Sunday, July 27, 2008

Amy's Quick Tips

I was in the single Catholic community in DC for a few years and during that time, I collected dating tips that I am passing on to you!

I helped coordinate a discussion group about Pope John Paul II's Love and Responsibility for a while at the Catholic Information Center, and through that experience, I was exposed to every Catholic dating book under the sun. Frankly, most of them were for beginners, idealistic, and written by people who had never closed the deal on a real life marriage. While they had some good insights, they sometimes lacked information that was applicable for women who were already established, educated, and maybe even been through a few relationships that did not lead to marriage.

I'll be adding to this quick tips check back soon...

Amy's Quick Tips:

Discern!: Make sure that you make a definitive decision on whether you are called to religious life or married life. Put a reasonable time limit on this process and give yourself parameters if you have been at this for a long time. This process should not take years! I not let this process take forever. God only lets us live this life for a limited amount of time, which means that we need to carefully manage our talents, gifts, dreams, and the vocation/life mission He has given each of us.

Take the Initiative: If you want to explore religious life, make an appointment for a retreat with a convent. If you are called to marriage, go to events and consider online dating sites. The point is: don’t just sit around watch TV.

Don’t Be a Perfectionist: If you are called to marriage, that does not mean waiting to find someone who is literally perfect. By being a perfectionist, you waste time, overlook nice guys, and risk missing the point of marriage altogether, which is patience, generosity, and compromise.

Think Outside the Box: If years are going by and you are not finding someone, take out your list of “must haves” and start editing. It doesn’t take that much to form a valid Catholic marriage and have children.

Article: Breaking the Silence

When Pope Benedict XVI came to the United States in April 2008, his courage, honesty, and sensitivity dominated the news. The introverted Pontiff with a love for Mozart captured the hearts of many people who lined the streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Popemobile. His compassion for sex abuse victims and in-person meetings with them provided a moving story of sympathy and healing. When the Pope instructed the U.S. bishops to confront problems within the Church responsibly, he provided a vision for a future free from the oppressive weight of denial and uncomfortable silence. While it is our Holy Father who is empowered to define the overall vision, it is for us to work out the practical strategies needed to make that vision a reality.

I cannot predict who will or will not become an abusive priest, but I can speak about the endemic weaknesses in the vocations process and start a dialogue. Specifically, many men who either go to seminary or who seriously entertain the idea of a religious vocation for prolonged periods of discernment are in trouble. They slip through the cracks and their patterns go unnoticed. They are not emotionally whole, and often leave a trail of victims behind in the form of ex-girlfriends and former fiancées who played the role of confidante, cheerleader, and armchair psychologist. The insights and concerns of the women are ignored and hidden in a shroud of shamed-based silence, or lost in the pile of administrative paperwork.

One of my goals is to raise awareness of this issue and impart a greater understanding of the potential problems that can arise by ignoring the “other victims” and feedback they have to offer. In doing so, I want priests, vocations directors, mental health professionals and educators to acknowledge the situation with a renewed sense of responsibility. They have the power and influence to push for a more rigorous and carefully considered vocations process, and also for more counseling and healing opportunities for men and women who need them.

I believe this is a serious problem that has gotten too big to sweep under the rug. A high number of women have been harmed by men who not only treat them with disrespect, but who later attempt to be role models and representatives of faith. The hypocrisy can leave broken hearts, lost voices, and deep reservations about Church leadership and social teachings. I want my book to show these women that they are not alone and assist them in spotting red flags early on in a potential relationship. In today's transparent culture, it is vital that we do our best to ensure that our communities reflect our beliefs accurately.

Three Archtypes to Avoid Dating!

Let us visit the neighborhood parishes, Catholic colleges, and campus ministries. Hang out in a large group of young, devout Catholics for long enough and you will see a man who is the epitome of one of these archetypes, or perhaps a hybrid. The main archtypes are “the Weaver,” “Mr. Smokey,” and “the Dabbler.”

1- The Troubled Dream Weaver: Faith can be consoling for people who are dealing with serious psychological issues and mental illnesses. God may seem to be the only person who understands the Weaver, hence, a strong prayer life can support him when he otherwise lacks an anchor. At the same time, the Church clearly states that people with severe mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and psychosis cannot be permitted to enter religious life. Nevertheless, Weavers may continue to discern a vocation and publicly discuss their intentions regardless of mental health problems and ongoing emotional instability.

Since medical files are protected under privacy laws in most scenarios, a Weaver can potentially lead people on about a vocation or discernment process for a long time. Sometimes the medical files won't even help if the Weaver avoids diagnosis or simply does not have the money to seek treatment, which puts more responsibility on the vocations directors and other professionals involved. To add another curveball to the process, Weavers may not have many long term friends to keep them centered and realistic, and a Weaver can float from one burned bridge to a new confidant quite frequently. They tend to be opinionated, and it may be impossible for them to coexist alongside someone who has even a slightly different view of the world.

2-The Smoke and Mirrors Addict: Mr. Smokey sews his oats as a dishonest “player” to build his puffed up ego. In his search for meaning, he starts emotionally charged relationships with women, but does not have the maturity to transition from infatuation to long term commitments. The women are left stunned by his lack of stability, integrity, and moral compass, and even more shocked when he later applies his playing skills to seminary.

These guys are typically emotionally hurting or lost, but rather than address their weaknesses, they re-package themselves for church activities and seminary, misrepresenting themselves with camouflage. This can mean leaving their home state and going to a seminary in another state or country. Although the acceptance process is meant to catch deceitful applicants, it doesn't always work. Mr. Smokey can be very intelligent, calculating, and wear masks with skill. He may aspire to be in a position of authority and be very capable of crystallizing dreams into reality.

3- The Dabbler and Commitment-Phobe: The Dabbler hops in and out of seminary and relationships with women, sometimes for years on end, with no commitment to either in sight. The woman becomes hurt and disillusioned in this tricky dance where a move forward could actually be a move backwards. He is not emotionally mature enough for seminary, but he is accepted with a hero’s welcome each time he returns for another try. These men do not learn to respect women in relationships and they enter seminary in need of transformation. Dabblers are usually educated, pleasant, and attractive to women, so they may waste years of other people’s time and attention. Frequently, they appear so innocent and well-meaning that it is hard for some people to catch on to their pattern and help them. Some Dabblers are aware of their problem and frustrated because they cannot find a decisive solution and declare victory, but others are clueless.

I know that some men pursue seminary with honesty and sincerity, and are worthy of our admiration. It is no secret that many priests are selfless givers who put other people first on a daily basis. The problem is that there are enough men who do not walk in truth that three archtypes became apparent. Unfortunately, I memorized warning signs as a single Catholic woman who, after numerous encounters with confused young men, was determined to avoid these landmines. While the details and characteristics may overlap and vary, I found that picking out these major themes helped me tremendously.

You Are Not Alone!

This website is dedicated to single Catholic women. It will provide advice and girl talk on:

  • The Catholic dating scene
  • Discernment and vocations to marriage
  • Breaking the Silence: My inside scoop on the dysfunctional men we waste time on.
  • Finding the right balance between faith and practical life issues
  • Being empowered and living God's vision for you
  • Books, articles, restaurant, and culture reviews