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by Catherine Frakas 06 Mar 2002

Follow-up on Premarital Relations QUESTION from Karen December 28, 1999 Brother John-Paul, I fully agree with your answer to Doug regarding premarital relations. With your permission, I would like to print it out (with full credit to the author, of course) for friends who have discussed this subject with me (with much dissention, I should add).
Would you please explain what the role of dating is (if any) in the discernment of vocations? I mean the married state versus the lay single person. In addition to prayer, how might a single young person discern God's Will in this matter? It seems many people I know date on & off, never ruling out marriage, but never seeking it, either. I agree this can place one in the near occasion of sin, and I wonder what I can say to my friends who continue to argue you don't know until you try?
Thanks again for your insight. I am grateful to God for your efforts for the Faith. You remain, as always, in the prayers of my family.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on December 29, 1999 Dear Miss Karen:
Sure, you may print out the posting and show it to others. I am glad it is of help to you.
As to your question, it is essentially a question of How Do I Know God’s Will?
A Carmelite Priest I know answers this by saying that Vocation is simple. You walk into a room and find three chairs. One chair is the Religious Life (or priestly life), one chair is the Married Life, and the third chair in the Single Life. JUST SIT IN ONE.
Now, of course, things are a little more complicated than that, but not much. There can be many clues as to which chair to sit in – inner voice, other people’s opinion, etc. etc.
But the biggest problem people have is that they fail to sit in a chair for fear that it is the wrong chair. We cannot allow fear to do this. Fear is NOT of God.
We must sit in a chair and see what happens. If it is the wrong chair, God will let us know in one way or another and then we can get up and sit in a different chair.
But unless we have the courage to sit in a chair, we will merely be miserable and impotent for God service.
Be not afraid!
In each chair there is time before making final commitments. One does not get married overnight (or shouldn’t anyway), one does not profess the religious life overnight. There is time to figure out if the chair was the right one.
Single life (without religious vows) is also an option. In sitting in that chair, one lives life without the intention of marriage or religious vows, but as a lay person living in the world and serving God.
As a single person one can have platonic dates in the form of dinner and movie and the like as long as it is totally understood that it is platonic and no romantic involvement is possible. Before taking vows, and while living a single life I went to the movies and to dinner with women who were just friends. There was no temptation, they were solely friends. But I did not do that with all of my female friends, because some of those friends would be a temptation.
Such things may take a degree of maturity and certainly a sense of self-esteem and well-being at being single. It is the lack of assurance as a single person that leads a single to misinterpret platonic relationship as potentially romantic.
And in this chair too, one may find it the wrong one. After living this life one may be led into religious life, or one may be led into married life.
For myself, one major clue that I was to live a religious life is that for the twenty years that I have been divorced (Church granted a Nullity), I have never met a single woman that I would consider a potential for marriage; not a one.
I dated back in those days, I was attracted to women physically, intellectually, emotionally, but never a one did I consider truly marriage material.
From the time I was divorced to the time I took religious vows I don’t believe I dated anyone for more than three months. That was not because there was anything wrong with the women. They were fine. It was because I realized that there was no future. If there is no future that leads maybe to marriage, then there is no point in dating that person. I was not going to continue to date the person under false pretenses.
Looking back on it now, it is clear to me that this was a major clue that God was leading me to a celibate life. In fact, in hindsight I can see that God was leading me to a celibate life even back in High School, but I was too blind to see that since my hormones were wild and I was chasing skirts (and married one of them while still in High School).
It is only fair to oneself and to one's date that if one is feeling called to the celibate life (as a single, or as a religious), that the dating not continue. If there is not the potential for marriage, then there is no point to the dating.
To go out with friends to dinner, movie, etc. is fine as long as it is clear that it is friends just enjoying each other’s company – but beware – there is a reason that male and female religious tend to not hang around together. Never underestimate the power of the sexual energies.
So look for the clues needed to make a decision to sit in one of those chairs, and then SIT. Let God and the clues from circumstances lead you, in prayer, to determine the long-range direction God is calling you to.
As to the idea, you don’t know until you try – well ask your friends to sit on a tack. You don’t know it hurts until you try!!!!! :-)
The three chairs illustration is not a license to just try. It is an illustration of moving in the direction of God’s will as you perceive it at the time. The chair one sits in is not capricious, it is calculated based upon the inner voice, prayer, circumstances, inclinations, discernment from others, etc. One sits in the chair they are drawn to. Most often it is the right choice and there is no need to try the other chairs.
Listen to God, listen to your inner voice, listen to the circumstances around you, listen to the discernment of those you trust and who know you, and then SIT.
God Bless
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