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Catholic dating needs discernment, not desperation

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Jo Hayes and Sr Mary Grace. Photo: Supplied
Jo Hayes and Sr Mary Grace. Photo: Supplied

“Desperation.” That’s the word a wise church elder recently used, in describing the attitude of some, in the younger generation, towards marriage.

Now, this elder upholds the sacredness of marriage and family life, and exhorts young couples, who have prayerfully discerned marriage, to dive right in.

Yet they fear some youngsters are verging on idolising these sacred gifts, and making poor choices, in the process.

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I hear what they’re saying. I see a lot of this.

And my heart aches for the young women (because it is, largely, the ladies who fall into this trap) who are failing to thrive in what should be a life-giving, fruit-bearing season of their lives.

I see these girls, and I want to cry out, “Get out of your suffocatingly small circles! Do something with your lives! Pursue a career! Serve the church! Travel the world! Have fun!”

Date, yes, if marriage is what the Lord has called you to. But don’t let that become an obsession.

It may sound like basic common sense, but there are too many girls not heeding this advice.

As someone who has enjoyed a relatively long single/dating season—for which I am supremely grateful—I can attest to the fact that it is a major blessing.

Just as marrying young has many “pros,” not marrying young also has much going for it.

Now in my late 30’s, it is clear to see how my yielding to God’s leading, and timing, has led to the fulfilment of all my heart’s desires.

I’ve pursued my “childhood dream” career of TV news reporting. I’ve gone back to university to gain a Masters degree.

I’ve purchased my own home. I’ve lived overseas. I’ve travelled the world, many times.

I’ve spent a year serving the church, on volunteer mission. I’ve preached the Gospel, all over the world. I’ve met the pope.

I’ve also dated a wide variety of good Catholic men, learning a lot about myself, and what I want/need in a marriage relationship.

The thing I treasure most from this season, is the forging of my rock-solid relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’ve spent a copious amount of time in blissful solitude and silence, diving into my relationship with him, and anchoring my life, identity and entire being, on the only thing that will give me (and all of us) true fulfilment in this life: God.

I have many friends who have married in their 30’s, 40’s, and even 50’s, and, as they have obediently followed the Lord’s perfect plan for their life, they have remained in the spirit “slip-stream” of joy, peace, and overflowing blessings.

At the same time, I have witnessed women who have made poor choices in terms of relationships and marriage, in a “desperate” bid to be married by a certain age. And, in doing so, they have ended up depressed, anxious and miserable. Some, with failed marriages.

Like all things that are good and holy, marriage and family can become disordered affections, when put on a pedestal and idolised. And every disordered affection leads to misery.

Ladies, unless marriage and family, at the right time, in the right way, is God’s will for you, you will be utterly miserable in pursuing them.

Our greatest joy is found smack-bang in the middle of his will for us. This could be marriage at 20. Or, it could be marriage at 40. It could also be religious life.

Seek him. Seek his voice. Seek his will.

A friend of mine, Sr Mary Grace of the Holy Spirit, recently made her final vows with the Sisters of Life, in the USA.

She is the first Australian woman to do so. I was blessed to attend the ceremony, at St Patrick’s Cathedral, in New York City.

This woman lives with a joy, peace and delight that radiate from her, because, she is doing exactly what God has called her to.

Another Catholic friend of mine recently married a (very lovely, very handsome, and very established) widower, with grown-up children. She is now a joyfully content wife and step-mother.

Both of these paths may look different to that of the average Catholic woman. Our lives should look different to those around us.

God did not put each of us here to live boring, cookie-cutter lives. We each have a gloriously unique life blue-print, and he wants us to live them.

As the great St Irenaeus of Lyons so eloquently says, “God is glorified by men and women who are fully alive.”

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