At the weekend, I met Bernie’s new boyfriend. It was a brief meeting, as we were rushing off somewhere else, so I will not draw any conclusions about him at this stage, other than to say he was polite, interesting – and Catholic. Her first boyfriend ended the relationship when he reflected how important her Catholic Faith was to her, and that it was something that he couldn’t (or didn’t want to) share. Her initial sadness has given way to a realisation that that was a good decision by him, and a good outcome for her.

Ant, her older sister, has a boyfriend of a couple of years’ standing. He is not Catholic, and that is giving her some cause for concern. Clearly the longer they are going out together, the more fond they get of each other, and the harder it will be to end the relationship (if it comes to that).

Yet, I trust both of them to make good decisions, because they are starting from a good understanding of what they are doing, and are both mature Catholic young adults.

Ant, for example, is clear that one of the things she is doing is testing her boyfriend. At a University where the assumption is that boyfriends and girlfriends will sleep together, he has to live with the fact that his girlfriend won’t sleep with him – and that is public knowledge. That’s not a bad test for starters.

Moreover, Ant is very clear that the end-game of their courtship is a Catholic marriage, with the hope and intention of raising Catholic children. At some point she will have to decide whether he understands that sufficiently to commit to it in a way she can believe and trust – or not. Although very fond of him, she is clear that she only has one chance to get this right, and is very dispassionate in her analysis. She also understands that a hasty decision is unwise, but that the longer she leaves it, the harder it will be to break it off.

Bernie, of course, has the advantage of seeing what Ant is going through, which helps inform her understanding. They are very close, although very different in temperament, and indeed are each others clearest and most cogent critics. So Bernie can see all the problems inherent in Ant’s relationship, and learn from that in her own situation.

Both of them, I believe, have sufficient confidence, understanding and modesty to keep their respective boyfriends’ behaviour within appropriate bounds; I see my role here as to support, remind, and ultimately trust them (indeed, given they are both away at University, I have little choice there – but creating an atmosphere of mis-trust would surely be counter-productive) and above all to give them the assurance of our total love and support.

Their maturity in this regard rests, I think, on three foundations:

One is a correct understanding of human love, the second is the maturity to resist peer pressure and be guided by their Faith, and the third is an understanding of what they are doing when going out with boys, and what they are looking for in potential husbands.

So that’s this week’s challenge: how do we develop sufficient maturity and understanding in our kids to enable them to enter the period of courtship endowed with the virtues of prudence, modesty, chastity, and understanding? And I think the clue is: start early!

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One Response to Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Catholic Courtship

  1. Alyssa says:

    Alright, I have a problem. I am a seventeen year old girl and am due to go to college in a few months as I have graduated. Oh, and I'm a proud catholic. So is my boyfriend. For some reason, my father refuses to call him my "boyfriend" and simply refers to him as "your friend." I can not go see him on my own and I sometimes have to take my younger brother out with me if it's just us. I'm at my wits end and I feel as if my father does not trust me at all. My boyfriend understands that I am saving myself for marriage and has chosen to respect my wishes. He says that having a boyfriend is not going to happen for me any time soon. I have NOT received a calling to become a nun and I love my boyfriend. I pray all of the time that my father see my point of view but, we still get in the hugest of arguments on the issue. I'm writing here because I would like some catholic advice on my problem. Thanks.