Virtue is one of those words that sounds a bit lame and unromantic. Dating tends to make us think of words like: passion, excitement, love and connection … Date with virtue (wha-wha-wha). Buzz kill.
Growing up my dad always told me love was a decision, which always sounded too mechanical and cold to be true. But as I grew in maturity, I learned that my dad was right. Love is more than a feeling. In fact, St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that “love is willing (or shall I say “choosing”) the good for the other.”
Choice is the center piece for love, and this is where virtue comes in.
Unlike the Theological Virtues (faith, hope, and love), which are given through the gift of God’s grace, the cardinal virtues are developed and perfected through habit, an action done over and over again. It is the key component to growing in holiness, but it is vital for dating.
Have you ever said to yourself, “What was I thinking!? How could I have gone out with him/her in the first place? I can’t believe I put myself in that situation… epic fail!”
It most likely is because you were not practicing prudence.
Called “the charioteer of the virtues”(Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1806), prudence directs all the other virtues, pointing them to their proper end. In fact, St. Aquinas ranks prudence the highest of all cardinal virtues.
Prudence is the perfection of the intellect (“reason applied to practice”). Essentially it is practical wisdom which enables us to discern the right decision in every circumstance, specifically as it applies to how to date chastely.
Prudence is all about watching for the pitfalls. For example, watching a movie while laying under a blanket with your boo, in the dark basements when your parents are out of town is a BAD idea. Spending the night at your boyfriend’s dorm room or apartment when you have been drinking (or not) is a recipe for disaster.
In my college days I used to put myself in tempting situations (generally with alcohol) because it was an excuse to blur the lines. I sometimes wanted to stay at my boyfriend’s dorm room too late, or watch a rated R movie that would stir me. But as I grew closer to Christ, I saw that he was calling me to grow-up in Him.
St.Paul tells us: “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (1 Cor 13:11). This is why prudence/wisdom is so important. It makes us spiritually mature.
If you really want to love with true freedom you have to choose it.
This means that we have to apply prudence by avoiding the near occasion of sin, and any situation which leads us to poor judgment:
Some simple suggestions are:
- Avoid movies, books, late internet use, and/or sexting or promiscuous talk.
- Avoid drinking and (if you are of age) limit alcohol use on your dates. (As a good rule, one of the two should abstain from alcohol use).
- Avoid late nights in tempting locations.
- Do not spend the night at your date’s apartment or dorm room (it’s always a bad choice).
- Avoid dressing in a way that might provoke lust in the other person… simply put, dress modestly.
We are all weak, and prone to sin. Knowing the areas you are most vulnerable in is the first step for wise, chaste living. If you feel like wisdom is lacking in your chastity efforts, St. Paul reminds us to ask for it:
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” (James 1:5, 6)
Let the Lord guide us in prudence, wisdom and faith to live chastity, one date at a time!
Involved in ministry for more than 15 years, Mary Bielski has spoken to over 100,000 teens, young adults around the nation at high school and college retreats and conferences, including Steubenville Youth Conferences, Life Teen Inspiration, LA Congress, NCCC, and parish and diocesan rallies. Using funny stories and engaging analogies, Mary draws her audience to the beauty of our Catholic faith, a deeper love for Christ, the Eucharist, and the call to holiness. For more information about Mary and her ministry go to www.marybielski.com.