Seminarian and Close Female Friend


#1

Hey all,

I'm a college student, currently in application to the seminary, and I am 95% sure that God is calling me to be a priest. My great desire is to preach for the salvation of souls, etc., etc. Young and zealous am I! :D I am deeply in love with Jesus Christ, and slowly falling even deeper in love with Him! I can't emphasize this enough as I ask for your advice on this issue.

Anyway, my question is about having a female friend as a seminarian. I think it is inevitable that a young man discerning a vocation will have pretty girls appear suddenly in his path. This can be both a blessing and an annoyance to the discerner. For me at least, it is slightly disconcerting, because while I have always had female acquaintances with whom I got along very well, I have never really had a close female friend (and I have also never dated). Especially since the beginning of my vocation discernment. Now a young lady who was previously an acquaintance has suddenly appeared. I find myself quite attracted to her as a person; and there's also the fact that she's very pretty and quite single. I mean, I still like girls, right? However, though romantic thoughts have struck me while spending time with her, these are not even close to being of importance in my relationship with her.

I don't have a lot of friends. My very close friends are all guys, and while I love them dearly I find myself wishing at times that they were more mature, more interested in the intellectual issues I find myself thinking about often. Lately I've been thinking that I'd like to make some new friends who share interests with me in areas other than sports. I mean, I'd like a "best friend," so to speak, which I don't exactly have right now outside my family. So, I've prayed a little bit about this over an extended period of time, not in a desperate manner but asking God maybe to send me some new friends, some close friends, even a "best friend." Then this young lady appears, who I've known for a while but who I'm not very close to, who (in an almost uncanny way) shares many of my most cherished interests.

Above I mentioned that I am 95% sure that I am called to the priesthood. There are many reasons for this, as I have been blessed with a particularly rich spiritual upbringing and love of God. I love Jesus deeply, and I want to love Him exclusively the way the great saints have loved Him (St. Thomas Aquinas comes to mind. The passionate love of the Eucharist, the reading of the Song of Songs on his deathbed. This is how I would characterize my growing relationship with God (without trying to sound in the least bit arrogant or presumptious). But I digress.) But that other 5% is the part of me that has a deep attraction to marriage, which I think probably every seminarian should have if they are to become a true spiritual father. This complicates things a little if I were to grow closer to a woman.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I'm wondering how to best approach this new situation. Our common interests and mutual attraction (though not in the romantic sense, she knows my "status") indicate that this could be the beginning of a long and wonderful friendship. I would dearly love to have her as a close friend; she is a good, kind, and beautiful person. But in order to properly discern my vocation (which I see first and foremost as being called to an exclusive relationship with Christ), I'm wondering what the boundaries should be. Can we eat together alone in a restaurant at night? Is this too much like a date? Can we hang out alone together? Remember I said there's no romantic interest - but young people have a funny way of missing this. :) How close is too close? Is it "dangerous" for me to desire close female friendship when I should be foremost concerned with discerning my vocation and cultivating my exclusive relationship with Christ? If I'm called to a love of God along the lines of a St. Thomas Aquinas (again, without trying to sound presumptious or arrogant in any way), is it even appropriate to have a close though chaste friendship with a woman. (Wasn't St. Francis pretty close to St. Clare? Or am I wrong?) Or maybe I'm called to marriage!

I hope I don't sound too confused or scrupulous; such is not my attention. I merely would like some advice from the Elders (esp. those who have been in this situation) about this. I find myself caring a lot about this woman, with a desire for a deeper friendship even as I discern my vocation, and so I would like to get a sense of the appropriate boundaries for a chaste yet deep friendship between a seminarian/discerner and a young, eligible female.

Thanks to you all, and God bless,
"thunderboom" (sorry for the alias, but you know how it is ;))

Please keep me in your prayers. :gopray::highprayer::signofcross:


#2

I am so glad that I came upon this post! I'm sorry that I don't really have any answers for you, but I'm wondering about that same thing from the opposite perspective, and would like to see other's answers on this topic as well.

I am an 18 year old Catholic girl, and this summer I am going to visit some close family friends (they live far away, I don't see them often), a family with 13 children who are more like extended family to my own family than friends. The oldest boy in the family, who is two years older than I, has been a seminarian for 2 years now. Last time I visited, which was 3 years ago (before he entered the seminary), he had expressed interest in dating/courting me. It didn't last very long, I broke it off as I felt that I was not ready for a relationship at the time (I was a mere 15 years old), and that in any case he was not who God intended for me. We parted on great terms, I mean we've had about 10 years of great friendship as opposed to a few very short weeks of an unsuccessful experience courting.

My question basically is, how should I act around him now? I will be living in the same house as him for about 3 weeks, (he's back from the seminary for the summer), and I just want to be sure I am behaving appropriately around a future priest! I know this isn't really a big deal and I am going to act as any normal person would around a seminarian or priest, but I am just looking for any helpful facets of advice anyone might have.

And I am in no way trying to detract from your post, Thunderboom, very sorry if I am, but I have been wondering about this same topic! I think this issue can be a very difficult one for us as young people as we try to discern our vocations and make sure we are treating our brothers and sisters in Christ with respect as they try to discern their own as well!

I will certainly keep you in my prayers, and please do the same for me!

God Bless


#3

I don’t know how to advise you as I am a layperson. Although we laypeople are also struggling with desire issues, we are not looking at the same vows that a Priest takes. I think you need to talk to other Priests who have been in similar situations.

Good luck with your seminary studies and God Bless and guide you. :slight_smile:


#4

I believe if you're having temptations , then yes it dangerous. I also recommend speaking to a Priest


#5

If you are "95%" certain you want to be a priest, and are currently "in application to the seminary", I would suggest you leave women alone.

This sounds like a distraction or temptation on your road to fulfilling your vocation.

If for some reason you are not accepted into seminary or leave it due to finding it is not for you, then you could pursue dating.

But for now, give your possible vocation a chance!


#6

There is a big difference between dating and having coffee. I would say this though - if you are discerning you should shut out distractions. If you have made a decision and are discerning but are more at the level of formation then I don't really believe having a cup of coffee is a problem. I had a cup of coffee with one of our soon to be priests who before he left for seminary. We are both young. It was certainly not a date. I think much of it has to do with knowing intentions and keeping boundaries. This will be a skill that you will need for the priesthood unless you plan on living on an island. However, I would also make sure that you are being completely honest with yourself and your spiritual director about your thoughts, feelings, and actions.


#7

Thank you everyone for your replies so far. I really appreciate your help.

[quote="JadeHand, post:2, topic:285804"]

I don't really have any answers for you, but I'm wondering about that same thing from the opposite perspective, and would like to see other's answers on this topic as well.

...

My question basically is, how should I act around him now? I will be living in the same house as him for about 3 weeks, (he's back from the seminary for the summer), and I just want to be sure I am behaving appropriately around a future priest! I know this isn't really a big deal and** I am going to act as any normal person** would around a seminarian or priest, but I am just looking for any helpful facets of advice anyone might have.

And I am in no way trying to detract from your post, Thunderboom, very sorry if I am, but I have been wondering about this same topic! I think this issue can be a very difficult one for us as young people as we try to discern our vocations and make sure we are treating our brothers and sisters in Christ with respect as they try to discern their own as well!

[/quote]

I don't mind at all. You're certainly not detracting from my post; that's the whole point of these forums. I think the key is that we're both trying to act like normal people around the other. We're not interested in romance, but friendship. Of course, this can have a tendency to blow up, but the main thing is setting up boundaries first. I'm interested in hearing from some of the seminarians, priests, and religious who sometimes post here; that would help both of us I think. (And you are definitely in my prayers! :thumbsup:)

[quote="loko, post:3, topic:285804"]
Although we laypeople are also struggling with desire issues, we are not looking at the same vows that a Priest takes. I think you need to talk to other Priests who have been in similar situations.

Good luck with your seminary studies and God Bless and guide you. :)

[/quote]

[quote="Christine85, post:4, topic:285804"]
I believe if you're having temptations , then yes it dangerous. I also recommend speaking to a Priest

[/quote]

Thank you very much! Actually a number of priests - the rector of the seminary, the vocations director, a missionary priest from overseas - have told me the importance of having friends of both sexes. Not that it's necessary to have close female friends, but that is certainly a healthy thing when approached within the right limits. I'm going to call the vocations director today and speak with him about it, so thanks for your kind advice.

[quote="anonymous_in_fl, post:5, topic:285804"]
If you are "95%" certain you want to be a priest, and are currently "in application to the seminary", I would suggest you leave women alone.

This sounds like a distraction or temptation on your road to fulfilling your vocation.

[/quote]

Thank you for this! I have thought about the issue of temptations/distractions in depth. People have told me to be on guard against temptations as I prepare for the priesthood, and not surprisingly as soon as I started my application to the seminary temptation after temptation has fallen in front of me. Not to downplay it, but it's actually kind of comical, seeing tangible evidence of the Evil One's desperation at trying to destroy a vocation. :p :rotfl: Anyway, while I appreciate your advice (I am certainly going to take it seriously and keep it close, because it is very wise), I think I need to make the point that I'm not pursuing her as a romantic interest. I'm merely growing closer to her as a friend. I assume that if I set up the appropriate boundaries, I can have a healthy friendship without derailing my vocation. If she had been my close friend before I decided to apply to the seminary, I wouldn't just suddently "leave women alone." I would continue the friendship, but within certain appropriate boundaries. I want to get a sense of those boundaries here, especially from those who can advise me from personal experience. (Of course, then there's the issue of whether I've got it all wrong, the slim possibility that I'm actually growing closer to her because she's my future wife. But I doubt it. ;)) So thank you for your advice; it is very much appreciated.

[quote="joanofarc2008, post:6, topic:285804"]
There is a big difference between dating and having coffee. I would say this though - if you are discerning you should shut out distractions.

If you have made a decision and are discerning but are more at the level of formation then I don't really believe having a cup of coffee is a problem. **I had a cup of coffee with one of our soon to be priests who before he left for seminary. We are both young. It was certainly not a date. **I think much of it has to do with knowing intentions and keeping boundaries. This will be a skill that you will need for the priesthood unless you plan on living on an island. However, I would also make sure that you are being completely honest with yourself and your spiritual director about your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

[/quote]

Thank you as well! I no longer consider myself a discerner - I'm on the path to formation. I'm almost absolutely certain He is calling me, though I won't know for sure until the bishop lays his hands on my head. That is why I don't see hanging out, getting a drink, and talking as particularly dangerous. Yes, it certainly could get to that point; but I'm interested in having the right intentions and appropriate boundaries, as you suggest, so I don't see it being a problem. And I certainly don't want to live on an island: that's when problems happen. (I'm calling the VD today to talk about it.) Thank you very much.


#8

I'll mention it again, but I would very much like to hear from seminarians, priests, and religious who may have been in such a situation and can advise me from experience. I'm going to speak with my director, but I would like to hear your suggestions on setting up the appropriate boundaries for a chaste friendship. I'm beginning to get an idea of this, but I would like to hear from you nonetheless. Thank you so much.


#9

Thank you as well! I no longer consider myself a discerner - I’m on the path to formation. I’m almost absolutely certain He is calling me, though I won’t know for sure until the bishop lays his hands on my head. That is why I don’t see hanging out, getting a drink, and talking as particularly dangerous. Yes, it certainly could get to that point; but I’m interested in having the right intentions and appropriate boundaries, as you suggest, so I don’t see it being a problem. And I certainly don’t want to live on an island: that’s when problems happen. (I’m calling the VD today to talk about it.) Thank you very much.

Just a piece of advice - I would leave the “drink” out of it unless you are with a group. Alcohol and being one on one is a dangerous mix. It is funny you say that you will be done discerning when the Bishop lays his hand on your head. A friend of mine who is a Brother in another Order told me once that as well as being in formation every day he is still in a discernment process every day even though he has already taken vows. Granted it is not the type of I can do this or not do this type of discernment but it is the “getting up and doing the right thing” discernment. I do not believe that either of these processes ever stop. IMO.


#10

[quote="joanofarc2008, post:9, topic:285804"]
Just a piece of advice - I would leave the "drink" out of it unless you are with a group. Alcohol and being one on one is a dangerous mix. It is funny you say that you will be done discerning when the Bishop lays his hand on your head. A friend of mine who is a Brother in another Order told me once that as well as being in formation every day he is still in a discernment process every day even though he has already taken vows. Granted it is not the type of I can do this or not do this type of discernment but it is the "getting up and doing the right thing" discernment. I do not believe that either of these processes ever stop. IMO.

[/quote]

Thank you - that's wise advice.

And yes, I don't think the process will ever stop. Discernment, seminary, ordination - and still you're discerning, about how best to be obedient, chaste, simple, and how best to lead your flock. It's a lifelong thing; and the same is probably true in marriage, too, I would think.


#11

I would agree with that statement about marriage wholeheartedly. The difference is that in marriage it is two people and their relationship with God. In Ordination it is a priest and his relationship with God and a community. Good luck!!!


#12

Thunderboom,

I think this is a great question but at the same time one that no one on here can answer for you. There is no black-and-white answer to this question because each person is different.

Men and women discerning religious life or the priesthood have to have the skills to interact with members of the opposite sex in a meaningful and chaste way but each individuals journey in maturity in that respect is different. The skills are developed through interaction with others. Sometimes people have these skills early in discernment while others need more time and guidance to have healthy chaste relationships.

The question you need to ask yourself is whether you are able and mature enough to be honest with yourself at this point in your life or do you need a little more supervised "practice" in navigating chaste relationships.

Chastity has very little to do with refraining from certain activities and is much much much more about honesty with yourself before God, acknowledging attraction without repressing it, and making good decisions to protect the number one relationship with God.

One year when I was on retreat the priest shared a story from his life with us. He was working very closely with a woman about his age which was fine. They really got along well and they worked really well together. After some time he realized that his feelings for her were becoming more personal than they should have been. He noticed himself thinking about telling her when something important happened in his life, going to her when he had a problem, and looking forward to seeing her. Was he doing anything wrong? Not at all! Because he was honest with himself he was able to redirect himself and monitor himself so that he was honoring the fact that his relationship with God was primary.

This story would have ended differently though had a very inexperienced and misguided priest been in it. It could very easily have resulted differently.

Again, search your heart. Are you able to be very honest and make difficult choices or do you need more time to develop that skill? Either answer is a good answer as long as it is honest. We all have many different areas in which to grow and learn and chastity is a deeply personal and complex area of our lives.

I hope this helps.

Sr. M


#13

Thank you so much for your kind words, Sister. Your advice is the best I could have received, because you helped me to see that there are no hard-and-fast rules, no black-and-white boundaries, as you say. If I belong only to God, then the most important thing in my life is to be honest to myself before Him. I guess that’s how to get the appropriate boundaries in place.

Thanks again, Sister! I really appreciate it.


#14

Your situation reminds me of two things priests have told me so far in my own discernment (I am currently discerning religious life):

  1. A vocation to priesthood or religious life is in a sense the equivalent of marriage. Once a man is in seminary or postulancy, he is sort of "dating" Holy Mother Church. After ordination and/or vows, he is "married" to the Church. Would you think it acceptable to date two young ladies at the same time (especially if one of them is the immaculate Bride of Christ)?

  2. Our diocesan vocations director once told me that quite frequently, as soon as a man turns in his seminary application, he meets the "perfect" woman. He says it almost never works out. But, then again, his job is to foster more vocations to the priesthood....

Of course every situation is different though. If you have a Spiritual Director, speak with him. If you do not, try to find one. If that's not possible, speak with your confessor or any trusted priest. And, pray before the Blessed Sacrament daily!


#15

[quote="IesumPerMariam, post:14, topic:285804"]
Your situation reminds me of two things priests have told me so far in my own discernment (I am currently discerning religious life):

  1. A vocation to priesthood or religious life is in a sense the equivalent of marriage. Once a man is in seminary or postulancy, he is sort of "dating" Holy Mother Church. After ordination and/or vows, he is "married" to the Church. Would you think it acceptable to date two young ladies at the same time (especially if one of them is the immaculate Bride of Christ)?

  2. Our diocesan vocations director once told me that quite frequently, as soon as a man turns in his seminary application, he meets the "perfect" woman. He says it almost never works out. But, then again, his job is to foster more vocations to the priesthood....

Of course every situation is different though. If you have a Spiritual Director, speak with him. If you do not, try to find one. If that's not possible, speak with your confessor or any trusted priest. And, pray before the Blessed Sacrament daily!

[/quote]

Thank you as well. My priest also gave me the same advice as you in #1. I (of course) don't think it's acceptable to date two women at once, and I appreciate your advice because it is an excellent analogy. I'm just trying to make a friend outside of my dating relationship ;). And your vocation director is right, of course. Any romantic attraction I have can probably easily be written off as distraction, impulsivity, or temptation, just as if this had happened and I was already engaged to a real woman. Thanks for your advice; prayer has already helped me in this situation.


#16

Hi Thunderboom,

First off, thank you for the reply to my thread earlier. It was most helpful.
In relation to your question. I actually encountered a similar issue at the beginning of my own discernment.
(For the record I am by no means an elder as you put it - LOL) :D

My feeling on the matter is that you need to live strict celibate chastity for a time as a lay single man. I imagine the boundaries with regards to the opposite sex and priests sometimes just involve common sense but can sometimes be slightly more complex.

I guess sometimes you need to ask yourself if the situation you are in could be an occasion of scandal or sin. Or lead to one.

At the end of the day though we are all human and this is a sacrifice that we would make as priests. That is what makes it beautiful.

If you want you can private message me about this issue.

You will be in my prayers.

Adam-Peter


#17

[quote="AdamPeter, post:16, topic:285804"]
Hi Thunderboom,

First off, thank you for the reply to my thread earlier. It was most helpful.
In relation to your question. I actually encountered a similar issue at the beginning of my own discernment.
(For the record I am by no means an elder as you put it - LOL) :D

My feeling on the matter is that you need to live strict celibate chastity for a time as a lay single man. I imagine the boundaries with regards to the opposite sex and priests sometimes just involve common sense but can sometimes be slightly more complex.

I guess sometimes you need to ask yourself if the situation you are in could be an occasion of scandal or sin. Or lead to one.

At the end of the day though we are all human and this is a sacrifice that we would make as priests. That is what makes it beautiful.

If you want you can private message me about this issue.

You will be in my prayers.

Adam-Peter

[/quote]

Thanks for your comments, A-P.

Actually, in all of this I have realized the true sacrifice that the priest makes, because I have come to see the true beauty of what it means to love a woman and father a family. And the beautiful thing is that I am not dissuaded by this at all, but sense the underlying nature of the priesthood also as something inherently beautiful; because a vocation that entails giving up something as wonderful as marriage must be even more beautiful than we can possibly imagine as laymen!

Your post brings up the question, "What is 'strict celibate chastity'?" I hope you do not mean that I should break off all close contact with the opposite sex. Christ practiced strict celibate chastity for all His life, but He also (quite prominently in Scripture) had close female friends like Martha, Mary, and Mary Magdalene. There are also the examples of Sts. Francis and Clare, and St. Louis de Montfort and his friend Bl. Marie Louise Trichet. One does not neglect friendship for the sake of strict celibacy; I think this would be much too rigid and misguided. I'm not going to reject a beautiful blossoming chaste friendship out of a desire for "strict" celibacy - I am going to reject temptation and the occasion of sin - but with the right attitude and the common sense boundaries of which you speak I think that it is clear that such a friendship can be lasting, beautiful, and no threat to one's vocation.


#18

[quote="thunderboom, post:17, topic:285804"]
Thanks for your comments, A-P.

Actually, in all of this I have realized the true sacrifice that the priest makes, because I have come to see the true beauty of what it means to love a woman and father a family. And the beautiful thing is that I am not dissuaded by this at all, but sense the underlying nature of the priesthood also as something inherently beautiful; because a vocation that entails giving up something as wonderful as marriage must be even more beautiful than we can possibly imagine as laymen!

Your post brings up the question, "What is 'strict celibate chastity'?" I hope you do not mean that I should break off all close contact with the opposite sex. Christ practiced strict celibate chastity for all His life, but He also (quite prominently in Scripture) had close female friends like Martha, Mary, and Mary Magdalene. There are also the examples of Sts. Francis and Clare, and St. Louis de Montfort and his friend Bl. Marie Louise Trichet. One does not neglect friendship for the sake of strict celibacy; I think this would be much too rigid and misguided. I'm not going to reject a beautiful blossoming chaste friendship out of a desire for "strict" celibacy - I am going to reject temptation and the occasion of sin - but with the right attitude and the common sense boundaries of which you speak I think that it is clear that such a friendship can be lasting, beautiful, and no threat to one's vocation.

[/quote]

You are correct to an extent,

I possibly should have elaborated on this. I myself have female friends as well as male friends. What I mean by Living strict celibacy as a layperson is to look at the possibility of a period of time where you step back from dating and the possibility of marriage. Basically look at life uniquely through the lens of what it would it would it would be like to be a priest.

I think this is the best way to really get a good idea of what it means to be celibate as you can get an idea of what is and is not appropriate for a potential seminarian/priest.

God Bless


#19

Hi,

I just came across your post and find your story interesting. I understand that your concern is with regards to your end of the friendship but i was just wondering if you ever thought about the woman’s side of the friendship?..she may not have the same sense of boundaries as you do since you are in the religious life…you may both be attracted to each other and what if feelings develop and she falls in love with you? (since women tend to fall in love quite faster than men)…any relationship is a two way street and as they say it takes two to tango…just my thought on the matter…what do you think?..
God bless! :slight_smile:


#20

[quote="sean_pierce, post:19, topic:285804"]
Hi,

I just came across your post and find your story interesting. I understand that your concern is with regards to your end of the friendship but i was just wondering if you ever thought about the woman's side of the friendship?..she may not have the same sense of boundaries as you do since you are in the religious life...you may both be attracted to each other and what if feelings develop and she falls in love with you? (since women tend to fall in love quite faster than men)...any relationship is a two way street and as they say it takes two to tango...just my thought on the matter...what do you think?...
God bless! :)

[/quote]

Hi,

This is that same situation that I am in right now -- though I am the girl in it. A close friend of mine is in his first year in the seminary (though we are both in our mid/late twenties). We ended up not seeing each other for 6 months after he finally told me he was going to seminary, but recently we have gone out to dinner together, went site seeing, and play sports together. While I thought I could handle it and be "just friends" I find that my heart cannot be still. As sean_pierce said: "women tend to fall in love quite faster."

I need to talk to him about boundaries (including flirting with me). I would really appreciate advice on how to tell him and explain that we cannot spend as much time together and should have other people with (maybe even other seminarians). While this friendship maybe fine for him the way it is going, I find it really hard right now.

Thank you in advance! I will be praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit for what to say and how to say it!


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