Is healthy dating experience necessary before contemplating religious life?

If one feels pulled toward discernment of a religious vocation, but has had a lot of experience with unhealthy relationships and not much positive dating experience, is that a hindrance to objective discernment? For example, if chastity in the context of a romantic relationship seems unattainable to a person is it wrong for that to be a reason to consider religious life?

In other words, could a person feel called to a life of celibacy because they believe it is the only form of chastity that they can effectively live out? And if one does feel called for that reason, is it a legitimate reason to feel called? Or does the ability to live out a chaste life carry over no matter what vocation one enters into? Is it necessary for one to experience a healthy dating relationship in order to effectively discern against or for a vocation to marriage?

I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately… Discuss!

I don’t know if the question in the thread title necessarily matches exactly with what you are asking.

In general, I don’t think those discerning need to have dating experiences before discerning religious life anymore than someone needs to spend time in a seminary or convent before discerning marriage.

However, just as it is never good to enter a dating relationship “on the rebound”, it’s generally not a good idea to enter the discernment process “on the rebound” either.

So if someone has had some negative dating experiences and then decides to jump head first into the discernment process as a way to course-correct, I think that would probably make a vocations director a bit nervous.

Of course, all this is best worked out with a spiritual director.

Ok, so what if you are not “on the rebound” but you have just never been good with chastity in your romantic relationships? Do you think that is valid to have any place in your discernment? Thanks for your reply!

No, I don’t think so. Remember, a religious vocation comes from God. He’s the one that calls you to it. If that’s what He wants for you, anything else would just be a distraction.

My advice: If you discern that you have a vocation to religious life, commit to it 100%. It will bring you true joy and inner peace!

That’s what I thought too, but I know somebody who applied to a particular religious order and they may accept her but told her to first take a year and try to date in order to make certain that her vocation is not to marriage. I thought that odd because, in my opinion, if you have been discerning for a long time and have come to the conclusion where you feel you do have a religious vocation, I would think it would be an unnecessary temptation to confuse yourself with dating after all that.

But I’m getting a little off topic now, I guess…

Yes. Not “wrong” as in a some sort of sin, but not at all a reason to consider a vocation.

Some priests and religious commit sins against chastity. I don’t know what would make you think, especially in this time in history, that being one gives you some sort of protection from that. It doesn’t at all.

A vocation isn’t something you escape into as a solution for problems. If you really feel that sex is out of your control, than maybe counselling for that is in order.

Well I didn’t mean it so much in a way as being that the vocation itself would protect you from anything, but rather that some people can easily live a chaste life when not pursuing a relationship, but when they try to date they give in easily to temptation. So is it valid to feel that God might be calling you to a way of life where you would avoid that temptation to begin with by not dating? Or do you think that mastering chastity in any situation is something that needs to be attained before one can pursue any vocation?

Most priests I know, including vocation directors, would say, of course it is not essential, but definitely a plus if you have dating experience. it helps to mature the individual.

I guess I wouldn’t say it can’t have any place in one’s discernment, but – as Scooby said – the primary reason to pursue a vocation to relgious life is because that’s what God is calling you to do.

I would say that you would be in “danger” of making a bad choice with a religious organization if you cannot make a good choice with a human man or woman.

For instance if you’re always attracted to someone who you later find is greedy and rude you may find that these same qualities are flaws of the order you are pursuing.

When an order directs you to date, I think they also are trying to help you find out what your vocation is. Yes, the rare person can go straight from their teenage years to their vocation, but that’s as rare as someone finding their lifetime love next door at age 5. It just dosn’t happen that often.

I have an uncle that was nearly ordained a priest. At the very end he was told to take 6 months off because he revealed to the prior that he’d never been on a real date. He went 5 months and 29 days before he got a date. While it wasn’t love at first sight, he went on the date he scheduled for the next day, fully planning to go back to the seminary in 2 days. He didn’t…he married my aunt, they’ve been married for 23 years and have 4 kids. God did not want him to be a priest!

If you are thinking of being a cloistered monk and you think you are never likely to commit any sin against chastity, it’s remotely possible. You’d need some serious and honest spiritual direction for discernment. If you are thinking of being a parish priest, forget it, you’ll be thrown into all kinds of tempting situations with women, including those who habitually make themselves available to priests.

I maintain that if you believe you are at the mercy of your sex organs, you need to resolve that before you do much else. And the expressed resentment against women doesn’t bode well, in any case. No one is “making” you sin.

LOL, I am a woman! I was thinking more along the lines of a convent…

And the question is really more hypothetical than anything. I have no resentment toward anyone (I’m really not sure where you are reading resentment out of anything I have written), but have had some bad relationships and struggle with chastity when I am in one. I don’t have the belief that anyone is “making” me sin either. I just know how easily I fall when I think I am in love, but I also know that I have no problem with chastity when I am single and not looking to be in a relationship… And I know that because I have actively avoided relationships for a long time because I was trying to find myself spiritually and not fall down the wrong path.

And as I think I said before… I’m not saying that this would be the only reason for consideration. Of course I would try to discern first and foremost whether or not I felt led by God. But I think anyone would be lying to themselves if they said that part of the discernment process wasn’t guided by how well the particular lifestyle would fit with them as a person and if they felt it was a call they could actually live out faithfully. You have to consider all different aspects of life and how the vocation would affect it. Just because I am asking about one of those aspects in particular does not mean that it is the only one I have considered or that I am a slave to sexual impulse and am “at the mercy of my sexual organs.” I never said anything of that nature…

I’m so sorry! You know, my ancient brain mixed up your post and another one in a very similar vein I had read recently. MEA CULPA!!!

I just know how easily I fall when I think I am in love, but I also know that I have no problem with chastity when I am single and not looking to be in a relationship… And I know that because I have actively avoided relationships for a long time because I was trying to find myself spiritually and not fall down the wrong path.

Now that I know your gender, I can also say: it’s brain chemistry. Partly. Unlike men, our brain chemistry changes a lot in a relationship and we go into baby-making overdrive which translates into “take me, I’m yours!” (Or tripping him anyplace close to a flat surface.) We also get super-attached quickly for this reason.

So, maybe this chastity issue isn’t pushing you towards religious life as much as toward marriage - only you have to figure out how to get from point A to point M without a sidetrip to S.

But if you feel called, if what you have is a very strong libido without the noncommittant intimate attachment, then, maybe you are onto something.

You are still going to need lots of discernment. Maybe a directed retreat at an Order you might be interested in, would help sort all of this out. I think you need to talk to a woman religious about it all.

Ok, that makes more sense LOL. I was wondering like, “hmmm… I didn’t think I said anything hostile…” haha…

Well thanks for the input :wink: And yes–that’s what I am trying to figure out. I feel like the chastity issue could speak to either vocation in a different way. My confessor is always encouraging me to be open to a religious vocation and I am very curious about religious life and love to spend time around sisters, priests, and other religious. I am also a convert and one order I was looking into advised me to have a long discernment process because “the graces of a recent conversion can often mimic the graces of a religious vocation and people can get them confused for one in the same.” And that makes sense to me, but I just get so frustrated because I cannot discern a clear call one way or the other. And every time I think I have figured it out and try to plan my life according to that idea, then something happens to make me think maybe I am wrong…

I always knew that my vocation would be marriage. Although I wanted to date, I actually didn’t date anyone except my husband. Yeah, I had a few friends who happened to be men that I had dinner at a restaurant with, but I wouldn’t even call those dates. So I don’t believe that we all need to have other experiences to decide what our vocation would be. The same as I didn’t need to sleep with other men to find out who I was compatible with. I’m compatible with the man God sent to me.

When God called me to conversion it was very strong.

Then I had to wait five years for Him to get all the ducks in a row. Very confusing.

My advice: let go, let God, live life and see what He brings you. Remember: we plan, God laughs.

You’re going to be fine.

I have a first cousin who’s a Dominican nun at St. Cecelia’s in Nashville, TN. I couldn’t recommend them more highly! Their job is to make Saints. They follow the original charism of the order, wear traditional habits, and live in cloister when they’re not teaching. (They mostly teach school during the year.)

I was up there for three days when she took her final vows. There were, at that time, about 150 of them at the convent. For the entire 3 days, I NEVER saw anything but a bright, beaming smile on ANY of their faces! They were the happiest group of women I’ve ever seen in my life!

They teach the young girls to be nuns, mostly by example. You get two habits (one to wear, one to wash), no makeup, etc. You are assigned a particular seat in the dining hall, and are expected to eat everything on your plate. You are assigned a bed, with curtains around it for privacy. And you are assigned tasks when not teaching (cleaning, cooking, gardening, etc.). I remember one nun who had been a principal at one of the schools they worked with for about 15 years in a row (they get assignments each year). The next year, her assignment was to work in the kitchen. And she was completely happy with that. No ego problems, just humility.

I also recall walking on the grounds (beautiful, on top of a hill in Nashville, with big oak trees, sidewalks, etc.), and one of the nuns whizzed by, jogging, in her complete habit! She did have tennis shoes on, though. :slight_smile: I also saw one sitting on a tractor mowing the grass!

The building (the convent) was a pre-Civil war hospital. Goregous! 18’ ceilings, etc.!

Anyway, you can check 'em out here:

It’s definitely not a necessity, but I don’t think it’s disadvantageous to experience a date or two. If you’re discerning, however, I wouldn’t recommend dating just out of respect for the person who you would be going on a date with.

For example, it’d be unfair if you went on a date with a person who ended up falling in love with you, only for you to realize you feel undoubtedly called to the Religious Life. It ends up being a messy situation & someone ends up heartbroken, which is never fun.

So, in conclusion, I suppose I would recommend staying single if you’re still discerning, and to continue to get pray about where God may be calling you to serve Him.

I wish I was better at knowing who/what God was trying to send my way :confused:

You are blessed! :wink:

Ooooooh, I am a convert too!!! And YES, when God called me to his Church it was also a VERY STRONG calling! I wish I could feel that same pull in my vocation. But I feel strongly attracted to both vocations and don’t feel any sense of which one God is leading me toward… I know I will be OK, but it is so frustrating to me because I have always been one to have my whole life planned out in my mind… Like, I am not in a hurry to get there or anything but I am always looking 5 steps ahead of where I am at the moment because I want to prepare myself for what’s to come… I’m not sure if that’s a problem I should work on, but apparently in this case at least I am not supposed to know yet. And that drives me crazy… I know I need to just trust in God’s guidance and be patient. But it is hard for me because I want to plan my life and yet I have no idea what the future holds…

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