There are more dedicated women active in both Catholic and Protestant churches than there are men. For a woman who is looking for a husband, the tendency might be to get discouraged. But there are ways to find a good man. Once you think you’ve found a good man, how can you be sure before you make that lifelong commitment?
One of the most reliable indicators about what a man will be like as a husband and a father is his own family’s life. Not everyone has a great family of origin. But you need to recognize if there was turmoil there. If there was, there could be—and probably will be—some additional strains on the marriage.
One of the best new ways of meeting a good, solid Catholic spouse is the wise—and I underscore wise—use of the Internet. In a church or parish singles club you might have a nineteen- or twenty-year-old person who’s never been married along with a person who might be thirty or thirty-five who’s maybe once-divorced, with children, along with a widow or widower in his fifties or sixties. That’s a wide range of people.
The Internet can match you with people of similar interests and beliefs. For instance, there’s an organization called Ave Maria Catholic Singles Online run by some very mature leadership, that has security in screening and such. The one obstacle with this, of course, is the distance problem. But this can be overcome. I heard a love story from one of these Catholic web sites where a nice, young, attractive woman in Wyoming said no one should contact her if he was outside of her region. One persistent young man from the East Coast continued to e-mail her. She said, “Why are you writing me? You’re so far away.” He responded, “If I won a million dollars on a prize show I would have no problem crossing the country to pick up my prize. I would consider a good, godly wife much more valuable.” Well, she changed her mind on the distance problem, and they were married.
The father’s key role in preparing his daughter for marriage is greatly overlooked. Scripture describes the father’s role in his daughter’s wedding as a “great task” (Sir. 7:25). A familiar verse from Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Scripture highlights the need for parents to accomplish essential training in morals and faith during childhood, before the mold is set for life.
The average father of a young daughter, when he hears about the need for preparing his children for marriage, will remark, “I don’t need anything like that yet. My daughter is only seven.” Little does this man realize the opportunity he is missing. Children have a complete openness to learn about almost anything from their parents, including the characteristics that make for a good spouse. It gets much harder to teach new virtues, morals, or behaviors during the teen years. The maximum parenting influence results from comprehensive training during childhood.
During the teen years there is a gradual shifting from external conformity under parental supervision to an internalization of morals. The final step in maturation should occur during the late teens and early twenties, when there is a completion of the internalization of the virtues planted in childhood and watered during the early teens.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “It is imperative to give suitable and timely instruction to young people, above all in the heart of their own families, about the dignity of married love, its role and its exercise, so that, having learned the value of chastity, they will be able at a suitable age to engage in honorable courtship and enter upon a marriage of their own” (CCC 1632).
You don’t need to sit down and have formal courtship classes with your seven year-old daughter. But you should spontaneously share hundreds of bits of courtship wisdom in one-minute segments throughout her childhood. It is a little late to instruct your daughter about choosing a good husband if you wait until she brings home a loser and announces her engagement.