“Ask a Priest: What If a Guy I Like Is Thinking of the Priesthood?”

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Q: I have found myself in a tricky situation. I met a good Catholic man. We became close. He told me he really liked me, and he had even considered dating me. But at the same time his mind was occupied with the question of whether he was called to be a priest. So, we decided to stay friends until he makes the decision. But after two months I realized this is much harder than I expected. We restricted our contact so that we only talk once a week in a phone call. But I am not sure whether this is a right approach. It hurts me because I don’t know how he decides, and I don’t know if there ever will be something between us. On the other hand, I really want to support him, but it is so hard for me. He gave himself a year to decide whether he enters a seminary or not. What should I do? Should I leave him alone until he decides, or should I continue in this friendship and try to support him? Thank you for your advice. – T.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: A situation like this is always delicate, and ultimately it is something that only you can decide.

That said, I offer a few observations.

First, if a young man is seriously thinking of the priesthood, he should start to live as someone who intends to embrace lifelong celibacy.

This would normally entail not dating, since healthy dating is done with a possible eye toward marriage.

If he can’t handle life without a girlfriend or even a woman for whom he has feelings, he won’t be able to handle life without a wife.

Second, serious discernment about the priesthood requires a man to intensify his life of prayer, the sacraments, spiritual reading, and spiritual direction, etc. For him to be involved in a relationship with a woman would simply be too much of a distraction, I dare say.

Third, and this is related to the second point, your very presence in his life could complicate and muddle his discernment.

Moreover, it could set you up for heartache later. You might get very attached to him, only to have him drop the relationship in a year or so if he joins the seminary.

This is personal advice, by the way. Other people might give you a different take.

In any case, you might want to take some of this to prayer.

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  1. Hi there,
    I agree with what the priest says.

    As a girl, you should not be left as someone who is hanging on.
    He has obviously put the fact that he wishes to be a priest in front of dating you.
    Leaving you hanging on is something some men do and they do not understand how hurtful and horrible that can be for a woman, especially at the end of hanging on if you then are rejected it can be very very painful.
    He cannot hold onto both his journey towards priesthood and his possible relationship with you.
    Plus you should not have to go through the heartache.
    If it were me I would tell him that because you have feelings for him that you need to cut off the relationship as it is confusing you.

    You can then take time for you and focus on your own life journey. You may one day hear from him again as he may send you a friendly message to tell you that he has become a priest.

    I remember an elderly priest at mass telling us all that he had been dating a girl when he realised that he wanted to be a priest, he suddenly decided that he had the calling in his heart. He talked to the girl and she supported him so they stopped dating and he has had a happy life as a priest. He never let her hang on while he was on his journey to priesthood as that would be wrong. He said that he was grateful of her understanding and that she went on to be happy in her life too.

    So do not let yourself hang on. If for any reason he decides that priesthood is not for him then he might one day if you are still free ask to meet up again. But at the same time it is good to forge your own path and do not hold onto a thought of something that could be as it may not happen at all.

    he might be letting you hang on as he does not want you to be hurt, some men do that thinking that when you are ready to let go then you do so, men think it is less painful for women that way (when in fact it can be the opposite).

    But the decision for being a priest is difficult and it can be a very special calling from God and Jesus to become a priest. He has to focus on that, and the journey.

    Like the priest says you could become broken hearted and a broken heart really hurts.

    I know that you really like him and it is confusing for you: anyone else would be confused too. But you deserve to be happier and this kind of situation will be making you sad, and will make you more and more unhappy especially if you hang on for a long time.

    The priest really does give very good advice on this.

  2. and if he is confused himself it is still confusing for you to be left like this.
    He obviously respects you and well sometimes men are not very good at knowing how to communicate their intensions in life.

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