.- With the arrival of Valentineâs 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 Bishopsâ Conference of England and Wales, has highlighted its âsoulmatesâ 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 bishopsâ conference, said hundreds of young adults meet in weekly prayer groups across the country.
âItâs not unusual for people to find their future husband or wife at these gatherings,â she remarked in a press release from the Catholic Enquiry Office. âFor 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.â
Martyn and Fiona, who have been married for just over a year, met at one local prayer group.
âWhen 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,â Martyn said.
âWhat'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.â
Fiona said that prayer, especially to St. Raphael, has been âcentralâ to their relationship and eventual marriage.
âShortly before Martyn and I started dating,â Fiona said, âI 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.â
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.
âI didn't go on the pilgrimage with any thoughts of meeting the man I might marry,â Amanda said, âbut we became good friends and remained so for several years before we got engagedâ
âBecause we had met in a prayerful environment, prayer provided the foundation stone of our relationship in the early years and continues to do so,â 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, âwe 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.â
One often overlooked advantage of online dating services is their ability to connect people who would otherwise have never met, Buono noted.
âOne 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 âonline thingâ 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.â
âSure enough,â recalled Buono, âafter 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.â
âA 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.â