Paige Courtney

False Shepherds


Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds pasture the flock? You consumed milk, wore wool, and slaughtered fatlings, but the flock you did not pasture. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the stray or seek the lost but ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. -Ezekiel 34:2-5


This powerful passage from Ezekiel is most often applied to corrupt pastors and priests, but it also provides an illuminating meditation on 21st century dating.

After discerning out of the convent I found myself single and in my 30s looking to date so that I might discern a vocation to marriage. What I found was that dating in my 30s was quite different from dating in my 20s. In my 20s it was not difficult to find virtuous men that approached women. It was just a question of where I was in terms of maturity, pursuing a career, deciding where to live, etc. In my 30s I have found that the men that approach women are quite different.

It is shocking to discover how many beautiful women in their 30s are single and patiently waiting for Mr. Right. Many try online dating, dating men from different countries, it seems like they have to go to ends of the earth to find someone worthy of marriage. Why is this occurring? Is there a crisis in 21st century dating?


My experience has been that men in their 30s approach women seeking their own gratification, with little regard to honoring the purity and the dignity of the woman before them. Therefore I call these men false shepherds. Christian men, and in particular Catholic men, should approach dating with the spirit of St. Joseph. They should be attracted to a woman's beauty, but also deeply aware of their responsibility to safeguard their beloved and to truly be her companion in the pursuit of holiness.

A true shepherd leads his sheep to fertile pasture where they find true food. Christ is the true shepherd, the sheep and the pasture. He is the one who speaks to those who he has put in authority over us, he guides us by the Holy Spirit to seek him and he feeds us in the pasture with his own body and blood. St. Joseph also proved to be a true shepherd because he enabled the holy family to fulfill the purpose God set before them.

It seems as if many Catholic men have no concept of what it means to be a virtuous man. They have lost the sense of pursuing holiness. And it is not just the one extreme of selfish men wanting to take advantage of women, there is also a lack of virtue in the timid men who do not know how to boldly pursue a woman in holiness.

Therefore a crisis has arisen in 21st century dating. I encourage women to take refuge in the true shepherd who has promised to feed the sheep himself when the shepherds he has appointed are only concerned about feeding themselves.


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