They were at the same college, and they had seen each other at Mass and on the fringes of chaplaincy events. They had chatted a few times, and Katie liked Mike quite a lot. If he wasn't tall, at least he was taller than she. And if he wasn't very handsome, at least he was more handsome than the other guys around. He was always carrying some Catholic book or other, even though he was science student. Katie thought this was very cool.
Then one day, in the college library, which was a lot like your college library, where Katie was diligently trying to memorize vocabulary lists by writing out each word ten times, Mike appeared at her elbow. Katie looked up and smiled, hoping against hope that she was not blushing.
"Hey," said Mike.
"Hey," said Katie.
Mike looked around the library and then back down at Katie.
"So are you busy?"
"Kind of," said Katie and then, not quite fibbing because the thought had that very second occured to her, "I was thinking of taking a break."
"Cool," said Mike. "You want to grab a coffee or something?"
"Sure," said Katie and then, since she is a great fan of this blog, smiled and said, "You paying?"
"Sure," said Mike. "I want to ask you something."
Now Katie prayed to all her favourite saints that she wasn't blushing. She chewed the inside of her lip to keep from smiling too widely. Her heart pounded in her maidenly bosom. She scooped her papers and laptop into her bag, picked up her coat and followed Mike to the library cafe.
They chose a table with a view of the campus, and hung up their coats on the backs of their chairs, and put their bags on the floor. Katie watched as Mike unwound his college scarf from his neck and felt a bit woozy. She distracted herself by silently reciting vocabulary lists.
"So," said Mike. "A latte or what?"
"Double double," said Katie.
"Aha," said Mike. "A sweet tooth! I like that in a woman."
He strode to the counter and Katie sat on her hands so as not to chew her fingernails. She looked out the window and recited more unfamiliar words crucial to her studies.
Mike returned with a big cup of white coffee, a big cup of black coffee, a brownie and a plastic knife, all carefully balanced on a tray. He cut the brownie in half and smiled at Katie.
"I figured we might both need some chocolate by now."
"Thanks," said Katie faintly. She felt an almost overwhelming urge to text her best friend immediately, but she repressed it.
Mike flung himself in his seat and lifted his mug.
"Cheers," said Katie.
Her coffee was rich and sweet, exactly as she liked it.
"So," said Mike, leaning forward. "About that thing I wanted to ask you about?"
Katie composed her face into a look she hoped conveyed mildly ironic and detached womanly sophistication.
"I was wondering. I mean, because we're Catholic and all, and go to the same stuff, and have the same friends, and get along great, if you'd consider being my VDP?"
Katie made a strange squeaking noise, turned red and stared at Mike blankly.
"My VDP. You know, Vocation Discernment Partner."
"I'm sorry," said Katie. "I don't know what that is."
"Oh," said Mike. "Maybe it's not that popular here yet. Well, it's when you're trying to figure out if you're called to be married or a priest or what. I mean, obviously as Catholics we totally reject that whole stupid campus hook-up culture and just, you know, concentrate on discerning our vocations. And it's way easier to do that with another person. It's, like, by going out with you, I would figure out if I'm called to be a husband and father, and I think I would make a great husband and father, or a priest, who, you know, technically should have made a great husband and father if he hadn't become a priest, and you would figure out if you were called to be a nun or what."
"A nun?" said Katie. "Me?"
"Sure," said Mike. "Why not? Lots of women your age are becoming nuns now. Real nuns, with habits. Anyway, what do you think? Would you like to be my Vocations Discernment Partner?"
Katie became vaguely aware of some sort of interior shrieks, and wondered who was shrieking. It was her heart, but Katie didn't have time to attend to that right now.
"You're going to think I'm awfully stupid," she said, "but I still don't know what this entails. I mean, do we go out to the movies and stuff, or go to Mass together, or go to vocation discernment lectures together and talk about them afterwards?"
"All of that," said Mike enthusiastically. "I need to give every vocation a fair shake: marriage, priesthood--heck, even monastic life."
"I don't know how I can help you discern monastic life," said Katie.
"Well," said Mike, "say I go on retreat, to Kentucky with the Trappists or whomever. Then if I miss you really a lot, then that might give me a clue."
"A clue to how you feel about me?"
"Sure," said Mike nervously, "or women in general."
Katie's heart gave another wail.
"I don't know if that's flattering or not," said Katie, "standing in for women in general."
"That's the beauty of it," said Mike. "You represent women in general for me, and I represent men in general for you."
"Like in hook-up culture," said Katie.
"Well, it's like hook-up culture, isn't it? You use me--as a woman--for something, and I use you--as a man--for something. As a means to an end."
"No, I'm sorry," said Mike, not sounding sorry but actually annoyed. "That's not the same thing at all. Hook-up culture is about sex without strings, which is a mortal sin, and vocation discernment partnership is about finding out God's will for your life, which is awesome."
"But I already know God's will for my life," said Katie.
Mike blinked again.
"Yes," said Katie, standing up. "It's to spend time with people who want to be with me for me, and not just because I'm some woman."
"Hey," said Mike. "Sit down. You're not just some woman. There are tons of women on this campus. You're a, well, you're a nice Catholic girl."
"No, I'm not," said Katie, getting her coat. "I'm a fantastic Catholic girl. See you around, Mike. I hope you find your vocation soon."
Mike held his coffee cup with both hands and looked at the evenly divided brownie.
"I'm confused here," said Mike.
"Yes," said Katie, picking up her bag. "I can see that."
This was too big for texting. She left the library and began to walk to her dorm. She walked swiftly for a block, and then she began to run. She ran as if all the Vocation Discernment Partners in the world were after her. And when she got to her room, she pulled out her phone. As she turned it on, her eye fell on the crucifix.
"Just one," she promised.
She speed-dialed her best friend.
Update: Part 2, "Katie Weakens" here.
Update 2: Willkommen, der Lederstamm von Ecce Sponsus Venit! Ich spreche kaum Deutsche...