Saturday, 11 December 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Ex-Seminarian's Girlfriend

I had to change this letter massively to protect privacy all around. You'll just have to trust me on what I said about the dates, which I've removed. It's still a long letter. Get a coffee, read, learn, pray for your fellow reader.

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Thank you so much for your straight-up, solid, and spiritual advice in your blog. I'm a 2- year old graduate of X living in Y, [in a service profession, ministering to Catholics]. I love serving God and I have a full life with great, supportive friends, a spiritual director, and a prayer life. I'm working towards loving God and knowing Him more and more every day but I think I'm finally at a point of stability in my life where I can seriously pursue my vocation, which I believe is to marriage, and that brings me to my current situation, that I hope you can offer some insight on.

I've been seeing a NCB for more than - months. He is the newest addition to [my workplace], a former seminarian who [very recently] left the seminary (Auntie, I know...) after discerning that he believes he is called to marriage. He is tall and handsome.

Of course, my feminine heart fluttered the first time I saw him, but I thought I would be wiser this time and entrust everything to the Lord. I prayed unceasingly to the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, St. Ann, and St. Therese. I guarded my heart, I did not initiate conversations, or invite him to hang out, offer my phone number, or facebook friend him.

I let him, completely and totally, pursue me like a gentleman and pursue he did, slowly and carefully, getting to know me little by little, first through casual conversations after school, then coffee, then walks by the beach, then to dinner, multiple times, a crazy romantic date at [a special place], all the while being a perfect gentleman. Literally.

So I prayed and prayed that God's will be done, if it was his will that we be together, then let's go, if not, then strike it down, Lord! I don't want to fool around and I don't want any more heartbreaks. He didn't even hold my hand until a month of hanging out had gone by, then put his arm around me, and then finally he kissed me. Soon after he asked me if I would be his girlfriend and since [then], that's what I've considered myself. I would be lying if I said that at this point I did not have any marriage fantasies.

He is 3- years old, he allegedly knows what he wants, he's financially secure, we agree on morals and values, the faith, money management, we both hope to raise a family in this area. There are so many wonderful things that I love about him and I really think that I'm in love.

A few days ago, we were talking about our relationship. We haven't been having ridiculous "OMG I WANT TO MARRY YOU IN 6 MONTHS WHERE SHOULD WE HAVE THE WEDDING?" conversations, more vague and theoretical but this was seeming to be a great conversation about where we are going, that we're not dating each other just to have fun, but with a purpose of discernment.

He asked me if I'm free to discern marriage, and I told him yes, I'm not considering religious life, and I don't have anyone else holding me back. I asked him the same, and [Seraphic's note: ALARM ALARM WHOOP WHOOP CLANG CLANG!] basically it came out that he has been having lingering thoughts about the priesthood and the seminary, especially brought on by the death of a close priest friend that happened last week.

It turns out (I just learned this last week too) that he left the seminary because [ALARM!] he kept thinking about a girl he met the summer before with whom he pursued a relationship with [WHOOP!] the permission of his bishop but then decided [CLANG!] to go back to seminary. He said that in the seminary he was having a hard time having a concrete relationship with Christ and this girl was so concrete, so affectionate, and it was much easier to love her and have a relationship with her than with God.

He decided to leave in -, left for real in -, dated the aforementioned girl in the summer, but [WHOOP! WHOOP!] they broke up (unclear as to why exactly). He told me[EEE-OOOO], tearfully, that he was thinking about his deceased friend and how he was so smart and talented and could have married any woman that he wanted [Seraphic's Note: Why do they always think that?] but he laid down his life to serve God. He knows that he has many talents that could serve him well as a priest or as a husband and father. [S.N.: The fact that he sounds like a conceited, self-absorbed ass, however, has passed him by.]

At this point I was fairly certain that my life was over, we were breaking up, and I was never going to recover. He told me that he was worried about hurting me [S.N.: he, of course, is risking nothing] and I said very honestly, "X, if you discern that you're not called to be with me, I will be hurt, there's no way around it."

He thanked me for my honesty but while I felt kind of doom and gloom (God asks us to sacrifice the things we love the most and lay them down to prove our love for him etc.) he seemed to feel relieved to share this with me [S.N.: therapists are so expensive] and was hopeful about a future. We went on to have a lovely evening, though at this moment I'm still pretty distraught.

Seraphic, I feel like I know what I need to do. I know I need to be honest about my thoughts, feelings, and expectations, but I can't help but try to be extra perfect so that he won't leave me, though I know that's not what it's about at all. He's told me that he wants to be with me and that he loves the person that I am and that I have amazing qualities.

But theoretically this is about what his vocation actually is. Both of us need to be more serious about our relationship with God and NOW if we're discerning a vocation to marriage with each other. I really thought that's where this was heading but now I'm confused by his priestly leanings, I think he's confused too.

I really thought when we started seeing each other that he was confident that marriage was his vocation and I do feel a little deceived. Should we seriously discern marriage with each other or do we need to break up so he can figure this out?

Do you think it's possible that he's only feeling that way because of the death of his friend and the feelings it's raised? How does one "seriously discern marriage"? I'm so head over heels for him and I'm terrified but I know that whatever happens, God will give me the grace to endure it.

Is there anything I can do? I think that the things I am learning about him now and the fact that I realize that I need to run to the Lord with this is good... but I need some concrete steps to take in the relationship. There are so many layers to this problem and I am really blind-sided. I hope I'm not leaving out any essential details because I would really love your input. Thank you so much!

Ex-Seminarian's Girlfriend

Dear Ex-Seminarian's Girlfriend,

Here I am, having given this some thought and prayer and also asked myself, "What would you do, Seraphic?"

To look at the timeline again, your ex-seminarian friend went into the seminary before [V], and then dated a girl in [W] "with the permission of his bishop," went back to the seminary despite the girl, decided to leave because of her in [X], but left as late as [Y], kept on dating the girl in [Z] and then broke up with her--and you don't know why. He's told you everything else; I wonder why not that?

In [A] (I'm assuming) he joined your workplace and started to pursue you. By the end of [B], he had asked you to be his girlfriend. So he left the seminary just - months ago, and he broke up with his girlfriend potentially just - months before he kissed you. Fast work. And now he's crying over the seminary again. I wonder if he cried to his last girlfriend, too.

If I were you, I would tell him that he's great, but I'm not into unstable guys. I am 2-, I have a job I love, and I am a great catch, not a safety blanket for some guy who can't decide if he wants to be a priest or not. I want a guy who is so crazy about me, he would rather lose a finger than go anywhere near the seminary again. He can give me a call when he's got his head together.

Easier said than done, I know. But the more I hear about on-again, off-again seminarians and how they treat their interim girlfriends, the madder I get. A 30 something should be too old for this crap. Meanwhile, if he insists he really wants to be with you or pursue things right now, and you take the chance, the second he mentions discerning the priesthood again, dump him. Dump him flat.

I hope this is helpful. Meanwhile, because of the sensitivity of all this, I strongly encourage you to talk to a priest, your mother, or another older woman who loves you for a second opinion.

Grace and peace,

P.S. To all other Single Girls: Run, don't walk, away from recent seminary drop-outs. Turn down their date requests with a smile and "Oh, I think we'd better wait until you're more acclimatized to the outside world." I think about a year would do it, and by then they'll have broken up with their post-seminary rebound girlfriends.

By the way, I think it is outrageous that bishops give seminarians permission to date. Listen, if any of you are dating actual seminarians who are still in the seminary, don't tell me, because my head will explode. The 1970s are over; the restoration has begun.

P.S. 2 Watch out for men who weep on dates. To quote Elton John, "Those crocodile tears ain't tears of pain/Look a little closer--it's acid rain."

P.S. 3 If you can manage it with a straight face, and not crying, if any man you are dating tells you he think he should go into the seminary, tell him absolutely he should. Be really enthusiastic. Stress how we need priests. Don't give him the slightest idea he would be missed by a single Single girl on this side of the wall. That should deflate him a bit. Meanwhile, don't answer his next phone call. It's over. Don't take him back without an abject, and I mean abject, apology.


UPDATE: A seminarian left his interesting and respectful seminarian's eye view under Discern This, Drama Boy.


Fritha said...

I'm just staggered by the whole "bishop gave him permission to date" concept... That just absolutely stuns me. Wow. And quite frankly, this guy sounds like someone it's not worth getting inolved with... And now to go and stop being staggered over the thought of a bishop actually giving a seminarian permission to date!

dark but fair said...


I Love this post because I am so sick and tired of this "oh, oh, oh, Shall I? Shan't I?" junk from ex-seminarians and other Catholic fellows. Grow a bloody backbone, sport!
The fellow in this story is far from a "perfect gentleman". Anybody who treats a lady like her time, energy and heart are things that can be put on hold and tossed away then picked up again is not a gentlemen. It is not brave or chivalrous to treat a lady like an unpaid therapist either. Go cry to your mother about this, brother. Leave the poor sweet, innocent ladies alone!

dark but fair said...

Oh yes, and this is exhibit "A" why bishops should not permit seminarians to date! And this story is also a perfect example of why ladies should tell a fellow still in the seminary to leave her alone and she does not care if the bishop gave him permission.

Why do so many fellows seem to think that we Catholic ladies are trophies in a stud contest? This ex-seminarin's behavior is so appalling. "He could have gotten any woman that he wanted?" EXCKKUUUUUZE me?

FrB said...

Spot on, Seraphic!

I've heard variations of this from various American friends and I'm still wondering about these (mythical?) bishops who tell seminarians that it's okay to date.

Anyway, if what Ex-Seminarian's Girlfriend has to say in her letter is accurate, Ex-Seminarian doesn't seem to understand what the celibate or the married life really involves.
First of all, that line about it being easier to have a relationship with a concrete girl than have a concrete relationship with Christ is wildly off-base. The celebate life isn't simply about having Christ fill a woman-shaped hole in one's life. One would have thought that even if he was being called to date this girl, that he'd still have a concrete relationship with Christ as well. Surely we're all called to have that.

Secondly, this rhapsodising about his deceased priest friend who 'could have married any woman that he wanted' is weird and unsettling. Even setting aside the implicit objectification of women, it's a really strange thing for a good Catholic to say about another man. It also conveys with it an unhealthy attitude to the celibate life. Yes, there is a certain sacrifice in celibacy, a forgoing of all the good things that go with being a husband and father. However, hand-wringing about how a particular celibate individual could have had any woman he wanted feeds into an unhealthy martyr-complex. What Ex-Seminarian is really saying is 'Behold what a great sacrifice I could make by turning down the scores of women that I could marry.'
A healthy discerner would be stoical about his own celibacy or the celibacy of another man. Yes, there's a sacrifice - but if you make that sacrifice into an ego-massaging whine, then you're of little use to the Church and you're not growing closer to Christ.

I'm probably sounding very harsh about Ex-seminarian, and can only draw conclusions from what I read in Seraphic's redacted letter. If it gives an accurate picture of this man, it sounds as though he's still stuck in late adolescence. If I heard something of the sort from an 18 or 19 year old, I'd tell him to go to university and re-consider priesthood having earned a degree and maybe spent some time working in the world. Given that this is coming from someone who's already had some seminary formation, I'd ask him to review the human development/formation of his time in seminary and honestly consider whether he'd grown in any way whilst in formation. A period of solid prayer and reflection (with the help of a good spiritual director) whilst neither dating nor actively considering priesthood would do him the world of good.

Seraphic said...

Thank you very much, Father B, for your priest's eye view!

Today I was on my way to confession--there was no mention of moonshine networks, incidentally--and I asked myelf, "Was I too hard on ex-seminarian?" And I thought, "Nah."

Boy of the Nice Catholic Variety said...

Dear Ex-Seminarian's gf,

I am sympathetic to your plight and the situation you got yourself into. However( and I'm surprised Seraphic didn't pick up on this because she usually does), I do believe that it was you who got yourself into this mess initially, and I am sorry if this is blunt, because I believe you emotionally compromised yourself very early on and although you claim otherwise the words you have written in this letter say the opposite.

Why would I say something like that? Because of this:
Even though you " guarded my heart, I did not initiate conversations, or invite him to hang out, offer my phone number, or facebook friend him." You should realize this is not enough.

The Catholic men I know who do things "slowly and carefully" never get anywhere with any women. The women usually get frustrated that they have not acted and usually reject them very early on(i.e. 2nd or 3rd date). This is what I believe you should have done.

"He didn't even hold my hand until a month of hanging out had gone by, then put his arm around me, and then finally he kissed me."

Every single Catholic man I know drools at the prospect of getting 1 whole month to eventually act. Most women - correctly - do not give it to them.

This tells me, bearing all this evidence in mind, that before he did you really, really, really wanted him to ask you out, and when he did you really, really, really wanted things to work out between the two of you.

You will notice that the curious side effect of having done all this, is that this ex-seminarian never really developed true feelings. The fact you deemed the conversation "vague and theoretical" is a very conspicuous indicator. The way he seems to talk about the priesthood and you as if both were abstract choices are also indicators. Thus one observes that his feelings on both subjects, as you relate them to us come off as individualistic and not personal. By not rejecting him early on, you 'secured' him in the knowledge that he liked you and therefore never engaged his personalistic side, that is he could remain an individual in his thoughts for the most part(He does seem to have twangs of conscience in the way he is speaking to you).

to be continued...

fifi said...

She feels "a little deceived." A LITTLE? I'm dying over here...

Interested to read the rest of Boy of the Nice Catholic Variety" comments, should they ever appear, because I can't figure out quite where he's going with this...

dark but fair said...

Three cheers for Fr B and Seraphic!
Yes, thanks Fr B for the priestly perspective!

@ Boy of the Nice Catholic Variety:

"A woman's imagination is very active. It jumps from admiration to love; from love to marriage, all in the space of an instant!"-Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". Haha!

You do have a good point that ex-seminarian's "slow carefullness" is, in light of his recent behavior, rather ominous. But I am not sure that it is always the case that if a fellow is into a lady he will not wait a month to make a move or ask to court her.

Men of more choleric or sanguine temperaments will be disposed to be quick to ask out, quick to hold hands and kiss as soon as they may. But fellows of a more phlegmatic temperament are more likely to hesitate to ask a girl out even if they like her. Men of a more melancholic temperament are notorious for taking FOREVER to make up their minds about anything and EVERYTHING. Moreover, romantic interest takes time for them to even recognize in themselves and then even more time to figure out what to do about it and then more time to follow through and act upon it.

So, I don't think that any lady who is not asked out by a co-worker/ fellow student within a month of his hanging out should reject him automatically. If he was acting like they were dating and hanging out with her by himself with no committment than yes, but not neccessarily if the hanging out was in a group and after work or school.

dark but fair said...

"but I can't help but try to be extra perfect so he won't leave me..."

That to me, was the saddest and scariest part of this post. Why?
Why is it that these lovely, twenty-something, educated, empolyed ladies will become romantically attached to this fellow who treats them abominably and instead of thinking "Wow. I did not deserve that. I am not going to let him treat me like this anymore. Bye bye." they think things to themselves like,

"Oh, if I just try a little more/ pray more/ work harder/ educate myself more/ lose more weight/ dress up better/ keep a cleaner house/ do everything he asks me to do better/ be more perfect...maybe he won't leave me."

Why do they want him? Why do they want to be stuck with a fellow who thinks that they are ALMOST good enough a person to give up the seminary for? It boggles my mind and almost makes it explode! God have mercy on us! Do these ladies not know that they are children of God? Don't they know that Christ shed His last drop of blood for them? Don't they know that they are precious?

I do not know what sort of a priest this ex-seminarian is planning to be if he thinks he can treat God's children that way.

Seraphic said...

No, I didn't delete it. I have no idea where it went. Possibly things disappear if they are too long, although I am not sure. This may have happened to Alisha once or twice.

Many of my readers are interested in guys' eye views, so you'd have to say something really bad for me to delete them.

Seraphic said...

I will say, though, BNCV, that I disagree that my reader did anything wrong. If you think professional women are dying for their work colleagues to jump on them within a month's acquaintance, think again.

The number one problem my female readers have is trying to get men from getting too affectionate too fast. One of the charms of an ex-seminarian is that he is usually the least likely guy to pressure a girl for sexual favours. Perhaps you'd be amazed at how many other self-styled Nice Catholic Boys put their hands where they shouldn't be and then sulk if the woman protests.

Alisha said...

I am very empathetic to the fact that someone (ex seminarian or not) can be back and forth in discerning vocation and how there can be genuine confusion. It doesn't have to do with backbone - if someone is depressed or doesn't have the life experience, emotional or rational resources or the guidance or even the awareness that they lack those tools they need to make a decision (which can often be the case with seminarians) they will not know when something is right or not. I have been in that situation - depressed, between two alternatives where neither choice gave me peace, and those whose guidance I sought (people of spiritual authority) seemed to have little to say to help me (or perhaps I was in no position to receive it well, but I thought they were often pretty vague), and I was tortured by the uncertainty and the fact that my uncertainty was hurting others that I loved.
It's very easy for people to lack sympathy when they've never experienced that kind of awful uncertainty or depression - and it's very obvious when people haven't and give you idiotic advice like "grow a spine" or "cheer up" or "think positive".
Having said that, I think this young lady is completely justified in her confusion and response and I am very sorry she is in this pain. This circumstance is different from what I just described because:
a) based on what has been shared, she acted as wisely as she knew how.
b) this seminarian had already been through the SAME thing. He should have known better - if he wasn't feeling any different, he should not have entered another situation.

Alisha said...

I just read the comments under the re=post of Discern This, Drama Boy, and appreciated those of the ex-seminarian...However, I hope the person who quoted Meet Joe Black didn't think that was actually a good definition of love - it definitely isn't a Christian one...

Alisha said...

Just out of curiosity - did my other comment get posted or was it too intense? :)

Seraphic said...


Alisha, I see two comments posted here. Was there another one?

I think Blogger must be doing weird things today. I post almost all comments, really. The ones I don't post are almost always insulting to me or my readers or some other woman.

Pedantic Classicist said...

Allow me to help?

I left the comment window open when I (and my computer) went to sleep last night. It has Alisha's second comment that later vanished. I'll paste it here if you want. Let me know!

Thanks, btw, Alisha, for the empathy on discernment confusion. I know that there have been a few times in my life where I've had the same experience. I'd like to think that that happens less and less as I get older and wiser, but...

theobromophile said...

Slightly different take on this comment:
He told me[EEE-OOOO], tearfully, that he was thinking about his deceased friend and how he was so smart and talented and could have married any woman that he wanted

This means one of two things. The benign version involves men who are terribly insecure about one figure flaw - i.e. "I can't get women because I'm bald/short/out of shape/look old". So they also assume that a man who is tall, handsome, and earns a decent salary could get any woman he wants, because, well, he's not shrimpy or bald or working for the Peace Corps.

However, when a guy isn't just talking about some other man, but about how he is like this particular other man, my alarm goes off. The inkling I'm getting is that he is saying, "I could get a super-hot woman with a big rack and... well, that's just not you, so remember that this pathetic excuse for a non-relationship is a favour to you."

theobromophile said...

That aside, a question from someone who grew up outside of the group of Catholics who consider the seminary: What on earth is up with this discernment thing?!?

I don't mean "please define discernment", but I'm wondering what the attraction is to men who are in the seminary, considering the seminary, or wondering if maybe they want to do that. Maybe it's the outsider thing, maybe it's hard-headed common sense, but if some guy said, "I'm considering lifelong celibacy; wanna date?" my reaction would be, "Are you the type of person who would go to Florida to go skiing?", not "Oh, lovely! Let's get a coffee and talk about your feelings as we gaze into each other's eyes".

I am not judging, condemning, or trying to be mean to Nice Catholic Girls, but it seems really odd to an outsider... perhaps like the Catholic version of woman's fascination with tortured writers or artists?

(By the way, my grandfather was heading to the seminary when he met my grandmother. That was sixty years of marriage and sixteen grandchildren ago, so it certainly happens that men do an about-face, but I don't think that they are really wishy-washy about it if they feel that lighting bolt.)

The constructive advice I have for any woman in this situation, seminary or not, is to call his bluff. He's considering getting back together with his ex? "Oh, she's lovely; tell her I said hi when you take her out on a date." He's "not ready for a serious relationship"? Say that maybe it's time to see other people. Three years of dating later and he's not sure if he wants to wed? Smile, hug, move on. Men, bless their hearts, might think they mean what they are saying, but aren't always thinking through it and don't always desire the logical implications.

Boy of the Nice Catholic Variety said... see if it gets erased.

Boy of the Nice Catholic Variety said...

my comment got erased again, but i copied and pasted it, so here it is:

@ Seraphic

I guess you can see that you responded to my comment and it is gone now, so there must be some kind of bug with the system. Just to be clear I finished my initial point and responded to dark but fair, but both comments were eaten by the system.

I'm not going to rewrite those comments. I'm just going to respond to one comment for brevity's sake: that is the issue of one month. So I guess this is direct answer to Seraphic and Dark but Fair.

My understanding of the one month, as described in the letter, is that they were dating for one month(i.e. not that she waited one month for him to ask her out) and in that one month the seminarian did not make any moves, he just "hung out" with her. I don't know a single woman who gives a man that amount of time to work, with one exception. The one exception is the woman who has emotionally compromised herself ahead of time(i.e. the guy can do little wrong in her eyes and she overlooks a lot of stuff he does). Sometimes things work out and the girl gets married to the guy and this never becomes an issue, other times something similar to what happened to your reader happens and a distinct problem develops. I agree that it is not necessarily a moral wrong, but I don't think all of her personal responsibility in the matter dissolves into the wrong actions of the ex-seminarian. There is no doubt that the ex-seminarian did many things wrong, and I am willing to agree that he is more wrong and that he is more wrong in degree as well, but I don't think your reader is blameless, it's a two-way street.

Seraphic said...

Once again, I don't think my reader can be blamed for anything. She seems to have behaved in a very modest and circumspect way. And I repeat: women do not like new male workmates coming on too strong too fast. Indeed, many of us do not like ANY men coming on too strong, too fast.

I'm sorry almost all the young women you know demand that a man begin courting them within less than one month's acquaintance. That seems very odd to me. Even in my whirlwind romance, I had at least corresponded with my husband-to-be off-and-on for eight months before we met in person. There does not seem to be much room for friendship in your scheme.

Meanwhile, I think my reader tracked her colleague's attentions very thoughtfully.

Theobromophile, girls are not necessarily interested in seminarians. They might very well be interested in ex-seminarians, because they know that these Catholic men, at very least, are actually practising Catholics and know what being Catholic means.

Seminarians have also received pastoral training, and therefore ofen are very good at listening and empathy.

Clare C said...

I disagree. She says that they moved from casual aquaintenceship to coffee, to more formal dates, in a slow but regular procession that was clearly a dating trajectory. I don't think they just "hung out" for a month.
She does use the phrase "after hanging out for a month" but I think she is using "hanging-out" as a catch-all phrase for the progression of dating (which seems to me a perfect and desirable progression--especially given the fact that they had not known each other or moved in the same circle before he joined her workplace) It seems like the only thing he held back was physical intimacy, which as Seraphic said, is highly appreciated and attractive by many women.

I agree that many times there are faults on both sides, but this isn't one of them.

Seraphic said...

BNCV, you've had your say. This blog is not a service for young men who want to pick fights with women to prove a point stemming from their own masculine resentments.

If you feel strongly that women are unfair or are being made unhappy by a sense that women don't take you seriously, I strongly recommend that you talk to a good priest.

Seraphic said...

(That was to 2 more comments from BNCV which I chose not to post. There was a third one, too. Every once in a while I get a certain kind of young male reader who wants to prove to women how very wrong we are, etc., etc., which is even more boring than the men who write comments bragging about their sexual skills. Both types get banned in the end.)