What Do Priests and Religious Know About Romantic Relationships?

Prisest view on Romantic Relationships?

So here I am, writing my debut article for the Catholic Singles blog – but what vocation am I discerning? Religious life and priesthood.  I have some explaining to do.

What am I doing here? I have never dated, and I don’t plan to. I don’t have the experience of age (only 22 at present) or training (still working on my bachelor’s in Philosophy). But I am a fellow traveler on the road. I have the experience of searching in the dark, of learning lessons poorly. I’ve received wounds and I’ve wounded others. With His help, I’ve found God in the most unexpected places. Since God can speak wisdom even “with the mouths of babes and infants,” (Psalms 8:3), I hope that my insights, by His grace, may be of service to you.

Although discerning priesthood and/or the religious life seems miles apart from discerning marriage, I have found that these paths have more in common than you might think.  I’ll give three examples.

We have the same goal

Having same goal

As a Catholic single, what is your final goal in life? To spend eternal life with God in heaven. What is the final goal of a priest or religious? The same thing! Yes, it’s a rather obvious truth. But it’s profound nonetheless. Think about it. No matter who you are and no matter who I am, we are both called to spend eternity as friends with each other. All of God’s friends are friends with each other as well!

This universal call means that we are all travelling companions along the road to Heaven. Whatever means we use to get there – married life, religious life, or priesthood – we have one and the same destination.

We share a foundation

share a foundation

What do Saint Benedict, Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, and you have in common? One was a monk, two were a married couple, and you are Catholic single. But you’re all human. Human nature is the foundation for every state in life. That nature remains despite outward changes and different circumstances.

Read more: Can Your Siblings be Your Friends? Benedict and Scholastica Would Say Yes

Why is this important? Because human nature includes reason, the emotions, senses, and natural desires. The last item in the list is the one I want to focus on. Every human being, by nature, desires to eat and drink, to be happy, to love and be loved.

Sometimes people think that priests and religious don’t have the same kind of natural desires we do. They think that those called to religious life never wanted to be a mom or dad, have kids, or raise a family. But if those priests and religious are healthy human beings (and most of them are!), they have all those desires.

The fact that they’ve given up satisfying those desires for the sake of something else doesn’t make them less human. If anything, it makes them even more sympathetic to the struggles which Catholic singles have to go through.

We face the same challenge

face the same challenge

Christ gave two great commandments during His earthly ministry: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39). All of the duties of the Christian life are based on those two commands.

Every person is commanded to love God above all things, to give themselves totally to Him. But mysteriously enough, the primary way we give ourselves to Him is by giving ourselves to those around us. By loving our neighbors, we love Christ: “as you did it to one of the least of My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).

Our neighbors will be different depending on who we are, but every vocation has them. Besides the people we run into on the street or in the store, married people, religious, diocesan priests, and Catholic singles each have their own more intimate communities. It is especially within this space that we are challenged to love for the sake of Christ.

Why does it matter?

Why does it matter

I’ve traced out a few similarities between married and religious life, but why is this important for Catholic singles? In short, because priests and religious are friends worth having as you pursue your own vocation. As someone discerning a religious vocation, I highly recommend that you seek them out!

They’ve been where you are: Catholic, single, and looking for a relationship. Yes, it brought them to a different place, but they still know the struggles you have to face, and they have wisdom that could guide you on your path.

If you can (and haven’t already), consider asking a priest you know and trust to be your spiritual director. We all know relationships are often difficult to navigate, and having a spiritual director is a great way to steer through trials with the help of clear vision.

Religious are typically extremely joyful, and it’s contagious! Try hanging out with them; it’s a great way to grow in joy yourself as a Catholic single!