Dating and discerning vocations


The prevailing wisdom among religious orders and clergy I talk to and read, seems to be that before deciding on the priesthood, the religious life, the single life, or any unmarried lifestyle, the discerning Catholic should do some dating.

Is this the right attitude? I understand the reasoning, but my problem is this:

What of people who have great difficulty doing the whole dating thing? Those who, for whatever reason (financial, aesthetic, personal, ideological, whatever), are just not easily marketable in that sector at this point in time - which is a problem no matter how Catholic the demographic you target (to anticipate that response). It seems odd that I can’t try doing “X” if I have a great deal of difficulty doing “that which is mutually exclusive to X.”

Is trying dating first really the most strategic method?


Being single is not a decision in itself, one is it already, and it is the springboard to all the rest however soon or far off that may be (if ever).

Meantime it has its own value in itself as long as it lasts.

It’s most important to discern one’s occupation and livelihood. My old PP was an ex-bank manager. Another one was a policeman.

At 60 and single thus far, my vocation is “Christian layman”. I was glad to have a job till an illness came back.

The more rounded a person the more one can “market” oneself - both to ladies and to trainers of priests, monks etc, as the future rolls on.


I think it is important to make sure that one is not going into religious life to avoid the intimacy of marriage. By dating and being a well rounded person I think you are able to make a better decision.

I wouldn’t think it would need to be a mandatory prerequisite though.


If you’re discerning a vocation, you need to find one spiritual director who can help you out with this.

I think at least part of the problem is that you are getting different information from different sources.


No! This is actually the wrong way to approach your vocation. If you suspect that God, may be calling you, take about a year away from girls to more carefully discern. You may have a vocation to religious life, you may not, but you need to be careful and not entangle yourself with a girl BEFORE you discover your vocation. Otherwise, if later you do discover you have a vocation, the relationship will cause you a lot of heartbreak. Trust me, I have seen this so many times.

Spare yourself and and discern more carefully before you throw yourself into a relationship. Jesus is a living person and has a concrete will for your life.


To an extent, I agree with you: one cannot simultaneously discern a vocation that involves celibacy and be in a romantic relationship. However, I don’t think that the advice is “get into a relationship and see how celibacy measures up while you’re in that relationship”. I’ve taught CVOL to teens in CCD, and I always ask whether they’ve thought about being married (most, if not all, raise their hands) and then I ask whether they’ve thought about a religious vocation (almost none raise their hands). I then challenge them: how can you know what God has in mind for you, for your vocation, if you haven’t even considered it?

Same thing goes here, I think. How can a person discern a vocation to religious life if they’ve never considered whether God wants them to marry? Now, trying to discern both simultaneously isn’t a good approach: you can’t discern the priesthood while you’re in a romantic relationship with a girl, just as you can’t discern married life (by dating) while in the seminary! But… there should be time for both discernments, and I think that’s what the OP’s advice is (or, at least, should be): discern whether God is calling you to married life, too. If all you attempt to discern is the priesthood, to the exclusion of discernment to married life, then you’re not really discerning at all. Does it take ‘dating’ to discern married life? Maybe, maybe not. But, if you’ve never really considered marriage, then dating – not a long-term romantic relationship, but just going out on a few dates – may help you discern whether God is calling you to marriage or celibacy.


This is something that needs to be discussed with a spiritual director. Sometimes, they want their prospective seminarians to date to help determine said vocation.

One of my friends who later became a priest dated a girl for about 6 months, but felt he had the calling since he was 12.


I disagree with this. For lots of reasons. But I’ll keep it short.

First off, dating isn’t a thing in most cultures. Lots of Catholics find marriage without ever having to play the dating game. For my culture, most of us are the first to have to play it.

Secondly its deceiving to the people you are dating. You would be wasting their time if you didn’t know 100% that you were called to marriage.


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