As the parent of 37 children, I have occasionally contemplated the prospect of how to handle the spouse-finding process for those three children who won’t be priests or nuns. As my eldest daughter nears end-stage marital eligibility, I have been contemplating it more and more.
A recent email from a reader to the long-forgotten “Ask thetimman” feature prompts this post:
What is a Catholic parent to do about dating? Courtship? Shotgun weddings? And the rest.
There is a growing trend in the traditional and conservative Catholic world of returning to a “courtship” style of meeting/socializing with members of the opposite sex. In such a scenario, the contacts between the young couple are highly supervised, and the couple forgoes some of the more common “near occasions” that are usually found in the normal dating scenario. A growing number of Catholics– not just crazy trads, but your biggest JP2-we-love-you conservatives, too– are embracing this strategy. For an example of the latter check out Steve Wood’s Faith and Family site and click on “courtship” for specifics.
Of course, the far greater percentage of Catholics–even crazy trads– allow their children to date in some form or fashion, with restrictions consistent with the faith. Overgeneralizing to a shameful degree, these Catholic parents allow dating only at a much later age than the secular crowd, give earlier curfews, get to know potential suitors very well at the beginning of things, restrict the times and length of unchaperoned dates, and generally wear out rosary beads for the duration.
The question for Ask thetimman was, “What are your thoughts on dating and courtship?” My initial response is simple: “That’s the Mother Superior’s problem.”
I have yet to undergo this trial. My gut feeling is that I will botch it terribly, ruin my children’s lives and have to watch them await results on the Paternity Test episodes of Maury Povich.
I guess I would love to see the courtship thing work out, but it seems like it would take an exceptionally well-formed suitor on the other side to buy into it. I have a high respect for the spiritual instincts and intelligence of my daughter, for example, but I also know how guys are, having been one. I do wish to avoid jail, so allowing her to date seems risky, since I will have to destroy any boy who gets out of line (it’s a joke!).
Perhaps college is the place to meet the right mate. However, it’s hard to find a traditionally Catholic college near the Midwest.
Oh well. Maybe I can get it done the old-fashioned way: pay a dowry to some traditional Catholic parents whose sons have good formation and a clean medical history, then spring it on the unsuspecting bride and groom to be. Won’t they be delighted?
In all seriousness, I am throwing this one out to you, the reader. What are your thoughts on dating and/or courting? Age issues? Types of dates etc., allowed? Anything you want to add?