Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Auntie Seraphic and Annoyed by Future Saint

One of the staggering discoveries of mid-life is that young men, though usually better-looking, are really not as smart as older men. Okay, maybe that is too snarky. What I mean is that young men usually have a lot to learn, and by the time they have learned it, they are older.

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

First of all, thank you for your blog!

I'm writing to ask for your perspective on a view of dating that was expounded to me by a young man enamoured of the religious life. I bring it up because, although I laughed it off at the time, it kind of rankled, and I think a lot of other young women might well relate to what I felt.

I was sitting outdoors [one moonlit night] with a young man whom I will call George--we'd gone to college together but had never known each other well. He has a brilliant intellect, and a strong will, and his top priority is to become a saint. Although his personality is kind of irritating to me, [he is really very kind.] I say this at the beginning so you'll understand why, in spite of the sting of what he said, I'm still convinced that he meant it in all charity. I just happen to think he was really dangerously wrong, and that women should not listen to this kind of junk.

George had resolved on entering the religious life. He was on fire for God, and he asked me about my vocation. I assured him that after having recently received some spiritual direction, I was 95% sure that the religious life was not for me, but that I hoped perhaps to get married someday.


He asked me thoughtfully how old I was. "Twenty-five? Well, I guess you have some time. If you get married in the next couple years, that would be plenty of time to raise a family. Just don't waste any of it."

I laughed.

"It's true," he said mildly. "It's the biological reality that a woman only has so many child-bearing years..."

"Well, I'm not worried about it," I responded. "I believe that if God wants me to get married, He'll send the right kind of guy into my life. And if he wants me to have x number of children, then I'm sure that I will."

"God helps those who help themselves," he said earnestly. "I'm saying this because I know so many wonderful young Catholic women who fall into this trap of waiting for 'the right man' and end up unhappy and unmarried in their late thirties. Actually, the whole point of marriage is to raise children and help each other to get to heaven. You don't need fireworks of physical attraction to do that. What you need to do, once you decide that marriage is your vocation, is to go marry a good Catholic man without wasting time, and to work out your salvation through your married life."

I laughed again. "You've got to be kidding! Nice Catholic men whom I could stand to be married to aren't exactly waiting around of street-corners for me to fall into their arms!"

"Be honest," he replied. "You could be married now, with three children if you had made it a priority. I knew you in school, and I knew of more than one guy who was interested, but you didn't encourage it."

"That's true," I replied. "But I thank God I didn't encourage anything! I honestly could not stand to be married to any one of the men who, up to this point, have shown romantic interest in me. A lot of them have been weak and insecure characters, needy for attention, or academic and pedantic. The mere thought of being married to such a person is enough to bring on an allergic reaction. And I'm even grateful that none of the handsome, devil-may-care fellows whom I was interested in ever returned my feelings, because a maturer viewpoint shows me what really poor husband-material they would have been."

"Then, you're obviously not making it a priority to pursue your vocation and work out your salvation in the state of life to which God has called you. You're not unattractive; you would have found a good man by now if you didn't have romantic ideas of finding a soul-mate."

"So, you're saying it's my fault that I'm still single at the age of twenty-five-and-one-half?"

"Don't get upset; I'm not attacking you, or trying to make you feel guilty. I'm just trying to give you some advice in the hopes that it will help you to find an husband and settle down in that state of life to which it seems you are called."

"I'm not offended, I just think you're wrong. What if it's not a problem that I'm not married yet? What if it's God's will for me to wait a few years, and that's why I haven't met someone yet whom I could marry?"

I didn't say it to him, but I could have elaborated: It seems to me that my lack of romantic entanglement is a gift from God. Yes, I've been lonely, yes, I dream of being married, I plan my wedding day, I long to have cuddly babies and a big strong husband to welcome home from work. I want to teach my children to love Jesus and the Blessed Mother, I want to bake cookies and wear a frilly apron. But God knows, I have not been ready for a relationship.

I'm a late bloomer. I was your typical awkward, socially inept homeschooler in college. I was self-absorbed and scrupulous. I've grown up so much in the years since then--in ways that I truly do not think I could have while married to Mr. Lets Become Saints, or Mr. I Love the Fact You Always Wear a Mantilla, or Mr. You're Such a Kind and Loving Little Woman I Know You'll Always Be There to Listen to My Troubles.

You see what I mean? Furthermore, what if God is speaking to my heart and teaching me His will for me throughout this lonely time? What if, as I truly believe, He wants me to begin to learn to be the woman I was meant to be before He sends the man whom I will marry with joy and gladness? What's the problem with that? Why should I start throwing myself at men, or accept and encourage advances which merely bore and trouble me? If I never do find the man I can love, I'm okay with being single the rest of life. It won't be easy, but it's certainly preferable, in my mind, to a difficult marriage, where the only kind of love I have for my husband is produced by an effort of the will."

But my self-appointed mentor was not convinced. He was sure that I was dreaming of a Prince Charming with loads of magnetic personality and "fireworks of physical attraction".

"Look at the parents of St. Therese," he said. "What a holy marriage. It certainly was not about physical attraction. They planned to remain celibate, and only decided to change this on the advice of a spiritual director. Anyway, I think a lot of Catholic girls worry about finding 'the right' one, and about whether 'marrying this man is God's will for me' when all they have to do is accept the one who is there."

I could have noted that anyway, they liked each other very much, for a start--and that Zelie Martin had an interior locution when she first saw Louis. A voice spoke in her heart saying, "This is the man I have prepared for you," Or the fact that Lous was already in his mid-thirties, and though I don't know how old Zelie was, she had already established herself as business woman. She must surely have been in her mid twenties at least.

"I'm not looking for the perfect man!" I protested. "I'm not looking for fireworks! But I really, really want to be with someone whom I can relate to, connect with intimately! I want us to be able to understand one another, to share a sense of humor and irony. I want to be best friends with the man I'm going to marry. If I found such a man, and he was manly and reliable and virtuous, I think falling in love with him would almost go without saying. It'd be as easy as rolling off a log! I am so ready for love! But I am not going to marry, or even date, some insecure bore just because he's trying to be a saint, and don't try to make me feel as if I'm somehow at fault for failing to secure a man before the age of twenty-five, because I think your theory is totally wrong."

Well, as I say, my companion is brilliant, so the long and the short of it is that he managed to talk circles around me and present a solid theological case, without convincing me in the slightest!

"I may not be smart enough or educated enough to prove it," I wound up saying, "but my heart has common sense. And anyway, with my frail virtue, marrying a man who bores me, with whom I cannot connect, who doesn't make my heart beat a little faster--why, that would just be placing myself in the way of all sorts of temptation. Temptation to become a bitter shrew, to feel sorry for myself, to compare my lot with that of other women, to compare my husband with theirs, etc. Of course, a saint wouldn't do that, but the truth is, I'm far from being holy, and I'm not about to put myself in a situation that I know is beyond my strength. I'd have to be an idiot."

So that was that.

But I wanted to write to you about it, because I feel that we young single women are so in danger from this guilt-trip! It is hard enough to be single, and then we hear that it's our fault? What a recipe for scrupulosity!

What a disaster, if we were to go all-out for marriage, feeling that we were not following God's will for us unless we did our darnedest to snag the nearest available Catholic male of good morals. It's a sad but true fact, by the way, that the men who are standing around ready to be snagged and start "a holy Catholic family life" are generally up-tight, control freaks with issues. I'm sorry; it's true. It seems to me that we should not be looking for just anybody who matches certain criteria, but that we should be looking to relate to a person with a good character. Anyway, I want a man to value the unique person that I am, not just the fact that I dress modestly, wear a mantilla or hat at mass, and want to have babies. And I want to be able to love a man for all the unique little things that are special about him, not just for the fact that he's a good provider, or wants to pray together (I've had maladjusted self-absorbed, control-freak bores who wanted to pray with me. Just sayin').

I wondered if you might present this question of guilt and scrupulosity, and reassure the young women out there who are suffering from this sense of failure and shame! I was able to laugh it off--I know it isn't true--and yet, y'know? I can't help being a bit stung (esp. because I've never dated! Yikes! Is it possible that it's because I'm cold-hearted and arrogant? Am I truly seeking God's will, or just what I want? Etc, etc.) And I think a lot of us are like that.

Once again, thanks for your wise and witty words on your blog!

Annoyed by Future Saint

PS--for what it's worth, Sigrid Undset, in an essay on "Woman", wrote that it seemed that the fact that women no longer need to marry in order to be provided for, may be indicative of the fact that they ought not, unless they feel called to do so. There are plenty of useful things that merry old spinsters can do, instead of becoming bitter, long-suffering wives.

Dear Annoyed by Future Saint,

My very first thought, upon reading your email was, "How old is George?" It strikes me that only a very young man would dare give a young woman he is not related to such solemn, magisterial advice on what to do with her life. Fortunately, a good seminary works wonders.

My next thought was that I married at 25 because I couldn't understand why I kept getting bored with my boyfriends and thought I would conquer my wicked fickleness with a plunge into the abyss. [And although I didn't have to listen to lectures on marriage is for babies and working out your salvation, I did have to struggle with the guilt of preferring to marry a fellow Catholic--how "bigoted" of me---and that was just to start with.]

As a result I was divorced at the age of 27, had an annulment (thank heaven) at age of 28, and remained unmarried until I was 38. The worst part was swimming around in a sea of broken dreams and disappointment and struggles from the ages of 24, when I was engaged, until 32, when I went to theology school and found real happiness in God's service. But that was eight years of my life destroyed by marrying the wrong man [and being the wrong woman]. I still have invisible scars today.

There may be women who can "just get married" to the first good Catholic man who comes along, and "just do it" when they go to bed with him, and "just offer it up" when they find him incredibly annoying. There may be women who can channel all their hopes for a real love-connection into their children, and forgive their husband for not being "all that" because at least he provided both their beautiful children and, hopefully, a decent life for them all that does not involve grinding poverty or domestic violence. However, I don't think those are university-educated, idealistic women. I think those women mostly come from cultures where women are raised from birth to expect nothing and just be grateful for whatever they get whereas their brothers are treated like little emperors.

Meanwhile, although this is treated by the Catholic young as a hideous nightmare, there is not much wrong with being an unmarried woman in her late 30s, as long as she has work that provides her with satisfaction and decent living conditions and the emotional support of friends, family or both. I know many such women, and although some would no doubt like to be married, I would not call them miserable. No doubt there are some women who are, but why they would be sharing their unhappiness with young George is beyond me. Has he been watching daytime television?

My final words: don't settle. Ir doesn't matter what brilliant 20-something boys say. My ex was a brilliant 20-something, too. To paraphrase from my favourite film, "What they don't know about women is a lot."

Grace and peace,


Domestic Diva said...

Dear Annoyed, I had a similar conversation with a George in my life, only George had left the religious life and was now trying to persuade me to marry him. He and many of our holy Catholic friends gave me every reason in the book why I was an idiot for not marrying him, but thanks be to God (and to my parents, who are happily married to their best friend) I held strong. No, I'm not married yet, but I have NO regrets about it, and while I long for my dream to be fulfilled, my dream isn't shattered by a bad marriage. And if you can believe it, my George (who married the first girl he found after I broke up with him) told me a couple of years ago that I was right. (Not sure what all the implications are, just glad that he was done berating me for being too picky.)

Hold strong! Ask the Lord to "incline your heart to do His will" and you won't be too picky for Mr. Right for You.

Lara L. said...

Oh, dear. I'm too short tempered for those conversations. Two seconds into it and I'd be asking if George wants me to just close my eyes and think of England.

Pearlmusic said...

Oh, oh, oh.
I can well relate to this. I’ve been told all this stuff if not just by a hypothetical George, then perhaps by the voice in my head composed of stray reflections and lots of advice I've been given.

I think many young men wonder why we gals go to universities, become idealistic, intellectual, self-aware, critical and, as a consequence, refuse to accept whatever is brought to our doorstep. We become (that’s their view, not mine) unbearable b*tches who not only make it hard for them to impress us during five minutes of talk, but also become professional and sign up for academic (or whatever) posts they apply for. They’re not content with that and they might need a few more generations to get adjusted to the fact women are successful in careers formerly exclusive for them. Not that I don’t want marriage. Not that I don’t want children. Of course, I do want them, with the right man, in the right time, but I chose to study and get a profession involving my individual talents so that I could make a living and live a meaningful life IN CASE I never married. This part of my comment relates to Seraphic's previous post, too.

And I share your concern , dear Annoyed, about Single Catholic men, too. I often wonder what is wrong with them. Either they don’t show any interest in pursuing women, or they are people with issues, this including serious psychical disorders. And it is surprising because I’m living in a traditionally Catholic country which is, however, becoming more and more secular now. Sometimes it looks as though Catholic Single men cannot be normal, interesting, reliable, kind-hearted, sensible guys with some good sense of humour. All in all, many of us Catholic-Intellectual-University girls are doomed to secular j*rks who initially show interest but don’t the least respect our faith and willingness to leave sex for marriage, etc. Perhaps there are good, unmarried Single Catholic men out there, but my guessing is they don’t show off with their religious beliefs too much. I usually smell a rat when a Catholic man is all-too-much-about-being-Catholic, if you know what I mean. And I’m sorry to say that because I AM Catholic, too, and want to live my life up to Catholic faith.

Sound like I’m complaining, but that’s been my dating experience so far.

Heather in Toronto said...

Bless his dear little heart.

Saying you should marry the first good Catholic man who expresses interest in you is like saying someone should join the first religious order who ever gives them a vocation pamphlet. Yes, it might happen that it works out that way, but you can't assume it will.

You don't join the Franciscans if you are better suited to be a Dominican, or a Trappist, or a Salesian, or a Carmelite, or whatever. You don't marry Frank if your personalities just don't mesh, even if he is a Nice Catholic Boy. If he's not the right kind of Nice Catholic Boy, you'll both just end up making each other miserable and defeating the whole point of trying to help each other get to heaven.

I agree that "George" dear sounds very young, not just because he is giving such inappropriately fatherly advice, but because he is so very certain that if everyone would just be sensible about things, everything would all work out. He sounds like someone for whom life is something they have read about but not really experienced yet.

Anna said...

Am I wrong in suspecting that ~50 years ago the conversation would have been unlikely to take place? I mean this sort of vocations talk, involving very private aspirations and areas of life, between two young people who don't even know each other all that well, leading to pontification on the part of one and hurt on the part of the other.
Whatever happened to the sense that some things are best shared only with God and a spiritual director/other trusted, respected person – and hence should not be pried into? This is absolutely not intended as any kind of criticism of Annoyed, whom I completely agree and sympathize with. But maybe we (especially young women) should become more conscious of our right to protect our intimacy and tell "self-appointed mentors" to mind their own business.

hmea said...

A Jesuit priest gave exactly the same advice to a friend of mine - thankfully she didn't follow it. Surprisingly, he was actually quite a good Jesuit - Jesuits falling into the same categories as little girls of course: when they are good they are very very good and when they are bad they are horrid.

But perhaps not surprisingly... I think the advice just 'to get married to an NBC, raise a Catholic family, and you'll learn to love each other' perhaps was good advice in ages past. Love didn't used to be seen as such an important element in marriage generally either by Catholics or the world at large. It was more of a social thing (of course we're at the other end of the pendulum swing now what with any loving couple of whatever description getting married, regardless of their lack of contribution i.e. children to society).

But in recent years, and particularly I think since Blessed JPII of dearly beloved memory, we have come to know better, and thank God.
In previous ages it possibly was possible to have good marriage that way. But the world we live in is not the world as it was and with all the attacks on marriage and the family today, and the sheer dedication it takes just to live a decent Christian life, I am sure God has given us, through JPII, His much more fulfilling vision for men and women in marriage. Nowadays, in the society in which we live, it would simply be too hard to live marriage by the old ideas.

Not sure if I've made myself clear, but 'that's wot I fink'.

As a 35 yr old fairly seraphic single I'm glad no priest or anyone ever gave me that advice - not because I would have followed it but because I would have got very angry indeed...(and I once heard it was a mortal sin to hit a priest).

Bernadette said...

If it's any comfort, the future John Paul II (back when he was a bishop/philosophy professor in Poland) wrote a whole book about romantic love (Love and Responsibility), in which he said that all the compatibility in the world would never be more than a beautiful friendship unless a couple had the chemistry that could transform it into true romantic love. He also wrote rather plainly about the resentment that is likely to spring up when spouses are not sexually compatible. So apparently George thinks he's smarter than JP II.

Seraphic said...

I wrote a whole long comment about the rise of male-and-female-platonic friendships and how girly they are, but then I realized that I am absolutely clueless about male-and-female-platonic friendships.

I understand that my older male mentors are helpful to me, so I am grateful to them and respect them, and I understand that I am helpful to younger men, so I expect them to be grateful to me and to respect me, but other than that I don't really get it. But I know when I'm being spoken down to, and I hate it.

Cordi said...

Future Saint chose a rather bad example to support his case, because according to "Maurice and Therese"--and while the author of this book may not know everything about the Martin family, I bet he knows more than Future Saint--when Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin met by chance on the way to their respective workplaces "they fell in love at once. They never doubted they were meant for each other, and they were married within three months". (p. 19) Louis was 35, and Zelie 27. Doesn't sound much like someone who knows her vocation is marriage just settling for the first NCB who asks her to me...

Nzie said...

Good on Annoyed by Future Saint for not falling prey to this clap trap. I also think Hannah's hit the nail on the head. Honestly, he must be very young, he must not have experienced much life, and he must not realize that it's completely inappropriate to pry so much. Gosh, so they were college acquaintances; he's nosy and presumptuous. There may be a lot of things to recommend him, but those two may be his cross on that road to sainthood. I hope he takes his frustration with AbFS to his confessor, who can give him a mental shaking.

I also was a late bloomer, and I'm glad AbFS also feels she's grown enough to stand up to this. I would have been crushed hearing it at 20. At 27, I am not impressed.

Anonymous said...

Good gracious. I think what really gets my goat about Future Saint and his ilk is this mentality: "Then, you're obviously not making it a priority to pursue your vocation and work out your salvation in the state of life to which God has called you."

I'm sorry, but the very fact that I am alive means I have to work out my salvation. I don't need to aggressively pursue a secondary vocation to do so. My retort would be that I already am: I am called to the single state right now, and should I get married, that will continue the work, just in different ways. If I never marry, despite my desire and belief I should have this vocation, salvation will still be worked out. Gah!
So, dear Annoyed, I not only sympathize, but empathize with you. I've had an extra three years of turning over rocks to find issue-free, compatible NCBs, and it is frustrating. You are not cold or arrogant for wanting to genuinely like your spouse! Though it is not Auntie's suggested way of finding a guy (for good reasons), I actually have had some success with online dating. I am only unmarried because the NCBs I met weren't suited for me but properly for other NCGs. Sad for me, but I try to remain hopeful Future Compatible Husband and I will find each other. And I will pray for yours and all the other readers, too.

Meredith said...

First of all, 25 is NOT OLD. The average age of first marriage in America is 27 for women.

Secondly, George's advice to not look for physical attraction is incredibly unfair to the man as well. Men, from what I can tell, hope for a sexy wife who will find them sexy. Wife who just lies there like a dead fish will slowly destroy their psyche. Men have feelings too and are miserable when they realize their wives have "settled" for them.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I hope seminary tells him that male and female spirituality is different, and their respective approach to vocation is different as well.

My brother (who is a priest) sometimes tries to lay this one on me ("he was interested in you, he's Catholic and comes from a good family, why are you passing this opportunity by?") and I'd said, in somewhat more modest terms, but fairly bluntly, "the idea of sleeping with him every night makes me sick".

Yes, it's a strange historical moment that women can choose not to sleep with guys that make them sick. But perhaps it's a God-mandated moment that is meant to produce certain good fruit.

After all, every since Jesus resurrected, history isn't doomed to its up-until-that-point dreary, cyclical nature, bathed in blood, toil, war and tears. Jesus has died and resurrected to make something NEW; why wouldn't his words describe the fact that we are no longer slaves to our biology? That's why it irks me when supposed orthodox Catholics slavishly hold to the biological imperative of males/females. How is this view different than marriage in Ancient Rome - marriages need to happen between good roman citizens in order to produce more citizens that will uphold the state of Rome, no matter whether there's love between the parties or not?

Don't get me wrong; I love babies and families. However, it's because I love babies and children so much, that I want all children to be raised by two parents completely in love with each other, from the start. Nothing else impacts the happiness and well-being of a family more. I should know, having grown up in the misery of two parents who made each other miserable - from the start.

- Anonymous for this one

TRS said...

How funny, as I was just driving back from lunch I was thinking about my past relationship with a good catholic man who I am lucky not to have married. Then I came and read this.
I was 37 and he was Catholic.... At long last I figured this must be the man for me. It's my last chance to get married and he's a devout Catholic, wee God!
Well, looking back I probably should have walked away when he suggested his sister being abused at the hands of her husband was equivalent to my sister being brutally murdered. (Sorry auntie, I know you've stopped comments at the the thought that murder happens to real live people) now I'm not saying what his sister experienced wasn't horrible, but being alive and being killed are NOT the same thing.
then there was the fact that he would rage at me for not being ready to leave for Mass when he was when I was volunteering to go to earlier Mass with him despite the fact I am not a morning person.
and for being mad at me that I got him a cake and sang happy birthday with his friends, because somehow that took the focus off of God.
but yeah! he was a good Catholic man, who did not love me, did not show his mother respect, and was really quite arrogant despite all the humility he talked about.
I thank God all the time that I didn't marry him! Even though my friends remember that he was a "good man"

Now, I know my examples may not sound too bad, but think about it.... "I could just leave for Mass on time if I didn't have to wait for YOU" is not a man who wants to be a couple, or have a family. Recognize the warning signs early!
(Now I'm going to go back and read all the comments!)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I just read something at work from a sensible sounding priest that I think speaks well to the notion that women should just marry and any unhappiness is just a means of working out salvation: “Suffering must have the character of loving sacrifice (1 Cor. 13). Suffering for its own sake is a burden. Sacrificial Love is a joy. In order for sacrifice to become sacrificial love, it must respond to the Beauty of another person; it must serve the Truth of that person.”

If for whatever reason Annoyed or any of us singletons don't see the Beauty or Truth of the man "who is there" (but perhaps some other woman can, and we see it in someone else), then sacrifice for love's sake will not be the joy it should be. I don't think God calls for unnecessary martyrdom, but mutual willing sacrifice.

Seraphic said...

TRS, the reason why I binned your comment last month (or whenever) is not because I don't know people get killed or to diss the memory of your sister, but 1. because I have a lot of young and sensitive readers and 2. because that's the kind of super-personal, heartfelt information you don't share with people who don't know you.

Anonymous, not only are you out of line, you are traceable. Don't insult my readers.

Seraphic said...

And TRS I'm really sorry that happened to your sister. That is just awful. I dated a guy whose brother was murdered in a road rage incident. Nobody just gets over that.

Seraphic said...

Is Anonymous from Morris Plain New Jersey? He might just be!

Seraphic said...

Rude Anonymous, I mean.

Seraphic said...

Hmm. I may have to get an expert to figure it out for sure, though.

Julia said...

Seraphic, my undergrad years make so much more sense in light of the knowledge that some young men like to make grand, general, sweeping statements, so thank you for writing about these sorts of issues.

A young man I went to university with was prone to making gung-ho pronouncements about things. He also LOVED to dole out unsolicited advice. This man had his good qualities, but I think he was very troubled. These days, I would find it easier to not be troubled by self-appointed "experts" like him. (N.B. I didn't go to a Catholic university, and this young man was not a Catholic. His pronouncements were usually study- and career-related rather than ideology-related, and I was not involved with him romantically. We had to work together a lot on projects, which is why I had to spend so much time with him.)

"Saying you should marry the first good Catholic man who expresses interest in you is like saying someone should join the first religious order who ever gives them a vocation pamphlet. Yes, it might happen that it works out that way, but you can't assume it will."

Heather in Toronto, that's what I thought too.

Anonymous said...

This: http://catholiclane.com/conjugal-love-is-not-an-act-of-the-will/

Just yes!


Anonymous said...

And, if Auntie Seraphic doesn't deem it inappropriate, my own story of accepting marital love: http://www.altcatholicah.com/altcatol/a/b/rsa/4453/
(disclaimer: the title is not mine!)

It runs along the lines of proverbialgirlfriend and others comments re: worrying about salvation, not marriage.

At a recent book club meeting, a (married) friend made an argument for Charlotte Lucas's acceptance of Mr. Collins that was along these lines. While her situation is different because of the economic condition of women at the time, that was not my friend's argument.

This was all from a friend who moved back to Oklahoma from DC after meeting a man at a wedding and staying up with him talking all night... in other words, a very unpractical beginning.


sciencegirl said...

To anyone who suggests that one should marry someone she or he dislikes in order to just "offer it up" and work out salvation, etc., I ask:

What priest would knowingly marry such a couple? "Do you come here freely, and of your own will?" "No, I come here coerced at the will of a 22 year-old acquaintance who said I should marry the first Catholic man attracted to me, regardless of my own feelings. Else I might end up OVER 30 and MISERABLE."

Unless you die in your 20s, you'll be over 30 some day. And a person can be miserable -- or happy -- in any state of life.

I wonder if late marriages among faithful, chaste Catholics might not have an additional advantage of lowering the temptation to use contraception. In pre-Seminarian's eyes, that is probably horrible, but I think it a perfectly acceptable response to hearing married couples stress about the issue. Perhaps young Catholic men hear that the Church forbids contraception and that NFP sometimes helps, but sometimes puts a strain on marital relations, and think, "Well, if I wait a few years longer to marry, I won't have as much to worry about, anyway. In the meantime, chastity isn't so bad, really." The risk, of course, is that having children could be much more difficult later on.

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh at the letter, the whole thing reminded me of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Collins. I think Mr. Collins would agree with the notion that one should marry what ever nice boy that happens to be around and makes you an offer, you know you might not get another one. I can easily picture a very earnest and ill informed discussion between FS and Mr. C. where they spend a great deal of time congratulating each other. I've always wondered if Charlotte was really happy.
I don't think 25 is old at all either. I was told as a teen by my mom that I shouldn't get married before 25. She thought that maturity and personalities were, hopefully, more firmly established after that age. And goodness knows I would like to actually enjoy the company of my someday maybe husband, and he mine.


Cordi said...

Anamaria, I LOVE that article! Thank you for sharing it!

Stellamaris said...

Is George giving the same advice to his male friends about the fireworks of physical attraction? I'd bet my eyeteeth that the young men mooning over AbFS were not just thinking "Oh look, a good Catholic girl. I guess I'd better marry her ASAP so I can work out my salvation and get down to diapers."

SundayBorn said...

This unfortunate (or simply ignorant?) male perspective appears to cross ethnic, religious and Christian/ denominational boundaries, from my experience as a Protestant in a university Theology department where I as a Canadian study with Christian men from various denominations. I'm in my early-30's and the only woman in my programme at the moment; my classmates tend to be in their 40's and 50's, married, and very often ministers.

I had an encounter similar to "Future Saint's" when along with one of my classmates (conservative Baptist), I was asked to show a group of visiting African ministers around the campus. My classmate, whom I had not seen for a number of months, turned to me and asked in front of this group of strangers, "So, when is your wedding?" Confused, I thought perhaps he had some misinformation, as there was no wedding anywhere in sight. I replied, "Oh, I'm not getting married, there's no wedding." To which he replied, "So you've decided not to marry; but why, my sister, why don't you marry? You really should marry; at the end of the day your PhD won't count for anything, and if you do eventually marry later your husband will just take credit for your work."

At which point the group of unknown men all chimed in, adding their support - yes indeed, I should marry; why wasn't I married? Surely there were plenty of suitable options for me, etc....

I turned to my classmate and said, "You and I are both Christians; correct?" He nodded. I said, "As a Christian, do you agree that we are called to be obedient to the tasks God has given to us?" Again, he confirmed this. I said, "Well, I believe God has called me to undertake these studies, and has chosen to not give me a husband at this point in time. Therefore, would it not be disobedient of me to abandon my studies and just marry anyone if God has called me to this task at this at this time? Are you suggesting as a Minister that I should be disobedient?"

Then the stammering started. "Wellll, yessss, of course we must be obedient, and I didn't mean you shouldn't study, I just meant, it's good to marry, and.....well...."

I'm sure this gentleman shared a similar concern as Future Saint's mentor that time was "running out" and I should be moving along in life; there was no malice, just total ignorance and extreme insensitivity. Not to speak of a tellingly low opinion of the value of education for women...

Ah dear - as if the challenge of remaining seraphically single isn't challenge enough, it does seem particularly discouraging when these are the messages we receive from our Christian brothers, who above all should be a source of encouragement!

Sheila said...

Hm, Jane Austen was a lifelong Single woman. She had offers, but turned them down. I think people expected her to be Charlotte Lucas, to realize she was poor and didn't have good odds and so to just go for what she could get. But instead, she was like Elizabeth Bennett, who said that she didn't mind being single and would only get married if she was *really* in love with the man. And that, despite the fact that she knew full well her father's death would leave her penniless!

I imagine Lizzie, like Jane Austen herself, had to have a lot of courage. Nowadays we're lucky. If we can't marry for love, we don't HAVE to get married at all.

Julia said...

SundayBorn, I'm well impressed that you managed to respond so coherently to that Minister! I kid you not - when I read what he had said, my jaw dropped.

"...there was no malice, just total ignorance and extreme insensitivity."

I sometimes wonder how some people appear to have progressed beyond adolescence without having gained an understanding of the Personal Questions One Does Not Ask. I mean, it's pretty basic, right? How much imagination does it take?

Anyway, I'm really sorry that that happened to you.

SundayBorn said...

thanks for your kind words! It's always hard to find a helpful and appropriate response in these situations. On the one hand, you know that generally such men are trying to convey the sentiment, "hey, as my friend I want to encourage good things in your life" - which is kind - but on the other, their logical conclusion is, "and as a woman, the only good thing left that I can encourage you to do is to get married."

Clearly the lack of imagination issue that you point out extends to a number of areas...


tiny therese said...

I wonder what kind of relationship Future Saint's parents had. Could that have something to do with his views?

A spouse isn't just someone you happen to reproduce with, but someone that you live with day after day for the rest of your life. Can you imagine how hard that would be to live with someone you don't even like? Marriage won't help you like the person, but seeing them day in and day out will just make it worse.

You deal with finances, where you're going to live, and actually parenting your children together, just to name a few. People either divorce over disagreements on these issues or have a dysfunctional and needlessly stressful marriage that is neither happy nor pleasant. My own parents are the latter.

Their marriage is basically that of two people who just so happen to live in the same house. They agree on hardly anything. Such a marriage isn't healthy for the spouses nor for their children.

One day, the children will be grown up and living away from their parents. They may not live in the same town as their parents, maybe even as far away as another country or they may be local but not spend much time with their parents.

On top of that, eventually both spouses (or simply the husband if the wife stayed at home) will be retired. So there are no kids and no job to keep them occupied while they're living with their spouse that they have no attraction to. Can you imagine how lonely that would be?