Fr. Mitchel's Fervereno on Dating
This is a talk Fr. Mitchel gave to young men attending Project Andrew discernment evenings. If you have ever wondered about how dating fits in with considering a religious vocation, this talk is sure to help. You are invited to email Father Mitchel to comment on this talk.
Dear Project Andrew Participants -
I want to once again thank each one of you for accepting the invitation to be here tonight. I know that when I was your age and I was invited to a 'Called by Name' program with the bishop and the vocation director, I never really wanted to go, even though I knew that I should go because perhaps God was calling me to be a priest. I know there are many of your peers who should be here tonight, but did not come because of fear of feeling pressured to move closer toward accepting a priestly vocation. By the end of the night, I hope you will say that it was their loss that they were not here with us. My hope tonight is that you do not feel pressured at all to become a priest, especially if God is not calling you, but that you will find more freedom tonight in learning more about how God calls young men like yourself. I truly expect some of you here tonight who have vocations to the priesthood to one day be able to answer them. I do know that some of you who have vocations to the priesthood will not be able to answer them for one reason or another. That is the reality of life. One result I must insist on however, is that each one of you leave here tonight knowing how to help yourself and others to hear and to answer God's call to holiness and to priesthood. Even if you are not called or are not able to answer the call yourself, you will have opportunities to help other men understand the call to priesthood better and to be less afraid of it. There are just a few of us here tonight. There are literally thousands more young men your age across the archdiocese who need to be here but who are not. There are many I would like to be able to reach as a vocation director who will always be too afraid to talk to me, but they may not be afraid to talk to you. The result I must insist upon, then, is that each one of us leave Project Andrew tonight as a team of vocation directors. To this end, I deputize each one of you to be my assistant vocation directors in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Let me speak just a few words about dating, since the main reason most of your peers were too afraid to come tonight was that they are either dating girls at the moment or want to be dating beautiful girls in the near future. This is the biggest obstacle I have, as you can imagine, in being in dialogue with young men like yourselves. Everyone is either dating or wants to be dating, and thus they are afraid to talk to the vocation director lest he get the wrong idea that perhaps he can talk them out of liking girls too much. Well, believe it or not, guys, it is not my job, nor is it my intention, to talk you guys out of liking girls. You are regular guys, and girls are pretty, and I have been there so I know it is natural to be interested in dating. It is not even my job to tell you not to date, even though I think most guys your age start dating, and get physically involved with girls, without thinking about or praying about what they are really doing. Yes, that's right, this ferverino is not an exhortation for you not to date girls, even though I would support those of you who wish to take this course of action. It is instead an exhortation for you, if you date, and if you are interested in girls, to date and be interested in them in the right way, so as not to mess up your discernment of God's will irrevocably.
The call to priesthood which we are here to discuss tonight, and to learn more about, is a supernatural vocation guys. The word super means over and above. Thus a call to the priesthood is a call over and above the call to marriage. I rarely meet a young man who really understands this. Since everyone knows that priests can't get married, everyone thinks that you have to discern between getting married and being a priest. Given your situation more concretely, young men think that if they are called to be a priest then it means they will go make a holy hour by themselves on homecoming night, rather than asking a beautiful girl out to the dance. Again, this is dead wrong, but rarely do I meet a young man who does not think in this way. A vocation to the priesthood is a supernatural vocation, a vocation over and above the vocation to marriage. Thus, discernment of a priestly vocation is not necessarily about giving up your homecoming date, but is about conversing with the Lord regarding His will that maybe He is also calling you to priesthood. Do you understand the difference I am trying to point out? In thinking about a priestly vocation, we have to always think about both/and, not either/or. If we discern that we have the additional vocation of priesthood, this does not mean that we do not have a calling to marriage, nor does it mean that we don't like girls or kids. This is what a lot of guys your age think. No, a calling to the priesthood only means that in addition to the fact that we like girls, Jesus is also calling us to follow Him more precisely and to join Him in marrying His eternal bride, the Church.
What this boils down to, guys, is that even if you are dating, or thinking about dating, it is important that your friendship with Christ become the most important friendship in your life. A lot of guys will stop discerning the priesthood as soon as they get a date, because they do not want to hurt or disappoint their girlfriend. What they are saying, however, is that their new friendship with this girlfriend is immediately more important than their friendship with Christ, because they are more afraid of disappointing her than they are of missing a call received through their friendship with Christ. It is important, guys, that as you move forward in discerning what vocation God has marked out for you, that your friendship and conversation with Christ is deep enough that He can count on you to do whatever He asks. This friendship with Christ will make you afraid of disappointing Him, to be sure, but more importantly, it will give you the freedom that comes from allowing Christ to pick out a life for you that will be bigger and better than any life you would pick for yourself. Keep trusting Jesus in this way, and He will reveal whether or not He has a supernatural call in mind for you. You will see in the next section of our evening how faithful Jesus is to His promise to be close to those who try to follow Him exactly and who answer His call to be priests. Every priest here tonight wants that same peace and happiness and meaning for each one of you in your lives.