Am I Catholic enough to join AMS?

Dear Anthony,

While I am a practicing Catholic and I do love my faith I also believe the Church has a few issues that I do not agree with. They are nothing big but they do make me realize I do not agree with the church 100%. With what I have read about this site, it almost sounds as if my views would not be welcome. Should I not bother joining Ave Maria Singles?

First, let me thank you for the consideration that you have put into joining Ave Maria Singles. I applaud the fact that you are considering this factor before you join. It is important for people to feel comfortable about joining a service like ours.

I am not sure what the few issues are that you do not agree with regarding the Church’s teachings. It is safe to say that if you publicly voice your disagreement on these issues on your profile once you become a member, you will likely have much fewer possibilities among the membership. Not all our members believe all the Church teaches. Some believe but have a hard time understanding particular teachings. We do not like to police this site and remove people who do join but do not believe the Church’s teachings 100%. That’s why we chose to let the questionnaire share that kind of information.

That being said, the majority of our members do believe completely in the Church’s teachings. So if you join, you will have to accept that you will not come across too many who share your views. However, depending on what these issues are that you disagree with, it is possible that people will be understanding about your disagreement and still remain open to interacting with you, and maybe even developing a relationship. You very well might find some others who share your disagreement. My point is that you will be among a minority, and thus will have much fewer opportunities within the membership.

What I really would like to know is if you, in fact, “disagree” with the Church’s teachings, or is it that you just struggle with the few issues that concern you. There is a big difference between struggling while believing and total disagreement. Or is it that perhaps you do not properly know the Church’s teachings on these issues or were badly taught about them? Even those of us who believe 100% of what the Church teaches can struggle with understanding a teaching, or due to bad religious education, we have the wrong idea what a teaching is. A struggle to understand a teaching, or not properly knowing the teaching can affect the way we act in our lives. But it does not mean that we are not sincerely practicing the faith.

Take the issue of the use of artificial contraception, one of the biggest issues that separates Catholics today. Many people understand fully that the use of artificial contraception is never permitted to be used in marriage, and they also understand why, yet they choose to proceed. This would constitute a Catholic who is not practicing their Catholic faith. However, there are plenty of others who have been badly catechized and taught by Church authority figures that it is up to the couple to determine if contraception is used in their marriage. As they proceed in this belief that artificial contraception is acceptable, they run into problems with other Catholics who tell them it is never permitted. They sincerely think they are correct and therefore a sincere, practicing Catholic. I have personally shared the true teaching of the Catholic Church on this issue with hundreds of single Catholics who believed it was okay to use contraception, who later changed their position on it and began living the true teaching, even though they might still struggle with understanding.

We are required to believe all the Catholic Church teaches and to live those teachings. We are not required to understand it all, and it is okay to have a struggle with certain teachings. As Catholics, we do not have the luxury of saying “I don’t understand why the Church teaches that so I will just not do it,” or the like. As a Catholic, we have a duty to seek out the truth, and to pray for guidance and strength to know the truth and live the truth.

So what is a “practicing Catholic?”  One who submits to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church with loyalty and humility, who earnestly desires to know what the Catholic Church teaches, who makes the effort to learn and understand these teachings, to inform their consciences correctly under the guidance of the Catholic Church, and to live their Catholic Faith based on all they know and hold to be truth that has come to them through the teachings of the Catholic Church. So be a practicing Catholic is simply to be “Catholic.” The word “Catholic” should be the only word necessary to describe what kind of Catholic we are. To add other terms to it, though helpful these days in order to designate, should not be necessary. If you say “I am a Catholic,” it should imply that you are “practicing.” Unfortunately, that is not enough today. Too many say they are Catholic but do not want to live all the Church teaches.

I don’t want to discourage you from joining. I certainly don’t want to pass any judgment on you when you say you are a practicing Catholic. I believe completely that each person is on their own journey with the Holy Spirit on the path to Heaven. No one has the right to pass judgment about anyone else’s faith. We can judge an action as being wrong or sinful, or judge that a definition of a Church teaching is wrong or misguided, but never the person.

I hope you will consider what I have said. If you do join, you are welcome in our membership. And please, be completely honest in how you present yourself. But just accept that you will be among a minority if you take the position of disagreeing with Church teaching and will have far less opportunities of finding someone who shares your view. God willing, you will not be confronted judgmentally or uncharitably by any members. But if you do, please know they are only trying to be helpful, though the way they approach you is wrong. And you are free to report them to AMS because no is permitted to do this based on our Rules of Use.

Finally, I want to also encourage you to read about these issues in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and really pray about what you read and ask for help in accepting the teachings.

I hope this helps.

Yours in Christ,

Anthony

 

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Why aren’t I getting replies?

Dear Anthony,

I know you get this comment all the time, but I find it so frustrating that I have e-mailed three men this year, with not one response. Not even a “not interested.” I know I need patience and I pray to God daily to guide me through this, but just wanted to check to see if something could be wrong with my e-mails.

Thank you for writing, and for sharing with me your frustration. It is true that you need a lot of patience and prayer when going through a process like online dating. But of course, part of the process is how we present ourselves and the actions we take. So let me see if I can offer you anything that might help.

Regarding the three contacts you have made since January, one of the early two is a man who is in a relationship, so he is likely ignoring any contacts. The one you contacted recently is a man younger than you. I know there is nothing wrong with a woman being older, nor your contacting men younger than yourself. That’s is perfectly fine. What I want you to understand is that, at least with online dating, men your age or younger are looking for a woman younger than themselves. That is not an “absolute”, but it is the norm. You just need to understand that if you attempt to find someone on the site who is your age or younger, you are going to have to be very understanding if it does not happen due to the reality of the norm.

The actual emails you are sending are good. They are short, friendly, and do not come across as forward or desperate. You say “Hello” and that you find something interesting about their profile. You also invite them to contact you. You tend to not specifically say what you are interested in, but rather say “we seem to have similar interests”. It’s always best to specify the things you find interesting or similar, and than you briefly share what it has to do with you. You could probably just stop there. A man worth his salt will already understand that you are interested in him communicating with you and will know what to do with this brief, friendly contact from a good woman like yourself. If he does not know what to do with it, then he is probably not worth knowing any further.

But let’s say he “thinks” he knows what to do with it but is not quite sure and does not feel you gave him enough of an open door to make him feel confident about pursuing you. The way to avoid this is to follow up your nice, brief comment with a question. Asking a question ensures that you communicate you wish be get a reply. So let’s say you tell him that you enjoyed reading about his growing up in a large family and that you also grew up in a large family. Instead of saying “I think we have a lot in common, feel free to contact me”, you could say something like “I was the middle child but never felt neglected by my parents. What number were you in the family, and did you ever feel neglected?” This will give him a clear indication that you want to hear back from him, and also you give him something very specific to enter into dialog with you about.

Finally, you are only contacting men in your area. I understand why you would only want to meet someone in your state, but it is a long, established fact that the greatest success with online dating comes from being open to meeting someone wherever they are, and that it is very common for it to be two people from at least another state. The right man will fly out to meet you, if you have concern about how a long distance relationship will work. I’m sure that if you configure your attitude to being more open to a long distance relationship, you will find that there are ways to make it work that you otherwise would definitely think could not work when closed to the idea.

My advice is to start contacting men who are older than you (think about 10 years older as a benchmark) whom you find interesting. Don’t worry about where they are. It will be good for you to just first experience contacting men who would be open to corresponding with you. That will help you get a better feel for what is possible and what is not possible.

Remember, this is a process you go through WITH God, and being open to the movements of God is very important. The less restriction you give God, the more opportunity and possibility for success God can provide for you. I know it can be frustrating, especially when you do not get a reply after you took the time to write to someone. But the good news is that it only takes one person for this experience to be a success. That one person will come in God’s time, and in conjunction with your good efforts. If you are doing everything you can, you have to give the rest to God and not be tempted to control God or the situation with the time-frame you expect things to happen in, or your attachment to what you want to happen when you write to a man. Just do what you have to do, and keep the peace of Christ that is His gift to you, no matter what happens.

I hope this helps.

Yours in Christ,

Anthony

 

How many members should I correspond with at one time?

Dear Anthony,

What would be an acceptable number of members to be corresponding with on Ave Maria Singles at any given time? Should I contact only one member at a time and then move on to another, or should I correspond with many and then, once there is a connection, politely stop with the others?

Your question is a very good one, and an important one. It does not have a black-and-white answer, I’m afraid. It really depends on what you are comfortable with. I definitely encourage members to interact with more than one person at a time, and only the amount of people that they can comfortably handle having dialogue with. Yes, as one member becomes more interesting to you, begin to politely tell others whom you are less interested in that you need to stop corresponding. Tell them the truth. Everyone on the site should know that everyone else is doing the same thing; namely, interacting with other members at the same time in order to determine which person they want to invest more time and energy in. Here is an example of a polite way to stop corresponding with someone:

Dear [Name],

I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to correspond with you, but I need to stop corresponding at this time. There is another member I would like to spend more time getting to know. I am not sure if it will go anywhere further, but I believe I have to give it more of my time and energy. I am open to continuing to be in correspondence with you if you would like, but I felt it was important to tell you this. If you prefer not to correspond any further, I understand. I will be praying for you, and I ask that you pray for me. Thank you again for the times spent writing. It has been very flattering.

God bless you,
[Your name]

You can adjust this type of note in any way you wish. It really depends on whether you want to leave room or not to correspond again should it not work out with another member. If it did not work out with the other member and you wanted to get back in touch, you simply contact this person and say, “Just wanted you to know it did not work out with the member I told you about. I would love to correspond with you again, if you are open to it,” and see what happens.

Some members correspond with many people at one time, and some can handle only one person at a time. Again, it all depends on what you are comfortable with. I just always ask that members not overextend themselves to the point of not being able to reply to a person in a timely manner. That would be rude, so we want to avoid that happening. Just at least say, “Got your message and will get back to you soon, thank you,” or something like that. If you find it gets overwhelming, then decrease the amount of people you correspond with at one time and find your comfort zone.

Am I corresponding with too many at one time?

Dear Anthony,

After a slow start on Ave Maria Singles, I’m now somewhat overwhelmed with corresponding with several women at once. It’s hard for me to turn anyone away. I don’t want to spread myself too thin, yet I don’t want to lose an opportunity with a new person either. How many would you say is too many to be writing to at the same time?

Great question. I’m glad you are having this problem :-) It’s certainly better than no correspondences. I’m glad you are being conscientious about this situation. You definitely don’t want to make anyone feel hurt or bad.

Regarding how many to write to at one time, my answer is to dialogue with as many as you can handle. I am a strong advocate of putting yourself out there to interact with as many single persons as you can in order to discover (and it IS a discovering process) the person you want to focus your efforts on toward seriousness. It might happen that you start narrowing down those you take more effort with, until you finally get to the point where there is one person you want to devote your entire attention to. Then, once you are in a “serious” relationship (which means you are exclusive), you enter “courtship” (which is the process of moving toward engagement to be married by discovering if there is any reason you should NOT marry this person).

I guess that does not answer your question exactly. That is because it is different for each person. Some people just can’t handle writing to more than one person at a time. For some, it will be two or three. Then there are those who are so dedicated to the process of finding someone that they invest a lot of time in corresponding with many, many people and narrow it down as rapidly as possible. But this anxiousness can backfire. So many men take the inappropriate (and self-destructive) route of copying and pasting some very short, insincere, generic note that women can spot right away and are turned off by. For example: “Hi, saw your profile, write me if you want,” or something like that. It is critical that your initial contacts makes sense if you are going to write to many people. If you plan to write something like I just gave as an example, then don’t bother writing at all. No one (especially women) likes getting an initial contact from someone that shows no evidence of even reading their profile. It is a turnoff and will get you nowhere, as well as waste your time.

A great initial contact is at least a good paragraph or two that shares something about what you liked about their profile as well as something about yourself. For women who don’t like initiating a contact, their strategy is to briefly share something she liked about his profile and leave it at that. A man knows what to do with that. If he doesn’t, then he is not for her. At any rate, keeping dialogue with several or many members is challenging. But unless it can be done in a way that shows real interest and sincerity (and not like you are saying the same thing to everyone), then it can’t be very effective. In other words, every message to someone should be customized to that person. Everyone, especially a woman, needs to feel unique and special. After all, the person you marry has to be someone who stands out above the rest. A well-written message will go a long way in making someone feel that way, and help with the chances of finding the person you are praying for.

This is the nature of meeting someone online. It’s a lot of work, so it has to be carefully done, and you have to choose how many you write to at a practical level so this level of attention and customization can be maintained. It’s hard to do this in person specifically because once in person, you are automatically at a more intimate level and you are dealing your time that demands more of the “physical presence”. Until you meet people in person (which should be the goal of anyone you start writing to), you just keep writing to people who seem interesting and trying to discover who you more inclined to want to meet in person.

It should not take more than a month or two to meet someone in person. Otherwise, you risk wasting your time and the other person’s time with endless written dialogue. Once you start meeting people in person, you realistically cannot manage more than one to three people at a time.

As for what to say to those you are no longer interested in, again, this is the nature of meeting someone online. Everyone has to know that everyone else is doing the same kind of scrutinizing in their searches and decisions about corresponding. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “I think you are very interesting, but it would not be fair to you if I wrote any further because I am writing to a few people now. I would like to see where they lead. But if they do not lead anywhere, it would be an honor to correspond with you. I hope you understand. I will pray for you. Please pray for me.” I’m sure many members will agree that just getting any reply at all would be an improvement. So writing some reply is great, but writing something like this is even better.

Anyone who does not appreciate a reply like that is not cut out for online dating. They should just do what they can to meet people offline wherever they can. It takes thick skin and a real commitment to the process in order to have success with online dating. It is not right for people to take anything “personally”. No one is deliberately out to get anyone else. They just want to meet the one person they are praying for toward marriage. At the same time, you (and others) should not feel bad about having to tell members you do not have the capability of writing. No need to say “not interested.” Rather, say you would be interested in writing if you were not doing so with others, and will be open to doing so if circumstances chan

Avoiding Commitment

Dear Anthony,

I have met men on AMS who said they were not sure if they were ready for marriage. This is frustrating, as I do not want to waste my time on men who turn out to be unwilling to make any commitment. Do you have any advice? Can you screen members better?

I am very sorry this has happened to you. There is no doubt that it is a source of major frustration for the women on AMS (and everywhere, for that matter) to have to deal with men who won’t make what I call “commitment moves.” Some men really are not capable of making a commitment, or are afraid to, or they are just making excuses so they don’t have to go through a confrontation with the woman as to what is the true reason they will not move forward. Perhaps they are embarrassed as to what that reason is (not attracted to the looks, think there is someone better-looking they could be with, etc.).

But whatever is the truth, the idea of men writing for some time on a site like ours and not being open to marriage is definitely inappropriate. I call this “The Stringing Along Game.” Men should never string a woman along. A woman should not do that either. To string along means to spend a lot of time in correspondence with no intention of making a commitment move. A lot of time would be 2+ months. There is no reason that two people on our service should be corresponding for that long without being open to a logical next commitment move, which would be meeting in person and being open to an exclusive relationship once you know each other in person.

Getting in person is critical to the next logical commitment move, which is exclusivity. No matter how well things are going in correspondence, no one should EVER assume anything for sure until they meet in person. When you are in person, only then do you know if the “connection” is real. Sometimes people turn out to be different in person than they are in writing.

When should the “in person” stage happen? I believe that by one month after first writing, the two should either be meeting in person or making serious plans to meet. And until they meet in person, both should be actively pursuing other people. This effort to meet in person is the very first commitment move. It is a good sign to each other that there is still potential of the relationship becoming something more. To drag correspondence on longer does risk being a waste of time for one or both. You are so right, you do NOT want to waste your time. So a woman should NEVER, EVER let a man get away with writing to her for more than a month without a commitment move to meet in person. For those women who do allow men to write to them for two, three, four months or more, the hurt potential is great if he finally does stop writing, or you meet in person and he is not interested after that, or you finally realize he is not going to make a move. You do not want to put yourself in a position to get hurt unnecessarily.

Web sites like Ave Maria Singles are not meant to be replacements for the normal way human beings interact, especially two members of the opposite sex who are trying to meet someone for future marriage. So a web site must never be considered the responsible party when it comes to a human being’s happiness.

You mentioned that we should screen better. That is impossible. We present our purposes clearly, and people agree formally to the purposes. We ask questions, and people answer. The problem is that we are dealing with fallen human nature, which we all share. That means every person is capable of sinning, but more than that, human beings with fallen human nature are capable of deceiving themselves. In other words, we often think we are doing or saying something good when in fact it is bad (whether objectively or subjectively). That is why so often we can see someone has done or said something and it perplexes us as to why they are not bothered by it. That is because they really “believe” they are doing good. A perfect example is those who say they are Catholic but believe that contraception or abortion is the choice of an individual. They really “believe” they are Catholic and are also right and doing good in their position.

So what can a person (or a web site) do when you are dealing with fallen human nature? I do think Ave Maria Singles does the best job at helping people pre-qualify themselves before they join (and many don’t join because they realize our standards are higher than they are comfortable with), and providing a questionnaire that can tell a lot about a person ahead of time. But this reality of persons who say or show by action that they are not really serious about finding someone and marrying is very, very hard to pre-screen. I suppose we could ask the question “Are you serious about marriage and making a commitment?” but do you believe the answer “yes” by the person will mean they are? There is no way to join Ave Maria Singles (as it is now) without knowing that we are about marriage and for the serious marriage-minded. Unfortunately, members cannot know the truth about any other members until they interact with them.

That is why I am always telling members, especially women, that you have to do certain things that insure you will not be wasting your time. One of those things is to NOT allow a member to get away with “Perpetual Writing Syndrome.” Insist (even mention it on your profile) that you want meeting in person sooner rather than later to be a priority. Even say it in the second message — kindly say that you are open to correspondence but need to know if this person is open to and capable of meeting in person soon after. Feel out where they are with the value of meeting in person and the concept of not wasting time. I’m sure you will always have a favorable response, and you will have ensured that you don’t waste your time.