short months later when she discovered he had never had any intention to be faithful to her for life. She also regretted that she’d already compromised on several moral tenants of her faith throughout her relationship with him.
This is obviously a pretty extreme case of this type of thing. But I think it’s important before embarking on a relationship with a non-Catholic at all to examine oneself and identify the real possibility of temptation.
Is this person at least open to dating chastely with you as the Church requires? Do they disagree with any faith or moral issue that you already find yourself struggling with? Are you committed to staying strong in your faith and morals no matter what?
If you’re at all uncertain about anything along these lines, try taking the matter to prayer, perhaps to a confessor or spiritual director. Consider asking a close friend to keep you accountable in the matter. Don’t set out blindly to date a non-Catholic, assuming that you’ll have no difficulty whatsoever in remaining true to your faith.
3. Remember that God is in charge
Ultimately, it’s never up to us if and when someone converts, or even whether a relationship works out. Sometimes that’s a hard pill to swallow.
I know in my own life, it’s often hard to accept the fact that certain family members of mine are distant from the faith and have strayed off the straight and narrow, despite my best efforts to bring them back. It’s important to remember that it is not up to us. Yes, we are to pray, fast, and witness when the opportunity arises. But God is in control of the timeline, not us.
When the person we’d like to bring to the faith is someone we’d like to date, it’s important to surrender control of the situation to God. Strive to be open to His will. Be ready to serve as His instruments. But also be ready to move on if He shows you that He has a different plan than what you were hoping for.