Editor’s Note: As a part of our mission to help single Catholics deepen their faith and better discern dating and marriage, the CatholicMatch Institute held an essay contest to award scholarships for the National Catholic Singles Conference that was held in Philadelphia on September 27-29, 2013.
Members had to answer the essay question: Describe how you have discerned that you are called to the vocation of marriage and provide one example of how you joyfully live out your faith until the time when you can fulfill your vocation?
The post below is one of our winning essays. Congratulations to Matthew Mordini from Illinois! (Click here to see the rest of the winners.)
The story of how I came to realize my calling to the vocation of marriage is perhaps a bit longer and a tad more roundabout than the average person’s story.
Indeed as a 40-year-old I feel perhaps my story is much like the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years. Much like them I went to the wrong place (Egypt) and then took longer than one should to get back (if you want to walk from Egypt to Israel, just follow the Mediterranean coast north!)
I was not the marrying kind in my early twenties. In fact, I was socially awkward, not in a terribly noticeable way, but I definitely lacked the ability to catch social cues or to relate in a powerful way. I also did not trust the gifts that God had given me.
During college I decided God wanted me to be priest. Back then I did not say it that way, but that’s what happened. My decision had much more to do with avoiding getting a real job, finding a place to live, and especially dating. I entered the Carmelites and spent almost two years discerning the priesthood, but left because of the order’s concerns about my ability to live in community. It was a very difficult time. On the one hand religious life seemed to fit me, and yet like the Israelites in Egypt, I felt oppressed. I did leave on good terms (there were no plagues!) and started to wander around. The goal was to go out in the world, get a job, get a place, date, and then return to the seminary.
I got a good job as an engineer and found an apartment next to an Italian deli. I registered at a local parish and joined the choir. I showed up for choir and met Stacy (not her real name) who would open doors in me I never knew existed.
We would meet three or so times a week as part of either the choir or the singles group. The amount of grace that I saw flowing through her to me convinced me marriage was my vocation, and within two months I knew I was supposed to marry her. But the knowledge of my vocation and the grace was not enough. I also needed to follow God’s lead to accept that grace. Unfortunately I decided that I was going to do it my way.
Stacy was seven years older than me, and I had never dated, and that scared me. Despite the voice of God telling me to trust him (and her and the gifts he gave me) I felt sure I needed to impress her. So I hid the fact that I had not dated and tried to act sophisticated. On the one hand I truly loved her, yet on the other the voice of fear in me kept me from being honest. For more than three years I refused to listen to God. The dagger through the heart was when Stacy fell for a man my age, a fellow seminarian who had never dated. Yet still I clung to the belief that I would somehow turn the mess around without God’s help.
I never did. Stacy married another gent and started a family and I moved to a new parish to get away. During this time, just like the Israelites, I wandered around, sure of my destination of marriage, just not making particularly good time. Then God would give me two gifts. The first was Eucharistic adoration through a young adult community, Spirit and Truth.
I had prayed the Rosary every day in front of the tabernacle during my first two years of college, and they were the best years of my life. Spirit & Truth gave me the breathing room and the ability to start reconnecting with God. It started to repair a relationship torn up by me trying to do my own thing. It repaired my ability to love God, and to trust in his lead.
The other was dance. Almost five years ago I started dancing, and as my ability has grown so too has my confidence specifically as a man. It has given me the ability to love my neighbor in a way I had not had before. It has especially helped my ability and confidence to love women in a way I could not before. Before dance I treated men and woman socially the same. After dancing my way of relating to each was nuanced and differentiated, whether or not they danced, and had grown stronger with both. I came to understand deeply, both in mind and in my very body, how we were made male and female in God’s image and likeness.
I’ve dated several women in the last few years, two over this year. While none has ended in marriage the amount of freedom to freely choose how to act, and especially to act in accordance with the Holy Spirit, has grown by leaps each time. I know that God still has a lot of work to do with me, but I am zealously looking forward to deepening that relationship. I am also very much in site of the Promised Land, moving with greater and greater purpose. I know that it took a lot longer perhaps than it should. I still have some regret, yet each and every day I have deeper and deeper joy.