In the last few months since I subscribed to Auntie Seraphic,* I have repeatedly seen the acronyms “NCB” and “NCG” plastered all over the single young adult Catholic blogosphere. I was mystified at first until slowly, by examining the context and by repetition, I learned that they stand for “Nice Catholic Boy” and “Nice Catholic Girl” respectively. Once I learned this, it all became so clear, and a whole new social dimension was opened to my wondering eyes. Apparently, all around the Internet there are millions of NCG’s who want to marry an NCB. Alas, NCB’s are in short supply, or are just not that into you, so the NCG’s pine in vain.
Oddly enough the real world is sort of like the Internet in that respect. In the real world you meet a significant number of NCG’s, at Mass usually, or at Bible study, or perhaps (like me) you are related to all the best ones. If you pay attention you usually figure out that, sure enough, just like the Internet said, most of them would be quite happy to meet an NCG, settle down and get married. Or perhaps just get married, as they tend to be already a pretty settled down bunch on the whole.
The trouble is, however, that if you look around the venues in which one is likely to meet an NCG, you are likely to find that there is a decided shortage of NCB’s. In other words, the girls outnumber the boys. The NCB’s on their part, generally fall into three categories:
1) The Seminarians. Definitely the smallest category, and correlatively the most awesome.
2) The Taken Guys. These are either married (almost as rare as the seminarians. They tend to get whisked off to other realms.) Or the guys with girlfriends.
3) The unattached. These are the guys who are the enigma of the group. They seem to be NCB’s. At least they are showing up to Mass or Bible study, or that Catholic group (or maybe they are only showing up to Mass and leaving immediately afterwards. But that’s something isn’t it?) They aren’t running around with loose women or doing drugs. They seem to enjoy themselves when someone (and by someone I mean the girls) organizes some party or get-together. But they don’t do anything! There are all those NCG’s just waiting for some guy to make a move so we can get on with the whole courtship/dating, engagement, marriage thing. And these guys aren’t doing anything. Great guys, but what on earth can be keeping them?
It is a just question, but unfortunately one that can hardly be answered in the context in which it is asked. There is the easy answer, of course. Men just aren’t as anxious as women usually are to get married and start a family, but in other ages this didn’t seem to be much of an obstacle. If the only way a young man is going to have sex is to marry, this becomes a powerful incentive towards marriage. But in our present age we have the phenomenon of a whole generation of men who are (apparently) living the Church’s teaching in this regard, but without the incentive to seek out a Catholic woman to marry. Why?
The answers are certainly many and varied. The preference for interacting on the Internet rather than in real life is one factor. (One can accomplish a great many things on the Internet. Procreation is not one of those things.) A general lack of maturity is certainly another (video games: all the fun of adventure, none of the risk). The amount of time, energy and money it takes to get a career started in our society accounts for some of the more motivated ones. Some have invested themselves in other work, or in hobbies, or (oh Horrors!) ministries! When your life is full of deeply rewarding work that eats up 90 hours of every week, while paying for only about 30 of those hours, it’s not surprising that there might be no room for a relationship.
I humbly suggest, however, that the answer really comes down to a question of wisdom. I define wisdom very simply as the virtue of knowing and choosing the most valuable. This hobby is all very well and good. This job certainly sucks up much of my time and energy, but how valuable is it, really? What is its value in the transcendent realm? Will it make me holy and happy? Will it help anyone else become holy and happy? If not, then why should I waste any more of myself on it? When I am fifty, which will be more important to me? The ladder’s I have climbed at work, or the relationships I have built?
Yes, the Church is full of NCB’s. Not so full as she might be, unfortunately, but they are there. And yes, they are nice, and they are Catholic, but they are boys. What the NCG’s are waiting for is for these NCB’s to stand up and turn into GCM’s. (That’s Good Catholic Men. You see what I did there?)
But then, I humbly submit, we might just find the shoe on the other foot. Suddenly we might find that the NCG’s had gotten more than they bargained for. I wonder sometimes, have you ever stopped to think what a GCM would really look like? I can tell you, he won’t be a thing like your girlfriends, and that has nothing to do with whether or not he enjoys shopping. He will be a man. Male. Masculine. Other than you. The pursuit of holiness does not make men and women more similar. It certainly makes them more understanding, but in my experience it makes them unmistakeably more different. A holy man is more manly than a secular one. A holy woman is more feminine than a secular one. Have you ever really considered what a life completely dedicated to God would look like in the lay world? Have you ever pictured the intensity, the single-mindedness with which a man (as opposed to a boy) pursues that which he has chosen? A true GCM is never going to belong entirely to his wife. He will have another life outside. He will have a vocation that is not you, and it will be his life’s work. That is a reality that you will have to deal with, on top of the other realities that go along with any man/woman relationship.
On top of that, you have the fact that any GCM is a person, an individual, unlike any other. He alone is the only one of him in all of history. His strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices, are his alone. His preferences are his alone. The fact that he is striving to be a true man of God does not guarantee that he won’t leave the toilet seat up. It does not mean that he won’t find fart jokes hilarious. Some interpersonal drama that upsets your entire day may seem comically petty to him.
The problem with a GCM (as with any Man) is that he is another creature. He is unpredictable, untameable, himself. Not you. (This is something that men already know about women. We are more than prepared to shrug our shoulders and say, “She’s in one of her moods,” or “Women! Guess you never really understand them.” We don’t need to be encouraged not to worry our heads about it.)
So our NCG, upon finding that her long awaited NCB has up and decided to become a GCM, finds herself faced with the necessity of herself becoming a GCW. (Yes. That just happened. You’re welcome.) Maturity calls for maturity, strength for strength, passion for passion, humor for humor, goofiness for goofiness. Imitate what you would admire. You will not regret it, whether or not that GCM ever does show up.
*I don’t want anyone to think I am making fun of Auntie Seraphic. I’m not even making fun of her commenter’s (which is a lot easier to do.) If you have never read any of her blogs, you should check her out. She is a wise, warm, witty and loving writer with a pen of steel and a heart of gold.