Earlier this year, I ended a relationship that was on its last leg. It was traumatic, I felt lost and alone. Most importantly, this relationship was supposed to be My Big Catholic Love Story (BCLS).
If you’re Catholic, you know the BCLS: A boy and a girl meet, probably at Mass, at the campus Newman Center, or in an Adoration chapel. Boy leads the girl closer to Jesus through his very mature spiritual leadership, they get engaged in 6 months, married within 6 months, have a baby right away. She stays at home and writes books about the joy of Natural Family Planning. He’s a lawyer or doctor, and they live in some intentional Catholic community. Or a suburb. Their social media presence is flawless, they go to daily Mass, homeschool, and all of their kids have some obscure saint’s name. Their third son says he wants to be a priest. They’re what can happen to you if you do everything right and just trust in Jesus.
Whether you’re Catholic or Protestant – I think we’re all sold some version of the BCLS. What’s peddled to young folks is something along the lines of if you do all the right things (don’t have sex with people you’re not married to, settle for nothing but the absolute best, enjoy your singleness because God will use that time to turn you into a better person), eventually Mr. and Mrs. Right will materialize when you least expect it.
Of course, it’s totally unfair to say that all churches everywhere have laid down these types of “rules” for dating. Some narratives are more strict than others. While standards and “rules” aren’t misguided – they can leave someone wondering, “Where did I go wrong?” when things don’t go as planned.
And if you’re wondering, that someone is me.
For the better part of a decade, I wanted to convert to Catholicism. It just made sense to me. When I entered my last relationship with a Catholic, I was convinced that this person was my future spouse, and after a year, I enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at a local parish. I was thrilled to finally make the religious move that was, for me, spiritually and intellectually honest. I was also excited that I had someone to “do Catholicism” with and that eventually, I’d have my own BCLS to tell.
I absorbed all of the social media, listened to the podcasts, wrote blog posts about my love for the Faith, evangelized as many as I could. I fawned over Catholic relationship books, attended talks, downloaded Catholic podcasts where single 27-year-old women talked about waiting for The One, but loved Jesus without abandon in the meantime. I wrote for Catholic publications, argued on Catholic Twitter, lived a vibrant Catholic life.
After a while (coupled with some unfortunate doses of reality) I realized that my BCLS, as I imagined, wasn’t going to happen.
As a result, I grew tired and irritable with Catholic culture. The engaged woman who talked about praying the daily Rosary with her fiancé? I unfollowed her from Instagram. The podcaster who is a professional Catholic and gets to do creative work from home while her husband pulls down a lucrative salary? Unsubscribed. The Catholic YouTube family that extolls the virtue of going to *only* the Latin Mass? I haven’t watched them in months.
If the truth is known, sometimes it’s all I can do is to sit through Mass.
Long-story-short: I am tired. I am still fully Catholic and intend to remain as such, but I am tired.
I am tired from well-intentioned Catholic culture that sometimes glosses over the reality: Your BCLS may not work out. Ever. Even if you follow all of the rules.
I am tired from constantly seeing images of perfection and botique hardship touted across Catholic media.
I am tired from being told over and over that suffering leads to holiness – especially after your relationship falls apart and everything you ever had or looked forward to was canceled due to a virus. And yes, I know St. Mother Teresa went through a 50-year dark night of the soul, but last time I checked, she died in 1997 and I ain’t in Calcutta.
Y’all, I’m tired of Big Catholic Love Stories. Or just unrealistic ones.
Perhaps, though, maybe the grace to get sick and tired is what makes Catholicism so beautiful in the first place.