Yesterday (link) I wrote about the three main problems I have with the “soul mate theory” and peppered vague references to today’s post, which tries to illuminate how Catholic teaching has helped me form the idea that romantic soul mates don’t exist. (Sorry. But it will be okay, I promise!)
The Beauty of Free Will
Another one of those mysteries I think a lot of us will be excited to understand in Heaven is the gift of free will. If God is the Author of our lives and is outside of time, then how does it work if we have free will to ignore Him? Well…I think it is that He knows when we will ignore Him, when we will listen to Him, and the results of those choices. And this is just pure speculation: maybe if He sees us doing one thing at age 22, He’ll send the Holy Spirit when we need Him at age 37…only we won’t perceive it as such.
There’s also the issue of other people’s free will. What if you meet Antiochus on CatholicMatch, and he gives good email, seems like he’d be a “soul mate,” but he is far from you, and you can’t afford long distance and can’t mentally handle a never-meet-till-engaged type of relationship—and the hiring manager at a firm in your town uses her free will to reject his job application and you never meet? It is horrible to think about “right now, someone could be married to your husband” (When Harry Met Sally…it turned out to be true. :P). But that’s only if soul mates exist.
No, we were given the gift (love that it is that word) of free will to either cooperate with God’s grace or not, and God will cooperate with us however we choose to act. So if I freely choose to enter into marriage with Innocent and ask for God’s grace, He’ll give it to me. Simeon could use his free will to ditch me at the altar, and God will help heal my wounds. If we ever applied the “soul mate” test to those relationships, we’d be ignoring our free will.
The Beauty of Marriage
When we think of “soul mates” (particularly Catholics), we think of the men who are supposed to be our husbands and we will be married to them. Catholic Church teaching on marriage actually lends itself more to an image of man and woman coming together for God, not man and woman coming together because of God. This idea can be extrapolated in the way the Church thinks about marriage, and even in the wedding.
According to the “How to Have a Catholic Wedding Mass/Rite” things I read for work, there are some elements that really illustrate how marriage to a person is for God, and that making this sacrament doesn’t mean you are soul mates (I acknowledge you might feel like you become soul mates after the sacrament), or that if the groom is your “true” soul mate, this marriage will be happy and last until death.
- Tiny, but important detail: For the entrance, the actual proscription is for the bride and groom to process down the aisle together. The escorting of the bride by the father is permissible (as is, of course another male family member or both the parents*, etc. And grooms can get a special walk, too). This idea symbolizes that the man and woman are entering the marriage together, freely.
- The bride and groom are the ministers of the sacrament! Think of that! It’s the only one! It reinforces the teaching that a man and woman give the gift of self to one another freely and consent to the sacrament. They are quite literally making the marriage. In a sense, because we are body+soul, when a marriage is consummated, the two do become one, but the souls are not inextricably linked by supernatural forces before.
- Also, referenced yesterday (link), one of the ideas behind marriage is that, as a vocation, it is a way in which to enter union with God, get to Heaven, what have you. Your choice of husband can help or hinder your own progress or your husband’s progress on the way to God if you let it; but ultimately, you are responsible for the care and keeping of your own soul and together, the raising of little souls. The sense I get from the concept of “soul mate” would mean that I ethereally “belonged” to someone, and if I decided on my own that a man was a “soul mate” and he was wrong for me in a marriage, I am not free.
The Beauty of Existence
In the opening pages of most Catholic catechisms, we are taught that we are “created by God, for God, to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him.” Our bodies and souls were always designed to end up in union with Him. Our husbands may be the “vehicle” through which we finally encounter Him, but this other human being is not who we were created for, and union with lowercase-h him, is not our ultimate calling. Each one of us is called to relationship and authentic Love, and it is ours for the taking. God is our actual soul mate.
Right now, I feel content sitting with the notion that my “one-and-only,” “one true love,” “soul mate” is not out there, does not exist. That attitude might belie a lack of hope in the future, but rather it is more comforting (to me, anyway) to know that with the help of God’s grace, I can find someone, anyone, who might make a good marriage with me, and not have to ever wonder if a good man measures up to the yardstick of “soul mate.” In a way, it is freeing to not have to worry if Cyril is my “soul mate” and potentially not marry him because I do not feel he is; or if I do, never worry that I will never meet him or that he will never grow up and get a job that can support a wife and children. And if I’m 43 and still single, it will just be another birthday to chat with God about why I’m at where I’m at right now. Is it me? Is it You? Is it Methodius, who is ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit to just propose already?
Whatever it is, I know that I am loved and have the opportunity to love my soul mate back, because He will always be right there with me.
*I could get all “feminist” on this issue, which is why I love the Church’s way and the meaning behind it, all the much more.