Dear Sister Sunday,
I met a cute guy at a friend’s wedding last spring. It had been awhile since I’d been in a relationship. He was super nice, we had great chemistry, and things moved fast. After three months he asked me if we should move in together. We’re both Catholics, and while at first it seemed romantic and impulsive, now we’re having second thoughts about what it means to live with someone without being married, or even knowing if that’s what we want. We’re feeling uncomfortable living together in my apartment. But we’ve already sealed the deal, so to speak, so there’s no going back now. Right?
Signed, Wondering in Wisconsin
If there were no going back, dear, there’d be no hope for any of us. Most people set out from some (metaphorical) Minneapolis headed north, hoping and planning to reach New Orleans. They’re going the wrong way. They have to turn around and head the other direction. That’s what the Greek word, metanoia — from which our English “repentance” is derived — gets at. It suggests the same kind of change of mind or heart that is familiar to any traveler who ever realized, “I’m on the wrong road,” and immediately began searching for, and then following, the right one.
If there were no going back, dear, there’d be no hope for any of us.
Turning around can be a good thing. Just ask the passenger who might have otherwise been forced across the Arctic tundra on the way to Louisiana. There is no shame in recognizing a mistake and setting out to do the right thing. That’s why we have confession. That’s why we have the examination of conscience before sleep. That’s why we have the words, “I’m sorry,” in our vocabulary. This is all true even if, especially if, you have “sealed the deal.” The thief who has stolen a car has “sealed the deal” and the drunk who spent the last decade barely conscious has “sealed the deal,” both of them in the sense of committing acts that can’t be uncommitted. But they can be forgiven, they can begin again. Each one of us can repent; we can get on the right road and head in a new direction.
It sounds as though both of you are hearing the, perhaps muffled, but still audible, voices of your consciences. Listen to them. And pay particular attention to your own language when you write about “my apartment.” If you’re willing to share your flesh, but you’re still hanging onto the lease, you have a lot to think about and to discuss. So, stay in your apartment and have him get his own. Then, start courting, which, because sex isn’t on the menu, gives you plenty of time to talk and get to know one another. See you at the confessional.
With Love, Sister Sunday