April 12, 2024

By Shannan McQuade

The purpose and end goal of dating is marriage. I’m sure this is an idea that is not new to most people, and certainly is not one that is specifically a Catholic worldview. Dating is a means to discerning a potential spouse, and this idea should be at the forefront of any dating relationship.

In the Catholic worldview, this discernment is done with Christ at the center of the relationship and at the forefront of the process. When it comes to discerning marriage, it is best to start by understanding what the Church teaches about the Sacrament of Matrimony, because then we can better understand what it is we are striving for.

The Sacrament of Matrimony is, as defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” (CCC 1601). The primary goal of marriage is the procreation and education of children. This must be the first consideration in discernment of marriage. Will this person be a good mother or father to our children? Will they raise our children in the Catholic faith?

These are important things to consider in any dating relationship, but they can be of even greater importance when it comes to dating a non-Catholic. While not impossible, dating a non-Catholic can present a different set of challenges that are important to be mindful of.

Christ as center

First, as in any dating relationship, Christ should be kept at the center of the relationship. This may look different in a relationship with someone who does not share the same faith; however, the importance of the discernment of God’s will remains the same. Having Christ as the foundation of your own life, will allow you to carry that with you into your dating relationship.

In a dating relationship, just as having a strong relationship with Christ is important for you to remain true to who you are, it is also important that the other person provides you with the space and the freedom to openly share and practice your faith. The dating relationship should continue to push you further in your faith and continue to foster and encourage your relationship with Christ.

Shared values

Second, it is important to allow your morals and values to continue to guide you as an individual. Dating someone who shares these same morals and values is important because it is these values that will not only guide your relationship, but, if it were to lead to marriage, it would be the values that guide your family.

It’s important to look to the Church in her great wisdom for a deeper understanding of Christian morality and allow this to be a guide to your own personal morality. And, remembering the primary end of marriage, it will be a guide to raising your children in this same moral worldview. So, finding someone who shares these values allows for a stronger front when it comes to forming a strong family.

Be aware that this could present itself as the biggest challenge in a dating relationship with a non-Catholic, although it does not make the relationship impossible. It is here that having a firm foundation and understanding of your faith and of Church teaching is going to be pivotal to holding true to your Catholic faith.

Called to evangelize

Finally, as all the baptized are called to share the Gospel with those they encounter, so are you called to share your faith and evangelize within your relationship, just in a very unique way. The catechism says, “Sincere married love, the humble and patient practice of the family virtues, and perseverance in prayer can prepare the non-believing spouse to accept the grace of conversion” (CCC 1637).

In a sincere dating relationship that leads to marriage, you have a specific call to share the Gospel every day with the other person. This can be done in the most organic way through living out the Gospel. But it can also look like real and organic conversation about the truth and the beauty of the Church. These conversations come through the exposure to the Church through your witness to your faith.

When people come into contact with the Church and her truth, beauty and goodness, questions begin to arise within themselves. It is our duty as baptized Christians to journey with them in their questions and provide answers to their questions as we can. You may not have all of the answers, but there are people who do have the answers, and it presents to you an opportunity to grow in your faith along with them.

It is important to remember this call to share the Gospel so as to live as witnesses to Christ and his deep love for each of us. It is through our witness that the other is going to see and experience this love.

Shannan McQuade is the director of faith formation at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Sioux Falls. She holds undergraduate degrees in theology and in evangelization and catechesis and is pursuing her master’s degree in theology.