Principles of Catholic Courtship

I just listened to an excellent talk on Catholic courtship by Fr. Ripperger:

Every Catholic parent should listen to it and seek to understand it, and every young adult Catholic should as well. It could save you a lifetime of heartache!

Here’s a recap of what Fr. Ripperger talks about and how my wife Catherine and I courted.

Preparing for Courtship

Courtship has a negative connotation for many nowadays, being associated with antiquated and even harmful practices. But any such excesses or wrong-headed notions are not inherent in courtship itself.

Courtship is a means to a specific end: marriage.

Courtship vs. dating: dating, especially in our society, is largely recreational. Even if two people think that perhaps one day they may get married, dating does not entail marriage is even a goal or purpose for a couple.

Courtship however is not recreational. It is asking a specific question: does this person have sufficient virtue to be a good spouse for me?

Virtue, another word that has a bad connotation for many, is a set of good habits. They tell you how another person will most likely act. Will this person be able to share a life in common, rear children wisely, and be willing to do the duties of their state in life as husband and father or wife and mother?

From the natural law: the primary function of the husband and father is to protect the honor/virtue of his wife and daughters. So the father makes the final judgment about whether a young man is honorable and will be virtuous with his daughter.

Given that background, let’s get into the four stages of courtship.

Catholic Courtship Stage 1: Friendship

Any courtship first begins with friendship. Each gets to know the other as friends, without any romantic pursuits.

Recall that love is willing the good of another. “Love at first sight” is therefore meaningless. You do not know a man’s moral character on the first date.

Consider the prevalence of pornography and lust in our world, even among Catholic men. Women need to ask themselves whether the man is capable of love, or whether he is a slave to lust. Many women, including Catholic women, don’t even imagine that a Catholic man could struggle with lust, but the numbers indicate that they should be expecting it. (For Catholic men struggling with lust, check out my video course here.)

Mutual love at this friendship stage is based on virtue. Interactions should be done in public settings to see if person has virtue. Also, there should be no physical affection at this stage, so each person can have clarity of judgment.

If they do have sufficient virtue, and they judge each other’s personalities are sufficiently matched, they can go to next stage.

My wife and I began our friendship online, through a Catholic singles site. We then met in person for the first time, as friends, and got to spend time together. We became friends through phone calls, emails, and written correspondence, but it was only after meeting in person that we were able to really determine whether we were a good match for each other.

Stage 2: Courtship

The hallmark of the courtship stage is the beginning of exclusivity. There’s a recognition that you are considering each other for marriage in an exclusive way. Again, contrast that with modern secular dating where you might date four people at a time.

Before entering this stage, the young man should ask permission from the young woman’s father if he can court her. Now, this might seem antiquated and ridiculous, but I can attest the wisdom behind it. I asked Catherine’s father for his permission to court her. He laughed and couldn’t believe I was asking him. But I wanted to receive his approval, even if he didn’t realize it was his duty to give it.

Also during this stage, you should get to know each other’s family as well. These will be your in-laws, your brothers-in-law, etc. and you will see the environment in which your girlfriend grew up.

The principal function of this stage is self-denial: spend more time together to understand more deeply if the person is virtuous and would be a good match. Note the recurring theme here! Marriage without virtue is miserable. Better to know now then walk in blindly and pay the consequences.

Also, it may come as a surprise that there should be no physical affection in this stage either: it causes bonding to occur to various degrees, and that emotional bond can confuse wise decision-making. Since you are not fully commited to one another, if the courtship is broken off, those emotional bonds can cause great pain, so it is unjust to commit more with your body than you have in your heart.

The young man is looking to see whether the young woman can and will submit to his headship in marriage. She is looking for love: is he self-sacrificing? Is he capable and willing to suffer for her and for their children one day?

This period can last 3 – 6 months.

My wife and I entered courtship and it lasted for four months. We were still living in different states so every month I flew out to her city or flew her out to mine and we spent extended periods together. I saw in her a virtuous young woman, serious about prayer and following Christ through His Church.

Stage 3: Betrothal

Betrothal is often thought of as engagement in our modern culture.

But in older times, society didn’t consider a pair engaged until the betrothal. The young man needs to ask her father for permission to marry his daughter; and only after receiving that approval can he ask young woman for her hand.

If she says yes, now they go to priest for the rite of betrothal. This rite is a series of promises that says “yes I intend to marry you.” Most Catholics have no idea that such a rite exists.

Catherine and I, without any sort of guidance for a priest or other who knew about this, stumbled upon the existence of the rite and asked the priest to do it for us after we got engaged. The priest didn’t know what we were talking about but went ahead with it anyway.

Physical affection can begin during this stage, prudently, as only for grave reasons should a betrothal be broken. Of course, that physical affection should be done chastely and without breaking the commandments.

The couple also should be praying together seriously. They should not be alone together, as the young man needs to protect her honor and reputation.

Principal thing to look for in this stage: can he moderate himself in a relationship with me, and vice-versa? This stage is an opportunity to grow in virtue even more deeply.

Stage 4: Marriage

This stage is self-explanatory as it is the end of the courtship. By now the couple has discerned that they are a good match for each other, that they are marrying someone who will love them and live virtuously.

That doesn’t mean perfectly or without even erring or commiting a sin. But it does mean that they have a confident assurance that the other wills what is best for them and is willing to self-sacrifice for their good and the good of their future children.

Even going through all this, both persons are human. Both have faults and blind spots and weaknesses and areas of improvement. In our cases, I grew up in an atheist family and my wife grew up in a family with some particular challenges. These rear their head during marriage; it doesn’t mean they are insuperable but all the more reason that virtue is needed.

So, Catholic husbands and fathers: are you willing to step up and fulfill your role to help your daughter marry a virtuous man?

(Want to help become a better man or woman for your spouse or future spouse? Start praying novenas regularly! This post has been brought to your by my free app, Pray the Catholic Novena app.)

How to Raise Chaste Catholic Men

Impossible task? Some say it is so.

With so many men, including Catholic men, addicted to pornography and lustful vices, the idea that parents can rear a chaste (read: self-mastered) Catholic young man seems impossible.

Not so, says Leila Miller, Catholic mother to many, including virtuous Catholic sons. What are her secrets? Read on!

Raising Chaste Catholic Men

Leila is an old friend of mine and sent me an early draft of her first book: Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom.

I flew through the book: it’s written in down-to-earth language with straightforward advice that is instantly applicable to your parenting. Also, as a now-Catholic man who is now-chaste, I was able to read the book from the perspective of someone who had to fight to discover the truths Leila talks about.

What are her priorities when rearing sons:

  • Make moral formation top priority
  • Logically explain beliefs and principles
  • Make discussions open to any topic

Moral Formation

Moral formation, says Leila, trumps teaching kids to be financially shrewd, socially popular, or even academically successful.

We want our children to become ultimately successful, which means they become saints, so moral formation with the truths of the Church is top priority.

Logically Explain Catholic Beliefs

Faith is supported by reason; the two go hand-in-hand. So when a child asks “why” we believe a certain dogma, do not say “that’s just the way it is, I’m not sure why.” Be ready with reasons to support the belief.

Examples include areas where the Catholic Church’s teachings contradict those of our modern secular society, e.g. contraception, divorce, pre-marital sex, etc. but also truths of divine revelation like the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ.

No Holds Barred

Nothing that you children bring up is taboo. Of course, Leila wisely cautions that our responses need to be age appropriate and divulge just enough information to satisfy, but the important point is that your children grow to trust you and know they can bring up sensitive topics with you.

Later on Leila talks about respecting the latency period, or “years of innocence” as Pope St. John Paul II said: 5 years old til puberty. This means not disturbing this period with unnecessary information about sexual topics.

Being careful to guard them during this time means being vigilant not just of what they see and hear in your own home, but also via movies, television, videos, music, and their peers. They may go over to a friend’s house every week whose parents are MIA or oblivious to all of these things.

So Many Good Guidelines

Leila teaches you how to answer questions your children will face from the culture on sexuality, then also dives into uncomfortable topics like masturbation and pornography and how to help your children see through their emptiness.

She also devotes a chapter to navigating pop culture: movies, video games, school choices, and more. She isn’t dogmatic or condemning on these matters (e.g. “homeschool is the only way!” or “no movies or t.v., period!”) but also gives prudent warnings of the dangers your children will face from pop culture and society.

Finally, she interviews her sons on a range of topics related to purity, and they share their thoughts, proof that young Catholic men can grow up to be strong in chastity.

Raising Chaste Catholic Men is a must-read book for all Catholic parents. We are facing an epidemic of impurity and it is wrecking souls, marriages, children, and women. We aren’t doing near enough as the Church to combat it and reverse the direction, and too often Catholics don’t look much different than the culture when it comes to the statistics of men addicted to pornography.

After you get the book, consider buying my course for Catholic men to conquer pornography addiction.

Perhaps you weren’t blessed with wise parents like the Millers and fell into the pit of pornography and lust. An ounce of prevention is best, but sometimes you need the pound of cure. I did, but the good news is that the Church’s teachings are true and will liberate you from this evil.

Thanks Leila for a great book!

15 Days to Unbreakable Purity FREE Course

I’ve seen a great response to my course helping Catholic men conquer pornography addiction.

They have inspired me with their words and stories and their commitment to growing in purity and becoming men of great virtue.

Springboard to Purity

Some men though are daunted by the fact that the course costs money, so I’ve created a second course for Catholic men that is free and gives them the first 15 days action plan toward unbreakable purity.

One lesson for each day. One action to take each day. Step-by-step to chastity. To freedom from slavery to sin.

Here’s the title of each day in the course:

  1. Resolve
  2. Ditch it
  3. Filter
  4. Accountability
  5. Fellowship
  6. Self-mastery
  7. Confess
  8. Mass
  9. Adoration
  10. Service
  11. Pray
  12. Fast
  13. Inform
  14. Triggers
  15. Power Prayers

Power Prayers

And here is the Day 15 part of the course on power prayers:

When a temptation first presents itself, a good way to respond is to memorize and recite a power prayer.

A power prayer is one that you have down by heart, is short, and is specifically formulated to be helpful to you when tempted.

CPJpegv8smallestI use: “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me!”

And also: “Lord, I pray for the grace to respect and protect all your daughters.”

Or, “Lord, I praise you for the beauty of all your daughters, including this one, but especially for the beauty of my wife.”

When evil thoughts arise: “I reject these evils thoughts utterly.”

One of my favorites: “I desire to give myself to my wife alone.”

When I see a scantily clad woman that I’m attracted to and feel a temptation to lust coming on, I say one of these prayers.

Come up with a few power prayers and start reciting them when tempted.

You may need to try out several. Or, some may work for a time but then you need to mix things up and use new ones.

These prayers are not magical. If they don’t work sometimes, that is okay. It is one more tool in your toolbox. One more way that you call to mind the truth of God and how we made us.

Eventually, lust loses its luster.

I can tell you from experience that, after practicing these things for years, and learning about the theology of the body, when I did fall to temptation, it was not as satisfying as it once was.

In fact, it became so banal and trite. So fleeting, and then made me feel so sick that I wondered why I was falling for this sham that fell far short of real love.

I didn’t conjure up those feelings of dreariness with lust. God led me to it when the time was right. And He will for you too, as you continue fighting to grow strong in purity.

Do not give up! He is with you.

“It is necessary to be strong, in order to become great; that is our duty. Life is a struggle, which we cannot avoid. We must triumph!”
– St. Padre Pio

Start Today

Men who go through the complete 15 Days will receive a coupon discount off the main course as well.

Begin today my brothers to conquering pornography addiction!