A friend's engagement


#1

I’m just wondering if anyone can give some advice that can help a best friend of mine. I’m just not sure what to say to her at this point, because I don’t think I’m objective anymore.

She is a wonderful, practicing Catholic and beautiful inside and out. She got engaged last week to an equally great Catholic guy. She was absolutely thrilled, as were their families and friends.

They have kind of a long history. They are in their late twenties now, but met about seven years ago in college. After dating for a short period of time, they broke up when she had some life-changing family issues happen that took all of her time and energy. They remained friends and eventually that friendship became a very important one. She dated other people but he was in the back of her mind.

Eventually they developed feelings for each other again. However, he was exploring the potential for entering the seminary and so they held off dating. For… quite awhile. At least a year. After much spiritual direction (for both of them), he decided to enter the seminary. She was heartbroken but determined to move on and support his decision. So, she went abroad for a year. She earned a masters degree at a Catholic university in Rome. They were out of contact (purposely) for a year.

He had a wonderful first semester in seminary. But, the second was not so smooth and he became very depressed. He came home for the summer after his parish assignment (which did not go well–he found it very lonely and depressing). Two of their good college friends were getting married this same summer–to each other. My friend and this guy were slated to be the maid of honor and best man. So, they began spending time together during some reception planning.

Unbeknownst to my friend, he had already decided after much turmoil and further spiritual direction to leave seminary for the time being. She reconnected with him after the final decision was made. They continued talking and a few months later were officially dating again, with the support of both their spiritual advisors.

He applied for grad school and was accepted a few states away. She followed (with the advice of her spiritual director and his) and they have lived separately for the last year and a half, continuing their relationship and discernment. He has continued to wonder about his vocation and had much anxiety about making the wrong decision. Yet he has loved her and stayed with her and continued spiritual direction.

He came to the decision recently that it was time to make a decision. That moving forward with my friend was his true vocation and calling. So, he proprosed… had some anxiety beforehand, but moved through it and voila, they are engaged.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I guess he told her he’s beginning to have second (tenth?) thoughts about the priesthood. She of course was literally ill to hear this–they just got engaged, after all. Of course he is not making any decisions–he is very, very slow to make decisions as he is careful to process his thoughts and spend time with a lot of prayer. But, it must be torture to wonder and worry how your fiance feelings about marriage to you.

She insists she wants to know all of these daily fluctuations so she isn’t hit with a bomb if he ever breaks off the engagement. I find myself hesitating with what I want to say and what I should say. Privately, my husband thinks she needs to walk away and let him figure things out without her constant support and availability. She has waited for him for SO long. However, I know she would NEVER do that… which kind of worries me. She is afraid that if she walks away and he doesn’t come back to her, it will be because she left. I think she would blame herself and have a constant “if only” complex.

Anyway, I just don’t know what to say to her at this point. I find myself worried about her wanting to marry a man who can’t quite decide he wants to DEFINITELY marry her, you know? But I don’t know if saying that is appropriate–I’ve said things like that before and it was very hurtful to her. Are there other men out there who experienced a lot of doubt or worry about which vocation was truly his to have? He is equally torn up about this.

I don’t remember having any doubt about my impending marriage after engagement, and neither does my husband. Does anyone else have a different experience? What finally happened to push you in a direction?


#2

Lol. You just described me to a ‘t’.

Everytime the wind blows I worry about what I’m supposed to do. I was best friends with my now fiancee when I went into a very serious period of discerning a religious vocation.

I still go back and forth and to be honest, I don’t know if it’s just a personality thing, a defect, a hangup, a call from God, fate, or what!

I can tell you that it drives me insane…and if anyone has any idea of how to get a definitive feeling without superstitious activity, please tell me!

sometimes I wish God would just appear and say “do this!” :blush:


#3

Abby, what stands out in your post is the number of times you mentioned that they have sought out and listened to their spiritual directors. That’s a *good *thing.

I think that would be where I would find some reassurance. Their personality types might be a little “flakier” (for lack of a better word right now) than yours or mine, but they are seeking out sound & objective outside opinions.

Were she to come to me for advice, knowing that I couldn’t be neutral about my opinions on the whole matter, I think I would toss it back to her and say, “Have you talked to your spiritual director about this? What does he or she say?”

This situation is so complex on both sides, and there may be things she has shared with her s.d. that she hasn’t shared with you.

Just a thought.


#4

My oldest brother is a priest; he was ordained when I was 10, when I was an Altar Boy at my parish. So for the past 15 or so years, I’ve felt a longing to be in the priestly ministry as well.

But 7 and a half years ago, I met a wonderful woman, and 3 and a half years ago we got engaged… and a month ago we got married.

I told her a few times during our dating (and even engagement) I’d considered the priesthood, wondering if I was called to it. But I think I can best explain it this way: I don’t think I’m putting her in front of God, I think God has put her in front of me. I was worried I was “letting God down” by answering a call to married life instead of the priesthood, but I see now that my ministry is to this woman I love first of all. Down the line, if I still feel the call, I may very well enter the permanent diaconate so that I can continue serving my parish (whatever it may be) to the best of my ability and to the fullness of God’s plan… but that’s down the line.

Right now, God has put Kristin in front of me, and I will not let such a gift fall by the wayside.


#5

I’d tell her to walk. The fact that he is going back and forth is a red flag. He will never be certain about his vocation.

Fast forward ten years down the road. They are married. They have a mortgage, crying kids and marital stresses that all couples have. His old doubts resurface and he begins to think he was never meant to marry after all, and his real calling with the priesthood (because it looks so much more peaceful and quiet from a distance).

I’ve seen it happen. It doesn’t help the marriage much, by the way.

When you marry, you have to go into it without any mental reservation whatsoever. He’s not there.

She doesn’t need to go through life wondering if she kept a man from his calling to the altar.


#6

Perhaps he is called to the deaconate?


#7

He doesn’t feel called to the diaconate at all, apparently. And my friend has been pretty clear that she at this point would not be thrilled with him wanting to pursue that within marriage. She feels like it could potentially make their marriage a secondary priority. Besides, they are in their late twenties. I think you have to be minimum age 35 to even begin the program.

Stephanie, I agree that there are certainly things I might not know about. But I’ve also known her for fifteen years and been the listening ear for much of the various stages of their relationship. I asked her yesterday what his spiritual director was saying about all of this, and she said he has really struggled lately to open up to his SD. (He has a different one then the original one, since moving far away.) So I’m not sure how helpful SD has been as of lately.

As a friend, I guess I’m not sure how to respond or how to comfort or reassure when she asks me for it. It freaks me out for her that he is so indecisive, but of course I can’t react that way to her.

She sent me an email last night saying that she thinks if the relationship wasn’t meant to be, that she would be having doubts too, but she doesn’t. However, I’m not sure I agree with that logic… is that always true, do any of you think?

Thanks Japhy. I know he has said what you have said–and also that he feels in some ways like he’s choosing the ‘lesser’ vocation by marrying my friend, and he wants to serve God to the highest extent possible. Of course, that might be marriage, but (from what I understand) he seems to think the priesthood is the most perfected way. I don’t know. I know his heart is just wanting to please God but I don’t understand why he is in such a state of constant conflict. (But that’s not for me to understand, of course.)


#8

She sent me an email last night saying that she thinks if the relationship wasn’t meant to be, that she would be having doubts too, but she doesn’t. However, I’m not sure I agree with that logic… is that always true, do any of you think?

Hahah. That was my laugh for the day. Thank you! :smiley:

Marriage takes TWO people. I don’t care if one person has no doubts whatsoever. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If he has doubts, the chain will break.

There is nothing more devastating than being married for six years and having three small babies and having your husband inform you that he’s not sure he should have married after all. Even if she has no doubts, his doubts are a deal breaker.


#9

That would be horrifying. I pray that never happens to my friend.


#10

I understand where he’s coming from – I might have felt the same way, too, for a while – but I really had to examine myself, my relationship with Kristin, and how I could continue to serve God to the best of my ability without being a priest. The diaconate cannot make up for the priesthood, and that’s not why I feel called to it. The diaconate, instead, will allow me to fulfill my married vocation better as well.

Anyway, that’s not related to this man’s situation. I think he needs to examine why he feels called to the priesthood (to make sure it’s not the wrong reasons) and why he feels called to marriage (to make sure it’s no the wrong reasons either!).


#11

Abby, do you think there is scrupulosity involved in his decision-making? Maybe he is not scrupulous, but people who are can be immobilized – especially if he thinks he would be “settling” for a lesser vocation by choosing marriage. Just a thought, not sure if it applies here.

I think you are doing the right thing by listening to your friend and asking about her own spiritual direction. If she is as sensitive as you describe, just being there for support in whatever capacity she needs is the best thing, I think. I’m a pretty sensitive person, and I appreciate it when people let me work through things and come to my own conclusions. I am mature enough to know when I need advice and ask for it. If your friend is like me, I would just listen at this point. I know you worry, but give her credit to figure it out.


#12

I would like to tell this guy that not making a decision, is in fact making a decision. He’s deciding to waste his time doing nothing. He’s already tried seminary and left. He gave it a try, it didn’t work out. What more is there to consider?

I also think it would be best for your friend to leave. If this guy loves her and wants to be devoted to a marriage with her, then it’s time for him to prove it.

Sounds like a sad situation. I will pray for them to know what to do. If she is dead-set on following him around, I would tell her to make a daily holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament with the guy. Every day. As Fr. Corapi says, “I don’t care what the question is. The Eucharist is the answer!” :thumbsup:

Also, what kind of quality spiritual direction can one get if one witholds things? If the guy is serious about finding out what God’s Will is for him, it’s time to get serious about spiritual direction.


#13

The more I think about it, the more selfish he sounds. He is making her put her life on hold while he spends 7 years deciding what he wants to do with his life.

She needs to get on with hers.


#14

Ditto. And, I’m sorry, no offense to priests, but this statement really ticks me off, “he feels in some ways like he’s choosing the ‘lesser’ vocation by marrying my friend, and he wants to serve God to the highest extent possible.” :eek: Seems to me that he’s saying something pretty telling there. She is “less than” WTH?! She needs to dump that jerk!

Kim


#15

That was my gut reaction to the whole “lesser vocation” thing. Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be with a guy who thinks I’m only second-best and who isn’t sure about me.


#16

Just to clarify, it’s not that he respects the marital vocation less then the priesthood. He views it as less of a personal sacrifice for himself, I think. And because he wants to please God, I think he’s somehow gotten it into his mind that becoming a priest would be the ultimate sacrifice. I don’t know. I hesitate to speak for him because I’m not inside his heart. Just trust me that he is a good guy with very earnest intentions and is in no way meaning to disrespect the vocation of marriage. Nor does he enjoy ripping out her heart with his fluctuations. I just get annoyed that she sticks it out and has never let him truly ‘miss’ her. But she feels that is the wrong thing to do, so I won’t try to convince her otherwise.

And yes, I think there is some scrupulosity. Being immobilized about what God wants for him allows him to ride the fence as long as she lets him. But, she sent me an email earlier saying she asked him to decide on a date tonight for the wedding. She said that discussing the wedding details makes him so anxious, even though he says he’s excited. :confused: I emailed her back and said I would just keep praying and I’d be happy to listen whenever she wants but that I didn’t have much in the way of advice. There is plenty I’d like to say but I think it would do more harm then good.

I guess it just really bothers me that she’s planning a wedding with someone who isn’t beyond thrilled that he’s getting such a beautiful jewel for a wife, you know? He’s excited but anxious. But I will have to trust her to say ‘when’ enough is enough.

I just have this horrible feeling that they’ll get right up to the wedding date and then he’ll decide he just can’t do it. If it’s going to get broken off, I just pray he does it sooner then later.


#17

I married a man who went through a year of seminary and decided it wasn’t for him. My biggest fear before our wedding is that he would change his mind.

I think one of the things that helped him was getting a Masters in Theology.I believed it helped him see what the role of married life plays in the Church.

If he and his spiritual director already decided that he wasn’t called to the priesthood, he’ll have a hard time getting back in. I would second the idea of the deacon idea, but his wife would have to be on board as she has to take some of the classes too.


#18

Abby – is your friend insecure, or is she a relatively self-assured person? From your original post, I got the impression that she seems pretty confident and sounded mature. But, certainly, if you think it’s a case where she is marrying him for some sort of completion of herself, then maybe you should say something – such as what I quoted you saying here. Because, I think your statement above reflects your very best intentions for her. Good luck.


#19

Your friend is in a real tough situation.
Pray hard for her, for him, and for the situation.
God bless you for your friendship and concern!


#20

This reminds me of a song “Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps” by Lila Downs or Emma Bunton.


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