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!
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.
P.S. 4 GRRRR!
UPDATE: A seminarian left his interesting and respectful seminarian's eye view under Discern This, Drama Boy.