Dating to Discern

When I returned to Kentucky after Easter break, the Lord gave me no sign I should enter a convent.

Instead, He sent me Aidan.*

Aidan was the campus minister at Eastern Kentucky University, the college in town. Since I'd asked to volunteer with youth ministry, he gave me a tour of the Newman Center on campus. He showed me his modest office, cluttered with papers and books; the small kitchen area; and the auditorium where they celebrated Mass and Holy Hour.

“Does the priest come for Adoration?” I asked.

“He can, but usually, I’m the one who brings Jesus from the tabernacle to the monstrance,” Aidan said.

I gazed at him in awe. Aidan got to carry Jesus in his hands, at least once every week.

I kept running into Aidan, both at the parish and among my new High Street friends. It didn’t take long for us to become romantically involved.

Before one of our first meetings together, Aidan let me stop by the parish chapel to pray. I went straight to the church's unique tabernacle, which was carved from dark wood and gilded in gold.

I savored that moment of peace and silence, a tiny rest from the busy bustle of my world.

Then Aidan came behind me and whispered, “Mary.”

It felt like the voice of the Lord, calling me by name.


Only One Difficulty


Our relationship grew faster than chickweed after a rainstorm. One week Aidan and I were acquaintances, the next we were a couple. We were together almost every day. Aidan took me on long walks through town, or on hikes in the Appalachian foothills. He’d watch me practice The Devil Went Down to Georgia for my fiddle instructor, and admired the watercolors from my Senior Art Show, which I’d proudly displayed in my living room. He respected and cared for me, spent most of his free time with me.

There was only one difficulty: Aidan also wanted to be a priest.

“I really like you, Mary,” he said on our first date. “But while we are dating, I am still discerning the priesthood. I’m just not sure yet what God wants me to do.”

“Okay. I understand.” At the time, I wasn’t too concerned. If he really likes me, he’ll stop talking about the priesthood. Right?

And Aidan certainly did seem to like me. He took me to the best restaurants in town. He bought me a bouquet of red roses. On my 25th birthday, he planned an elaborate scheme of fun: swimming at a friend’s house, Strawberry Daiquiri cake, and a scavenger hunt for a book of Welsh fairy tales. I loved it all.

As the summer passed by, hope bubbled hot and eager inside of me. This time I'd found a man who shared the same faith as me. Who truly loved Jesus. I could see it in the gentle, careful way he'd lift the host out of the monstrance, in the reverent way he carried Jesus to the tabernacle.

He's certainly a man of faith, I thought. But is he

the man for me?


Unexpected News


One evening in July, Aidan had some news.

“I’m leaving campus ministry here in Kentucky,” he announced. “I found a position at a little parish in upstate New York. This job sounds just right for me.”

He sounded really excited about it, so I tried to be happy for him, too.

“That’s wonderful news!” I hugged him and smiled encouragingly.

Inside, however, I felt hurt and confused. How can he be so happy about leaving me here, all alone? Even if he doesn't like his situation here, isn't he sad to say good-bye?

Aidan touched my shoulder, a grin still lingering on his round face. “We can continue long-distance, Mary.”

Long distance. Oh, of course.

I chastised myself for being so selfish. He’s been wanting a new position for so long, Mary. Be a good girlfriend, and support him.

“This is a great opportunity for you.” I pushed my bruised emotions down deep, where no one would see them. “Yes, we can go long-distance.”

Two weeks later, I helped him clean out his apartment and move all his furniture into the U-Haul, bound for upstate New York.


Mixed Signals


After Aidan left, we talked each night on the phone. His favorite topic was how much he loved working for his new employer, the priest in New York.

“I’m learning about writing homilies,” he told me. “I would love to serve at a parish like the one I’m at here. It’s wonderful, Mary.”

This soon became too much for my feminine heart to take.

“I’m sorry, Aidan,” I told him in mid-September. “If you really feel like you should be a priest, I don’t think we should keep dating anymore.”

When I hung up the phone, I felt relieved, like a dog set loose from a tight-fitting leash. After months of being dragged into his vocational uncertainty, I was finally set free.


Moving into High Street


In October, I moved into one of the High Street apartments with my friend Therese. Each night, we trained for a 5K, walking, jogging, and then running two different routes around our neighborhood. Candice and her roommate lived next door, so we were always close to parties and fellowship and fun. We tried new recipes together, talked about work and family, and went on frequent adventures.

The con to my awesome new living arrangement was a huge downgrade in both the size and quality of my apartment. My room was painted a ghastly lavender hue, and nearly everything in our apartment seemed to be old, broken or breaking.

Meanwhile, my workload at Blue Grass Army Depot was piling higher and higher. In addition to writing and editing the command newsletter, “The Detonator”, I was also writing press releases, speeches, and a weekly radio show. I enjoyed most of my assignments, but I was growing weary of the long hours and constant stress of public affairs work.


You are Perfect


A few weeks after moving into High Street, a new voicemail popped up on my phone.

I hesitated a moment when I saw who'd called me, then slipped outside my apartment.

“Hello?” I raised the phone to my ear with shaking hands.

“Mary," Aidan answered. He sounded shy, hopeful.

I rubbed my free hand nervously over my jeans. “...Hi.”

“Ever since we broke up, I can’t stop thinking about you,” he stammered. “Can you give me another try?”

I swallowed, trying to take in this turn of events. What would be different this time if we started dating again? Had he decided he didn't want to be a priest?

“You are perfect,” he added, a tinge of awe in his tone.

“No, I’m not,” I snapped back. “And if you think that I am—” I bit back the rest of my words. Then you don’t know the first thing about me.

I dragged my feet across the apartment parking lot, kicking up dirt and gravel as I went. The parking lot was a mess, full of cracks and potholes and missing chunks of cement.

That's what I look like, on the inside, I thought, my eyes filling with hot tears. There is nothing perfect about me.

I think Aidan knew he had upset me.

“Think about it for a few days, okay?” he said. “Then call me back.”

#


Thank you so much for reading! Join me next week to hear the next turn in my discernment journey.


*All names except my own were changed in this post, to protect privacy.


About the Author:


Mary Rose Kreger lives in the metro Detroit area with her family, where she writes fantasy tales for teens, and blogs about her spiritual journey: before, during, and after the convent. Mary also shares faith-based poems and fantasy quotes on her Instagram account, @faithandfantasy1.

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