.- With the arrival of Valentine’s Day, Catholic organizations around the world are sharing their ideas to help singles find "Mr. or Mrs. Right."
In England, the Catholic Enquiry Office, an agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has highlighted its ‘soulmates’ online prayer resource.
The resource directs people to their nearest prayer group and encourages people of all ages to consider attending a prayer evening. If they are looking for a husband or wife, the site encourages them to pray to St. Raphael, the patron saint of happy encounters.
The site also features tips from a matchmaker, a St. Raphael novena and links to prayer networks across England and Wales.
Rachel Romain at the Youth Desk of the bishops’ conference, said hundreds of young adults meet in weekly prayer groups across the country.
“It’s not unusual for people to find their future husband or wife at these gatherings,” she remarked in a press release from the Catholic Enquiry Office. “For those young adults who are still searching for their soulmate and also for general direction in life, spiritual networks are an important resource to tap into.”
Martyn and Fiona, who have been married for just over a year, met at one local prayer group.
“When you meet someone in a prayer group your relationship has a different emphasis from the outset, as you learn about one another in a different way,” Martyn said.
“What's really nice about meeting someone in this kind of environment is that there's no pressure to connect, no expectations like there would be in a pub or nightclub because you're just meeting like-minded people in a safe environment.”
Fiona said that prayer, especially to St. Raphael, has been “central” to their relationship and eventual marriage.
“Shortly before Martyn and I started dating,” Fiona said, “I met with mutual friends who agreed to pray a prayer novena for Martyn and I and within five days we were a couple and we've never looked back.”
Roberta and Amanda, a couple married for 14 years with four children ages six to 13, met on a Catholic pilgrimage of prayer in their twenties.
“I didn't go on the pilgrimage with any thoughts of meeting the man I might marry,” Amanda said, “but we became good friends and remained so for several years before we got engaged”
“Because we had met in a prayerful environment, prayer provided the foundation stone of our relationship in the early years and continues to do so,” said her husband Robert.
Anthony Buono, the founder of the U.S.-based website Ave Maria Singles and a columnist for CNA, agrees that online dating services can be beneficial for couples who want to make faith a part of their relationship.
Speaking about his website, Buono explained how it provides a unique feature, “we start with requiring that you be a committed Catholic, that you have determined your vocation is to marriage, and are ready to make a commitment to the right person.”
One often overlooked advantage of online dating services is their ability to connect people who would otherwise have never met, Buono noted.
“One couple that stands out for me involves a woman who contacted me 5 times over four years to tell me she was giving up; was done with the ‘online thing’ and wanted to cancel membership. All 5 times I talked her into staying on the site and giving it time because (as I always tell people) you never know when that one person you are praying for will join and discover you.”
“Sure enough,” recalled Buono, “after the 5th time of convincing her to stay and give it more time, a man joined who was 1,000 miles away from her, and contacted her.”
“A year later they were married and she is happier than she ever thought she could be. I just know God rewarded her for her faith and perseverance. They now have three children in their growing family.”