My Big Catholic Love Story

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “My Big Catholic Love Story

  1. Anni Harry says:

    Thank you for your honesty. Catholicism isn’t all rainbows, unicorns, and roses, and we all don’t have a BCLS! I’ve actually been told at times that I should not be Catholic because *gasp* my husband is Methodist! Or, I am not a good Catholic whose marriage doesn’t count because *double gasp* my husband is not Catholic.

    Those sting. They really do.

    And, in Catholic social media, it can be hard to maintain that perspective of “why” we are here – it’s hard to not compare. There are so, so many instances where I could question whether or not I am a bad Catholic because my kids don’t have the reverence for Mass that I see other people write about, or I am not as devoted a Catholic because I don’t pray a family Rosary every day, or quite frankly, I don’t pray the Rosary every day!

    But, at the end of the day – and, it’s something I still have to remind myself of frequently – it’s *my* relationship with God that matters. He know, He sees, and He understands my struggles, my challenges, my situations, and everything. I just have to keep leaning into Him with faith, hope, and trust.

    I am so sorry your BCLS has not turned out the way you envisioned. I will be praying for you, and please know – He waits to hold you. It’s little consolation at times, but it doesn’t make it any less true…

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    • Sarah says:

      Thank you for your encouragement, Anni! It’s so good to hear from others whose Catholic lives aren’t *perfect* Catholic lives.

      In reality, I think that the BCLS as I’ve mentioned above is quite rare (even though I’ve witnessed it play out in real life and social media). Very few of us have that perfect, Catholic romance where we get engaged in an Adoration chapel and live domestic bliss for 50 years. However, I do believe in our digital age that this type of love story is touted as the norm and not the exception. While it’s meant to encourage young Catholics that love is out there and alive, it can sometimes become a source of discouragement if everything doesn’t fall into place. Also, I find it quite audacious that someone would say that your marriage doesn’t “count!”

      Even now, as I am dating a non-Catholic, I wonder if I’m a big hypocrite after all those years of telling other women not to date non-Catholics. That vision of a big, Catholic family in a pew has been reduced down to the big, Catholic family in the pew where maybe mom knows more about the faith than dad. However, If this whole experience has taught me anything – it’s taught me about Divine Mercy and the love of Christ.

      Once again, thank you for reaching out!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anni Harry says:

        Did you ever read my piece about being married to a non-Catholic for Sara? It’s not without its struggles and challenges – but all marriages are called to have their struggles… it is how we get to Heaven, after all!

        I will say, my husband is more supportive in teaching the Faith and “doing” the Faith than most non-Catholic (and, honestly, some Catholic) men. So, I would give some unsolicited advice that make sure the man who becomes your co-partner toward Heaven fully supports you and your journey of raising Catholic children.

        Hands down, my husband has made me a better Catholic in the nuts and bolts of what the Church teaches. But, I am the one growing deeper in knowledge and then relaying the messages back to him. He challenges me almost daily to put the Church teachings into practice. I love him for it! Other inter-religious marriages are not as fortunate…

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      • Sarah says:

        Hi Anni, I haven’t read it but would love to! Please share the link when you can. My conundrum is that the man I am with now displays more “Catholic” virtue than any other Chrsitian I’ve dated. It’s sad, but an often-cited reality. No wonder it’s so common!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Nnam Somto says:

    Don’t ever give up, sometimes it is really difficult to wait for God. Never cease to ask him for the grace to be patient for your future spouse, don’t settle for less than a man who leads you to God. Have you really discerned your true vocation? How Sure are you God is calling you to the married life? Maybe you might be called to be a nun or even to be a consecrated sister, to live a single life. Yes, sometimes love makes difficult demands but always remember that God knows what is best for you. I will be praying for you. Increase your devotion to our lady of perpetual help she never ceases to help her devotees.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarah says:

      Exactly. I mean, after all, who would read the blog posts about naming your fifth son Aquinas and going to your third daughter’s profession as a religious sister?

      Like

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