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Asking the Right Question

Let us imagine that someone you barely knew, offered you a food you had never had before and just told you that you will like it. Next, let us imagine you tasted it and did really like it. As a result you find that you want to have it with every meal. Then, let us imagine that you find out that this food which you have now become addicted to, has an ingredient that is poisonous. It is likely that you will regret not having asked about the ingredients. That kind of eating would be detrimental to a person's health because it focuses on taste first, and safety only later.

Of course, in the real world, a person asks the ingredients of new foods and we generally assume that poisons will not be included. This is because we are cautious about our physical survival. In those situations where you do not ask the ingredients, it is usually because you trust the person giving you the food and rely upon the goodness of their heart to give you what is healthy for you.

The modern dating scene is like that: tasting without knowing the ingredients. When a man and woman date, they are trying to find out if they like each other. Dating asks the wrong question: "is this something I like?" (which is self determined and selfishly motivated). The question should really be, "is this good, safe, and wise for me to do?" This latter question is what has been traditionally practiced in Catholic circles (at least until recently), and it is called "courtship". The very name "courtship" says that the relationship is within the boundaries of a "court" (or specific set of rules) rather than the boundaries decided by those who are too close to the situation to see it (!).

The traditional practice of courtship is most often misunderstood today. People hear the word and think of stuffy and uncomfortable boundaries. Sadly, many have been brainwashed into thinking that "tasting" without knowing the ingredients is a good thing because it allows each person to run his own life and decide for himself (as though that were ever a good thing!).

Courtship, as it has been applied down through the centuries has two basic rules: 1) the father of the lady is in charge (unless that is impossible or inappropriate, and then a surrogate is sought); and 2) the man and woman are given the opportunity to ask the right question (and kept from the temptations that blind all of us to that right question).

The first rule is necessary to make sure that the man is not given authority over a woman that he has not yet committed his whole life to. The second rule is necessary because we are all prone to "put our best foot forward" which always makes the other person ask the wrong question. When the two are chaperoned, and not allowed into situations of temptation, then they can consider asking the right question: "is this someone I want to spend the rest of my life bound to?"

Some people still like asking the wrong question, because they are still thinking in terms of "what makes me happy right now". With the grace of God we can all (in every area of life) begin to ask the right question, "what will make me happy in eternity?"


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