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“Ask a Priest: What If My Ex-Seminarian Friend Has Joined the Orthodox Church?”
Q: I am a 19-year-old Catholic girl, and recently started studying theology at a university where I met a guy. He is very nice and has a strong faith. Two years ago he was in the Catholic seminary, then he left, and about four months ago he left the Catholic Church and became Orthodox. He is truly seeking to find God and says he has fully done that in the Orthodox Church. (He is absolutely not against Catholics; he respects our Church and sees us as his brothers.) We have been dating the past weeks but not yet talked about our differences in our beliefs. What should I do, and what should I tell him? Many of my Catholic friends told me to be very careful since this guy knows a lot both about Catholics and Orthodox and that he might convince me in some way. Is it wise to keep going? Also, is it wrong of me to sometime follow him to one of his Masses? I see it only as a way of knowing more about his Church so maybe I could help him come back. Also, if he should listen to me, I feel like I also have to listen to him. What’s the most important thing I can do for this guy? – L.J.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Let me answer your last question first. The best thing you can do for him is to stay firm in your Catholic faith.
From what you describe, it would be good to proceed in this relation with caution. I mention this for a few reasons.
First, it’s one thing for a young man to leave the seminary. It’s another thing for him to leave the Catholic Church. He seems to be on a journey that has taken him away from his Catholic roots.
Second, you might want to be very careful if you think that you are going to change him and bring him back to the Catholic Church. More than a few women have made the mistake of thinking that they will change the man they date or marry.
It is possible, of course, that your friend could return to the practice of the Catholic faith. But you want to look for concrete signs of that happening. You don’t want to rely on wishful thinking.
Third, you might want to reconsider whether it’s wise to go to Orthodox services. In general, Catholics may go if they can’t find a Mass to attend (such as on a Sunday). But you want to be careful about thinking you will somehow learn enough about the Orthodox faith to persuade your friend to return to the Catholic flock.
A more likely danger is that over the course of time you will get attached to him emotionally, and at some point you will be tempted to start attending only Orthodox services, to keep the peace and make him happy.
Obviously, I don’t know what motivated him to leave the seminary and the Church. The reasons could be varied.
For now, you want to intensify your prayer for him, but to give yourself certain boundaries on what you are willing to do in terms of his affinity to the Orthodox Church
You might want to take some of this to prayer. I hope you choose wisely.
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