We did the audio tour and I got to show off my awesome swinging through submarine door hole skills. Considering I did it in a dress, I think I'm pretty good.
All of the getting lost and walking everywhere led to some great conversations. Both of the other women are single and I like to have the opportunity to pick their brains about what types of faith formation and topics for discussions they would find appealing to their current state in life.
Both of them said they would really like more specific instruction/discussions about how to do Catholic dating. What types of qualities are you looking for in a dating relationship? Do you value primarily dating other Catholics? If so, how does one filter who is Catholic in name vs. actively practicing? How does discernment work at this point in life?
I think these, and more, are really valid questions and we, as a church, do need to minister better to this demographic. One mentioned that these questions do eventually get dealt with by the church ministries, but it is not normally until marriage prep. That's not exactly the most approachable venue for single people.
So here are my Catholic dating tips as someone who has done it in the semi-recent past.
1. Decide what qualities are important to have in a future spouse
I do think it's ok to have certain qualities in the "important in a future spouse" category, but it's important to really flesh out what it is about those qualities that is important to you. It's one thing to say you want your future spouse to also be Catholic, but what is it about their Catholicism that is important to you? Is it shared values? A shared identity? An attitude of openness to your faith?
I also think it can be a good idea to have a list of "strongly desired" qualities and "nice if" qualities. Ideally, the strongly desired should be shorter than the nice if list.
2. Work toward understanding the Church teachings on marriage and sexuality
It is really really hard to follow these particular teachings if you really don't get where the Church is coming from. The single most important source for understanding these teachings comes from Pope Saint John Paul II's Theology of the Body, I don't really recommend reading through the original Theology of the Body talks as a starting point because it is enormous and it was given as a series of talks that assumed you knew certain background information.
Get your hands on books by Christopher West, check out the Theology of the Body Institute, and be open toward working towards understanding.
3. Learn how to discern
This can be the hardest part for a lot of people. There is a level of discernment that occurs when you are thinking about the important qualities in a future spouse, but this is a deeper type of discernment. This is the discernment where you really open up to God and ask what you are meant to do. You might be called to something surprising.
Practice different types of prayer. Get a spiritual adviser (seriously, just call up the parish and ask one of the priests if he can recommend someone.) Make strong Catholic friends, especially of the same gender, who are also on this journey. I learned in the convent that nothing can provide some checks and balances on a spiritual journey quite like a group of other women who want you to find your true vocation in life.
Tomorrow is our fourth wedding anniversary. We were engaged about five and half years ago. In that time I feel like a lot has changed in the Catholic dating world. We met online on catholicsingles.com. Back then it was free for college students, and the online selection was a little different. Neither of us had very established Catholic friend circles in the area yet, so it wasn't a big concern to date someone within the friend group and risk potential difficulties from it not working out.
That's not to say this was an easy leap to take. When we got engaged I was nineteen and Matt twenty-two. A number of family members were uncomfortable with our upcoming wedding. We were, by far, the first of our friends to get married and have kids. But this was not a light decision. We really hashed out a lot of hot spot topics in those four months of dating, and were ready to get engaged. I really believe making that decision has less to do with time spent dating than with how that time is used.