Some years back I had the pleasure of helping a young woman who had lived with her boyfriend for three years and had a baby. Their relationship had deteriorated to the point where she had to find a new place to live. Her sister had taken her in temporarily until she could find a place.
She began to attend Mass regularly and go to confession fairly often, perhaps monthly. She prayed about 15 minutes a day and she wanted to live in a state of grace. She had a few Catholic friends, but most of her friends were where she was three years before: not church-going, not pursuing virtue, not praying, and certainly not chaste.
But she was attracted to her newfound religion (she had been baptized Catholic but was never catechized). She wanted to live all of it, including chastity.
The problem was her culture. The vast majority of the people she knew were nonreligious. Without the support of friends, without a Catholic or at least a strong Christian culture to support her new religious fervor, it was almost impossible to live out her faith.
The solution? She had to find new solidly Catholic/Christian friends. She could keep her old friends, so that she could perhaps bring them along on her new journey. But, she had to find some new friends who would help her stay on track to complete her conversion.
When a friend told her that if she wanted to date she should date a guy who would not insist on having sex with her, she replied, “There aren’t any guys like that.” If she continued in a worldly culture, she was right. But what if she could live in contact with a “culture” made up of young men and women bound to their faith and committed to living in chastity?
What a young woman (or man) should be seeking is not just a Catholic who attends Mass regularly, but one who has no intention to compromise his moral ideals no matter how much he likes a woman. So where does she meet a guy like that?
Oddly enough, it often doesn’t begin with a guy but with a girl — or several: it helps to have solidly Catholic friends to help her find a guy like that.
So where does she find this Catholic “culture?” I discussed this with a Catholic men’s group recently and we came up with a few ideas.
To find this new culture, she might get involved in a Bible study group, or a Love and Responsibility group (I know a man who met his wife at such a group in New York City), a pro-life group or other such group that meets regularly.
Friendships often come naturally for members of these groups. But, the focus should be on the topic first (for authenticity) and secondly on the big picture of being part of a religious culture.
Another place to meet chastity-minded young Catholics is in a class or workshop on the Theology of The Body, St. Pope John Paul II’s revolutionary treatment of love, chastity, and the nuptial meaning of the body.
The Theology of the Body (TOB) Institute in Lima, Pennsylvania, has several weeklong seminars in the vicinity of Philadelphia and Cleveland. There are also West Coast TOB events held from time to time, sponsored by Creative Catholic Works.
I have been leading two single Catholic groups, one male and one female, in the Washington, D.C. area for about 25 years. We pray together, have dinner, and then discuss the faith. (We meet in a restaurant.)
The women’s group was the first to form. They would invite “approved men” (guys who were solidly Catholic but in whom the inviting woman was not romantically interested) to join them after an 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass for brunch.
This was one of several co-ed events they held each year, including the Epiphany Party, which has drawn as many as 300 Catholics and is now in its 21st year. Such groups are great places to find a Catholic culture.
There are any number of singles groups in many metropolitan areas. The more they are focused on learning the faith the better. Catholic singles groups focused solely on meeting a member of the opposite sex are often not so good.
Some may say, "That’s fine. But that culture may be small. How do I meet a good Catholic, a potential spouse?"
I know a good number of Catholics who have met their spouses on Catholic online dating sites. Ave Maria Singles and Catholic Match seem to be the best.
One young woman put in her profile that she wanted any guy who wanted to contact her to first read my book, "Christian Dating in A Godless World" (Sophia Institute Press, $18.95). If he wanted to have the kind of courtship mentioned in that book, he might contact her.
Well, at least one guy read it and told her he wanted to court that way. A little less than two years later they married.
That is one way to cut through all the issues and make it clear you want a solid Catholic. Another is writing a profile bio along these lines:
I take my Catholic faith very seriously and seek a man who does, too. Chaste dating is very important. If you attend Mass every Sunday at least, go to confession regularly, you pray daily, believe in the Church’s teaching on marriage and would only consider natural family planning for birth control, I would like to meet you.
Keep in mind, this article is written primarily from the point of view of a woman, as there seem to be more women who want a faithful Catholic partner than men, and because women have more to lose in the sexual revolution than men.
Nonetheless, men could pursue a spouse online in an analogous way. The point is, if you do online dating, choose a Catholic site and don’t be afraid to be specific. You’ll avoid wasting a lot of time.
Online dating is not a panacea. You must proceed cautiously, and take your time. But I have seen some wonderful results in the past.
Many young men and women do not realize that finding a solidly Catholic spouse is possible. It is. It takes a bit more effort than just settling for a faithless, or weak-faith-ed person, but it is worth the effort. Marrying a strong Catholic can be a great help to your salvation.
In the end, that’s all that should count.
Father Thomas Morrow is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and holds a doctorate in moral theology. He is the author of several books, including "Christian Dating in A Godless World" (2016), and is co-founder of the St. Catherine Society for single women seeking spiritual growth, and the St. Lawrence Society, the male counterpart to the St. Catherine Society.