Family and Friends/Holy Friendship/My Relationships How to Be Friends with a Future Priest by Rachel Leininger Q: Moving out of high school and into college, I have some really good guy friends who are entering the seminary. How can I (a girl) keep good, holy, pure, and healthy relationships with these guys? A: I’ve been blessed to have had a few friends enter the seminary – some who discerned out and left, some who are in now, and some who made it all the way through and are now known as Father. Along the same lines, I’ve also had guy friends who dated other girls – some they broke up with, and some they married and to whom they are now known as Husband. In my friendships with guys discerning the priesthood, it was always incredibly helpful to keep that analogy in mind: how would I treat this guy friend, who is just a friend, if he had a girlfriend? When one of my guy friends was in a relationship with someone else, I didn’t spend a lot of time with him one-on-one. We’d hang out in groups, whether that was three or four or more people, and generally out in public somewhere. It wasn’t weird to ask him how his relationship was going, or to hear him talk about his girlfriend during our conversations. Whether I was a fan of the relationship or not, I respected the fact that the relationship was there – and as a friend, I did my best to be supportive, to listen well, and to offer honest life advice when asked for it (and also some times it wasn’t asked for… that’s just one of the rules of friendship). A lot of the same guidelines can apply to our guy friends who are ‘dating’ the Church, and discerning the priesthood through their time in the seminary. I know it’s strange, because his new ‘girlfriend’ is invisible, and besides, doesn’t it take, like, eight years or something before things get serious? But if your good guy friend has gone through the strenuous application process and committed to the seminary for his ongoing education and discernment, then guess what? It already IS serious. And his friend, don’t you want to be supportive of that? But being supportive can be tricky to navigate, for sure. This doesn’t mean that all guy-girl friendships are doomed to end in ‘secret crush turned seriously crushed’ because romantic feelings developed on one side and weren’t returned by the other… guys and girls CAN authentically be friends, thanks to emotional chastity. But it’s also true that guy-girl friendships can be more complicated, especially when one of you is in a serious relationship with someone else… The virtue of chastity, the exercise of self-control, and the reality of the gift of friendship all mean that seminarians can (and should!) be friends with women. After all, if they become priests, then women will make up half the population of their parishes. Part of their formation ought to be learning how to relate to women as ordained celibates. But even besides that – priests need friends, too! I’m so grateful for the friendships I have with some awesome and holy priests. According to a priest-friend of mine, there are a few things we, the female friends, can do (and do well) in order to help our brothers out as they try and figure out if God is calling them to serve the Church as one of His ordained priests. First, in your friendship, it will be important to have regular DTRs – Define The Relationship talks. Evaluate your friendship, and make sure it remains, simply, a friendship. As he, and you, both try to live your lives in holiness, are you helping one another find your true vocations? If God’s call for him is ordination, does your friendship bring him closer to it? And what about your life? Does this friendship bring you closer to what God wants for you? You will both need the freedom to listen for God’s voice as you discern His will – daily, yearly, and for the rest of your lives. Be careful to not spend a lot of time alone – I know, that seems weird, because you used to hang out one-on-one all the time, right? Why does that have to change? Because the reality is that things ARE different, and now that he’s seriously discerning the priesthood, as a friend, you have to give him the freedom to do that. And, as that same priest-friend of mine told me, whether we like it or not, appearances will be taken for reality – so both the seminarian and his female friends need to be smart about how they spend time together to prevent others from getting the wrong impression. It would raise some eyebrows if a guy with a girlfriend spent a lot of time, one-on-one, with another girl, right? The same would be true for a girl with a boyfriend… For the good of the relationship, and the integrity of the friendship, have private friend time in a public place. It will also be important, as a friend, that you challenge him! We all need accountability in our lives, and friends are among the best people to do that – people who love us, and know us, and so know that we aren’t saints yet and will call us to more. So, when he messes up, call him out on it. Help your seminarian friends be good men who follow Jesus, even when they aren’t wearing their seminary polos… Finally, PRAY! Pray for one another, every day, just like you do for all of your family and friends. Being in the seminary doesn’t change the reality that he needs your prayers… he probably needs them more than ever before. And since he’s in the seminary, that means he has to pray about forty-seven times a day. Imagine what kinds of graces that could mean in your life… Who knows? One day that might mean that he leads the prayers around your dining room table… for you, and your future spouse and kids, as you all sit down to dinner together. Good friends like that are hard to find – and definitely worth holding on to. Do you have a question about dating and relationships you’d like to ask David and Rachel Leininger? Email them at Itscomplicated@lifeteen.com and your question could be the next blog post!