Why aren’t young Catholics marrying?

Here are four of the most important lesser-known obstacles to marriage that devout Catholics face today.

(Brooke Cagle @brookecagle/Unsplash.com)

We all know that marriage rates are low in the United States. The most recent American Family Survey found that only 45% of Americans are currently married (down from 50% in 2015).

Despite the Church’s pro-marriage stance, Catholic marriage rates are not much higher than the general population. In 2014, while about 50% of Americans overall were married, the USCCB reported that about 54% of Catholic adults were married. Those Catholics who do marry, marry at older and older ages.

It’s easy to assume that the other half of Catholics, like the rest of the world, are cohabiting and fornicating instead of marrying. But this is only one part of the story. Practicing Catholics who are living by the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality still face enormous hurdles to achieving marriage.

In late 2021, I took an anonymous survey of 300 self-identified practicing Catholics ages 18-39, asking them about obstacles they faced to marriage. The responses, combined with many personal conversations and my own experiences (I am 27, single, and have lived in a devout Catholic family and community since age four) show that the struggles of single Catholics today are substantial, but not always the type of struggles that most Catholics in the older generations expect.

This article will describe four of the most important lesser-known obstacles to marriage that devout Catholics face. A follow-up piece will propose solutions.

Dysfunctional Discernment

When asked what hindered them from marrying sooner, many respondents mentioned they had spent time considering religious life or priesthood—or, as one respondent put it, fearing they were called to the religious life or priesthood.

Hypothetically, entering seminary or the novitiate for a time can be a very good thing for someone who ultimately marries: openness to God’s will and rigorous spiritual formation are good qualities in a spouse, too. But, in reality, devout young adults—even not-so-young adults, in their late twenties and thirties—often get stuck in discernment, unable to commit either to marriage, priesthood, or religious life for fear they might actually be called to a different vocation.

Suppose a devout young man focuses on his studies in college, then considers religious life or priesthood for a year or two after graduation, then decides that isn’t his vocation, then begins looking for a spouse for the first time at twenty-four. Or, suppose he dates first, then realizes he never really gave priesthood a chance and ends his relationship with his girlfriend to do so, fearing that proposing to her would go against God’s will. (Meanwhile, the girlfriend enters her own discernment phase, wondering whether the breakup is a sign she’s called to become a nun.) Perhaps he exits and re-enters the dating pool more than once, with one- or two-year stints of discerning the religious life or priesthood in between. That takes a long time.

This story is not fictional: I’ve seen variations of it many times and experienced it myself. Is it any wonder the average age of marriage is nearing thirty? Something is wrong with discernment culture, and it’s an obstacle to holy marriages and holy priestly and religious vocations.

Catholic “Camps,” or the Fifty-Flavor Filter

As I wrote for Crisis in October 2021, the divisions within the Church—traditional Catholic, conservative Catholic, liberal Catholic, etc.—are another obstacle to marriage, particularly for devout Catholics.

In the corrupted culture we’re in today, single Catholics already struggle to find someone of the opposite sex who wants to marry and have children, is approximately the right age, in reasonable geographic proximity (or on the same dating website), with a personality and looks that they can be at least somewhat attracted to, who also finds them attractive, and is a practicing Catholic with enough formation and virtue for matrimony.

To that set of filters, which has already eliminated the vast majority of the world, add an additional filter: and the right kind of Catholic. Hardly anyone makes it through the funnel.

The divisions in the Church are often given liturgical labels—e.g. a “trad” is a devotee of the traditional Latin Mass—but the divisions in the Church run deeper than which Mass one attends on Sunday.

Most importantly for marriage, which Catholic “camp” a person is in often correlates with differing attitudes on moral and doctrinal issues that substantially impact day-to-day life within marriage. What do male headship and wifely submission look like? When, if ever, is it acceptable for a wife to work outside the home? When, if ever, is it acceptable to use Natural Family Planning to avoid pregnancy? Is homeschooling a good idea? Are COVID vaccines a good idea?

Based on official Church teaching, a Catholic could answer each of these questions in a number of different ways without jeopardizing their orthodoxy or piety. But in marriage, spouses must come to some agreement on them in order to live peaceably. Therefore, the answers to each of these questions and many more act as yet another filter, often dividing devout Catholic man from devout Catholic woman.

This is a complex and nuanced problem, especially when we try to discover causes and assign blame. For now, let us simply acknowledge that the variety of liturgical, doctrinal, and lifestyle-related divisions within the Church is an enormous obstacle to finding a spouse, especially when layered on top of the massive divisions in our society as a whole.

Parent and Mentor Influence, Several Ways

First Way: Example

There is some positive news regarding Catholic marriage and families. The 2014 USCCB study showed that 79% of Catholic parents were married and that the majority of Catholic children were growing up in a household with two married, Catholic parents. Since parents’ divorce affects children’s marital success, this is overall good news (though one wishes the number was even higher).

But there’s nuance even here. In my survey, I asked about respondents’ parents’ marital status and whether they seemed happy. Most said their parents were pretty happily married, even if there were some “rough patches.” However, a number of them admitted that their parents were unhappy, whether a divorce ever happened or not.

“My parents have been unhappily married as long as I’ve been alive,” shared one.

“They spent a lot of time distant, fighting, and trying to hurt each other,” said another.

Even among my married friends and on social media, I hear, “Marriage is hard” a lot and see plenty of examples of the strife and sacrifice it entails—even from the people who verbally encourage their single friends and followers to marry. Though it’s good to be reminded that marriage is hardly a Hallmark movie, I often wish married people displayed more of the joy that makes the sacrifice worth it. It must be there… right?

Parents and mentors can encourage single Catholics to marry all they like, but their words mean little if their example of marriage is so bleak that it scares single people away.

Second Way: Mixed and Incomplete Messages

I also asked whether respondents’ parents encouraged marriage and emphasized it more or less than other vocations, career, etc. Here, answers varied widely, but several interesting points emerged.

Some said their parents encouraged marriage so much that they did not feel supported when discerning religious life or simply being single in their adult years. Pressure to marry, or lack of encouragement to be open to God’s will, actually pushed these young adults further away from marriage.

Some said their parents emphasized education and career much more than marriage. Within this category, there were at least two basic sub-categories. The first were parents who were unhappily married or divorced themselves; it is perhaps easy to see why these did not emphasize marriage much to their children. The other sub-group were parents who were happily married themselves but seemed to assume that marriage would happen naturally, and that their advice and encouragement was more needed in other areas.

In a similar vein, some respondents said their parents either didn’t talk much about marriage at all, or encouraged marriage but did not encourage dating.

The latter categories—parents who were silent on marriage or encouraged marriage but did not encourage dating—interest me most. This is perhaps one of the most important yet least well-known phenomena in the Church today: parents, teachers, and mentors of young people present important information about marriage and sexuality, but forget to present a road-map for how to get to marriage in the first place—or, at times, actively discourage the steps that young adults need to take to achieve marriage.

Growing up as a practicing, orthodox Catholic myself, I found that the most prominent word used in any presentation on marriage or dating given by teachers and mentors was “wait.” Teachers and mentors constantly told us to wait to have sex until we were married; sometimes, to wait to kiss or hold hands until we were married to close to it; to wait to date until we were ready to get married; and to wait on God and be satisfied with Him alone until He sent us spouses.

All good advice. But rarely were we told when we would be ready for marriage, or how to get ready. Rarely were we told when and how to take an active role in finding a spouse, with God’s assistance. Never were we told when to stop waiting and start dating.

I recall speaking with a young man who said he suddenly “woke up” in his early twenties having never dated at all and realized that he was old enough to start discerning marriage. No one had ever told him that it was time; he was waiting, waiting for a permission that was never coming.

There’s a problem with the way many devout Catholic teens and young adults have been taught about marriage and sexuality, a problem of mixed and incomplete messages that can be summed up thus: wait to date until you’re ready to marry, but marry young and have many children! Marriage is holy and desirable, but you should be satisfied without it until God gives you a spouse. Marriage is good, but in a good-for-you kind of way… that is, difficult and possibly miserable.

How Do You Date, Anyway?

The previous obstacle leads naturally into the last one I’ll cover in this article: many young people don’t know how to date, either because no one ever broached the subject with them, or because so many mentors gave them conflicting advice on how it should work. Our society might be the first to have a near-total lack of universal courtship customs.

“I thought when I got to college, getting asked out and going on dates all the time would just be normal,” one of my friends said during our sophomore year of college, but most of us had never been on a date at all. I know countless women, sometimes near or past thirty, who haven’t been asked out in years. The “wait” messages we had received growing up implied that there were guys out there just chomping at the bit to date us when the time came, but where were they?

Anthony Esolen and others have also pointed out this phenomenon: for many devout Catholics, dating simply isn’t happening. I see two primary reasons for this.

First Reason: Emphasis on “Intentionality”

For my generation, if mentors taught young people anything about dating and courtship itself, they did so with a heavy emphasis on “dating for marriage” and being “intentional”: good things, but so easily twisted into a shape that causes further problems.

Young people hear, “Be intentional,” and think it means that they have to intend to marry a person—or at least to enter an exclusive, marriage-oriented relationship with him or her—in order to go on dates at all. This is, of course, an impossible chicken-and-egg situation.

Ironically, this often leads people to dive into committed relationships too quickly, lest they lack “intentionality,” and then (too often) suffer painful breakups that keep them out of the dating pool for a time while they heal and emotionally detach. (Similar to the discernment story above, this takes a long time and contributes to a later marital age.)

Or, it may lead people—most often women, in my experience—to reject almost any opportunity for a date, because the rush to exclusivity that “intentionality” seems to require is always too daunting a commitment.

Second Reason: Loss of a Common Code

In case I have alarmed my readers by seeming to dismiss “intentionality,” let me clarify: dating intentionally, with marriage as the goal, is extremely important.

However, many single young adults have completely misunderstood how to be intentional, because no one has taught them the practical steps of a successful courtship. Each person or group has a different idea of when and how to ask for a date, when and how to accept or reject a date, how many dates should happen before entering an exclusive or “official” relationship, when physical gestures of affection should occur, when to meet each other’s families, and so much more.

While a man is still getting to know a woman in group settings and trying to gather enough information to find out whether he wants to date her, his woman has secretly dismissed him as cowardly and non-committal. When a woman thinks she has “friend-zoned” a man, he thinks her friendliness is a sign of romantic interest. Every step of the dating procedure is similarly full of missed expectations (“Why did—or didn’t—he want to kiss me on our third date?”), or burdened with the extra step of explicitly agreeing on what the expectations should be (“Just in case you were planning on kissing me…”).

It’s great to practice communication skills, but communication used to be much easier, because those expectations were set by the culture. Young people benefited from the combined experience and wisdom of many generations and were given ready-made boundaries that all good people knew and followed, safeguarding their chastity and smoothing the road to the altar. Now that this entire aspect of our culture has been obliterated, single people have to reconstruct it on their own… with every new person they go out with. It’s absolutely exhausting.

I leave aside the strangeness of dating apps and the lack of opportunities for single, post-college Catholics to meet each other in person. This article already covers a lot of ground. Suffice it to say that faithful Catholic young adults who have no other obstacles to marriage still desperately need a common language of signals and behaviors for courtship, but there is no single source from which to learn it.

Conclusion

When it comes to dating and marriage, Catholics suffer from most of the same problems that the secular world suffers from: pornography, their parents’ divorces, lack of responsibility and desire to commit, and much more. However, even Catholics who have escaped these snares encounter unique obstacles to marriage.

They are told to discern their vocations carefully, and they do—sometimes for many agonizing years. They are told to wait to date until they are ready for marriage, so they do—but no one has told them when they will be ready or how to get ready.

No one has told them how to ask for a date, accept a date, go on a date, enjoy a date. Ironically, many have been taught far more about marriage and sex—the beauty of it in God’s plan, the dangers of its misuse—than about the many steps they must take before the time when marriage and sex are possible. (Learning about NFP and Theology of the Body at sixteen, in mixed company, three years before I would ever go out to dinner with a man, seems pretty strange now that I think about it.)

Part of getting ready for marriage is also wanting marriage at all. With the example of parents who too often showcase the suffering and strife of marriage more than the joy, it’s no wonder that young adults are delaying their own marriages.

It’s tempting to think that finding the right person would eliminate most of the strife and bring about the joy, but who is the right person? In most Catholic young adults’ minds, no one can be the “right” person without having the same views on a multitude of aspects of doctrine, liturgy, and lifestyle. The “right” person might be many miles away, only to be found on a dating website if at all. And sending a messages over a long distance, asking a multitude of questions about controversial issues, is hardly the easiest way to build a human relationship, much less a romance.

But let us not lose hope. Most of these problems can be ameliorated by the parents, mentors, and Church leaders who have unwittingly caused or allowed them. And, all four can be surmounted by single, marriage-minded Catholics themselves, with a little learning, prayer, and courage. Part One of this essay has presented problems; Part Two will present solutions.


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About Rachel Hoover 17 Articles
Rachel Hoover lives and writes in Nashville, Tennessee.

121 Comments

  1. Kudos for the focused and detailed survey, but is there also this–not only the indecision over a religious vocation, but the inability to commit to ANY vocation? Also, instead of plague and disease, some writers point to the following and broader explanation for the similar decline (?) of both Greece and the Roman Empires:

    “Late marriages and small families became the rule, and men satisfied their sexual instincts by homosexuality or by relations with slaves and prostitutes. This aversion to marriage and the deliberate restriction of the family by the practice of infanticide and abortion was undoubtedly the main cause of the decline of ancient Greece, as Polybius pointed out in the second century B.C. And the same factors were equally powerful in the society of the Empire. . . .” (discovered as an undergrad when it hit the shelves: Christopher Dawson, “The Patriarchal Family in History,” The Dynamics of World History, 1962).

    Like Nero, Synodality fiddles while Rome burns.

    • Thank you for sharing this Mr. Peter.
      Ive read that the Romans were spread out too far and too thinly and became outnumbered by the tribes surrounding them due to the ways you relate.
      These days the West faces similar demographic and social troubles but the populations surrounding us are also experiencing falling fertility rates.

    • I believe abortion is most responsible. I sometimes wonder if my husband was murdered when he was just a child. And Ive lived in relatively large cities/metropolitian areas most of my life.

    • Some people do care Shawn but they were tired out at the end of a long week and chose to watch Indiana Jones with a bowl of popcorn instead last night.
      🙂

    • I think many people care about this, both parents and young adults. I look forward to the next article on solutions. I never comment on articles. Your comment prompted me.

  2. This is a very honest article, thank you. The issues are not new, but are likely more obstructive with each passing year. I look forward to your future article to see concrete suggestions on how to proceed.

    • I agree. I found this article fascinating. I am 89 years of age and wonder often about the reasons for why things that you address are happening. Very much look forward to your next article on this issue.

      • I am convinced that the social decline of parish life is the prime cause. Maybe I should write an article. The social side of parish life was just as important as the spiritual side. You won’t find this in any theology textbook, but it was just common sense. Young people need to learn social skills and the importance of being part of a community. Single adults need a social network to help them meet other singles. That’s all gone, and has been gone for over a generation now, and the effects are plain to see.

        The same thing has happened to other social organizations like the Elks and the Rotarians. But the thing is, the Church should have been smart enough to see this coming.

        • Well said Larry, and very true. I’m heavily involved in ministerial work,and 90% of the parishioners are like me, 64 years old and married 41 years. Only a precious few of the 40 and under crowd get involved. There are multitudinous reasons for this, but it all comes down to the parish social life being extinct. What happened to the parish youth groups and camping trips? Parish dances, curling clubs, poker/euchre nights, BBQ’s etc?
          What happened to the Corpus Christi processions, and Christmas parades? Granted, some of these are coming back, but only at a parish level, not an archdiocesan level, where it is needed. Our leadership has failed us. They are more interested in promoting lame “social justice” issues, rather than a vibrant and faith filled parish life. And we old timers wonder why the youth won’t come to Mass? We are reaping the rewards of our folly. The youth of today must rebuild from scratch. The only solution is fortunately a simple one; Mass, the sacraments, and contemplative prayer,plus devotion to our Lady and St Joseph. The holy spirit will guide them in a way that their parents and the institutional church didn’t. Man fails, God doesn’t.

  3. Modern Catholic practices are more feminist than Catholic marginalizing the role of young boys and men from kindergarten thru 8th grade that sets the stage for marginalization in high school and university since the introduction of alter “girls”. Patriarchal is a 4-letter word as even the best priests are “sensitive to women’s feeling in homilies. The Modern Church “Militant” cowers before the princes of the world.

    • I don’t believe priests are watchful of female hurt feelings. Perhaps they are watchful of humanity, which includes women.

      • I wish more of them were. Perhaps then many of them wouldn’t be so quick to express admiration for mass-murdering Marxists. I get tired of having to walk out of Masses during homilies when listening to praise for communist revolutionaries that also note their mandatory abortion policies as merely “unfortunate.”

      • And I believe that the changing of words so as not to injure the feelings of anybody dippy enough to be offended that the masculine is the common as well as the masculine gender is not being “watchful of humanity.”

        “Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis” is “and on earth peace to men of good will” – *NOT* “people of good will” – where “men” is of course the word meaning all humans.

        To each his own.

  4. Back in the 1990s, a young man (18 years old) named Josh Harris wrote a book called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” At the time my husband and I were Evangelical Protestant and raising two teenaged daughters, and we thought this book was horrible and we told our girls that there was nothing wrong with meeting boys at school or other venues and dating. However, many of their friends’ parents embraced Harris’ book and forbade dating, especially for their daughters. Of course, my husband and I were pariahs to be avoided by these parents and their chilldren were cautioned to stay away from our daughters.

    Our younger daughter started dating a boy at age 14 (he was 16)–and we approved because we like the young man, who was a good student and athlete, and worked at several jobs to earn his own spending money and save for college. As it turned out, they ended up getting married after 7 years of dating, and are happily-married today.

    Our older daughter has had several boyfriends over the years, but eschews marriage mainly because of her career (theater). She has a thriving career and loves it, and is very independent in her life choices.

    Josh Harris has recently rejected his own book and theory, and has written a book about how wrong he was when he was only 18. My personal feeling is that the publishers were as much to blame as he was–they never should have accepted for publication a book from a teenager about a subject that he knew NOTHING about!

    MY husband and I converted to Catholicism in 2004 after two years of studying the Church. He passed away in 2020 of COVID (before the vaccines). Our older daughter converted to Catholicism two years after we converted, and our younger daughter and her husband are currently in RCIA and will be confirmed into the Church in the spring of 2023.

    In conclusion–dating is good and wholesome. I think the biggest problem with dating today is that teens spend most of their time online rather than face to face with friends and other people.

    • I’m so very sorry to hear of your loss Mrs Sharon. God bless you and your family. I’m widowed also.
      Dating can be different things. Dating as courtship can be wholesome. Other types of dating, not so much. It just depends.
      I have a dear friend who lives in a Hasidic community. She met her husband through a traditional Jewish matchmaker. I think the way orthodox and Hasidic Jewish parents arrange prospetive marriage candidates to meet makes a lot of sense.

    • Mrs. Whitlock, thank you for sharing your story and your daughters’ stories. I have heard a lot about “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” mostly negative. I wonder how much the book has influenced Catholics, despite coming from the non-Catholic world. That might be an interesting topic for a future study. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      And mrscracker, thank you as well. Of course, dating must be ordered toward marriage for it to make any sense. Matchmaking is also a wonderful option that seems to be making a comeback these days!

      • Am 73. School in 1960’s was so different then today. As “girls” we took home economics learning the basics of cooking, cleaning and how to run a household. Boys were taught shop, mechanics woodworking. Today I do think it is good idea for boys to know basics of all the above and girls be aware of boys things too. Kids are being taught at very impressionable ages that boys can become girls and girls can become boys. Girls hav been taught not to be feminine and boys not to be masculine. Nuclear family is under attack.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more: “I think the biggest problem with dating today is that teens spend most of their time online rather than face to face with friends and other people.”
      I have two daughters in their 20s. They will text all day long, but are reluctant to talk face-to-face with anyone they don’t know. I attribute this to being glued to their mobile phones

  5. “Most importantly for marriage, which Catholic “camp” a person is in often correlates with differing attitudes on moral and doctrinal issues that substantially impact day-to-day life within marriage.”

    You forgot: Does the government have the power to dissolve your sacramental marriage and thereby enable you to marry another person? The correct answer should be obvious, but unless it is lived by both spouses even if the orthodox answer is retained by one spouse, that doesn’t help him avoid the results – and all of its effects – that Satan has enabled.

    “Parents and mentors can encourage single Catholics to marry all they like, but their words mean little if their example of marriage is so bleak that it scares single people away.”

    FYI: likely result of feminism which was created/promoted by TPTB.

    I would agree that this is something of an, if not THE, elephant in the room. But more vital is economic justice.

    The only reason that it is necessary for a wife to work is related to employment issues. If wages were high enough (FYI the current minimum wage should be $24/hr) and income stable enough (i.e. EVIL “at-will” employment), it wouldn’t be necessary for two breadwinners.

    Business shoots itself in the foot, but since the 1970s it has only focused on what appears to be the “commanding” axiom: greed is good. Catholics should recognize this for what it is EVIL.

    • You slam business, and certainly there is a lot to criticize, but gov’t takes a tremendous amount away the family by way of taxes and regulations.

      • That said, the past 40 years have seen lower taxes for the rich and fewer regulations, coinciding with the age 20-60 bracket being indecisive on commitment. Much of business, especially big, is indeed evil.

        In the multiple indecisions young people face–not only in potential partners, but schools, jobs, and location, etc., they labor under a false romanticism that there is only one for them. One job that will make them happy. One location in which they can thrive best. One and only love. Probably not true in any of those cases.

        As with most anything, with a commitment comes grace. Young people have many choices. Perhaps too many for a young spirit who has yet to master discernment.

        • Todd, I’d refer you to a quote from Mark Twain: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know that ain’t so.”

          To your comment about taxation over the past 40 years: IRS data show that the top 25 percent of earners paid nearly 89 percent of all income taxes in 2020. This is the highest share of income taxes paid seen in the tax data available going back to 1980. Please check your facts before using them to draw conclusions.

          You also mention regulation. To take just one example – labor regulation – we see that many labor laws and regulations serve to discourage work and disadvantage workers rather than help them. Restrictive labor market regulations raise the structural level of unemployment, particularly for demographic groups with the weakest attachment to the labor market, such as young and low‐​skilled workers. Minimum wage laws are only one specific example of this. Regarding the topic of this article, if we’re looking to remove barriers to marriage, one goal should be to minimize structural barriers to employment – barriers which often take the form of regulation.

          Other evidence of regulation as a discouragement to marriage comes in the form of means-tested transfer payments and benefits – specifically, Medicaid, cash welfare and food stamps. A 2016 study from the American Enterprise Institute found that couples where each partner’s individual income is near the cut-off for means-tested benefits are about two to four percentage points less likely to be married if they face a marriage penalty in Medicaid eligibility or food stamps. Not huge, but it’s real. And it’s yet another example of government policy that discourages couples from entering into marriage.

          • Thanks for the comment, Lex, but I’m far more concerned about the top 5 to 10%, plus the bloated corporations than the 10-25%. Good try though.

            Your comments on labor regulation are innocent.

            Yes, there are some government policies that mitigate against marriage. One racism aspect would be the numbers of men in color in prison.

            I guess–and it’s not a guess, really–that a lot of Republican policies and talking points don’t do a whole lot for marriage either. Unless maybe when you’re rich and you believe in serial monogamy with a dash of occasional adultery.

          • Reply to Todd Flowerday, 1-16-23 at 1:11 PM

            Once again, Todd, your assertions are unsupported by the facts. You’re concerned about the top 5% to 10% of income earners? Let’s go one better and look at the top 1% in addition to the top 5% over your 40 year horizon. In 2018, the top 5% paid 57% of all federal income taxes. For the same year, the top 1% paid 37% of all income taxes. For 2018, the top 0.01% of income earners paid an effective 25% tax rate, with state and local taxes comprising an additional 8% to 12% of income. In 1980, the top 1% paid only 19% of all federal income taxes. In other words, the federal tax burden on the top 1% has basically doubled since 1980. This proves that your assertion that the tax burden on “the rich” has declined in the last 40 years is simply false. On top of that, and to the topic of the article, you make no assertion, let alone provide any evidence, that the relative tax burden on the “rich” vs. the “non-rich” has any effect on individuals’ propensity to marry.

            Speaking of the regulatory burden on marriage, in 2001 (admittedly dated), the Urban Institute (no bastion of conservative thought) calculated that a single mother working full time earning the then-minimum wage who married a man working full time earning $8/hr stood to lose over $8,000 annually in cash and non-cash welfare benefits. If we’re talking about the regulatory burden on marriage, the wonder is not that so few lower-income couples marry, but that any do.

            “Racist” incarceration as an impediment to marriage? It’s a tautology that people who are imprisoned are criminals. Criminal behavior, no matter the offender’s race, is a clear detriment to how a prospective spouse would view the offender’s suitability to marry. As it concerns marriage, incarceration is only a symptom of the problem, not the cause. To your assertions of racism, you should know that many years ago, African American leaders championed mandatory minimum sentencing and tough-on-crime laws in response to increasing crime. The Congressional Black Caucus were instrumental in encouraging the ramp-up of the war on drugs. One of the most prominent Black leaders of the past 40 years, Charles Rangel, continued to push for tough sentencing standards into the 1990’s. The conclusion is, the story of race in the past and present of incarceration is a good deal more complex than you might imagine.

            Finally, your scurrilous dig at the wealthy believing in “serial monogamy” and practicing “occasional adultery” has no place in this conversation. As if the wealthy, or the non-wealthy for that matter, would benefit in any way from these practices. You can do better.

      • Business – as currently “implemented” – is one of the most destructive influences in the United States. Unlike – formerly Catholic – Europe, and even the first(?) Protestant nation England, employers have treated their employees unjustly. I suspect that the very Protestant origins and dominance of this country had something to do with it.

        I have been reading a recently borrowed book which has a number of essays on the history of employers, “Masters to Managers: Historical and Comparative Perspectives on American Employers.” Of interest, is the last chapter “American Exceptionalism Revisited …”

        For those interested in something of the history of economic legislation in England one can read “The Rise and Fall of Freedom of Contract.” In it, it will be discovered how much juster it appears that England’s legislators were with regards to the (working) poor. On or about page 416, the myth of freedom of contract is historically exploded. One can do the same with reason alone.

        I have very good reasons to slam business, I am almost certainly the victim of an extremely effective form of blacklisting in the form of a civil conspiracy (tortious interference). I was fired from my last position in December 2020 for refusing to wear a mask that had occasionally given me headaches. I have almost certainly applied to more than 60 positions, and I have received no offers.

        I overheard after being abducted and falsely imprisoned in a hospital under color of law for an “illness” that a former employee of a very popular coffee shop “misgendered” a co-worker and after being fired, he was (and is?) in much the same situation.

        As an addendum, the courts and those associated with them are thoroughly corrupt, but you won’t hear about this on advertiser(e.g. business)-funded TV.

    • Thank you, Shawn, for reading and commenting. There are certainly many, many more issues than I had space for here, particularly the economic and financial issues.

      Our Lord, in Scripture and through the Catholic Church, mercifully teaches us the truth about divorce. I hope any devout Catholic who is trying to live the teachings of the Church would agree on that, but you are of course correct that it’s something that, sadly, has to be discussed between a couple before they marry!

  6. From Dr. Bob Schuchts (Be Restored) comes the eye-opening and accurate remark that virtually everyone today is sexually wounded, that is, touched and affected in some way by any one of a multitude of poisonous fruits descending from the sexual revolution (divorce, incomplete household, pornography, promiscuity-fornication, lack of real models in every direction as to right gender configuration, gender complimentarity, courtship, romance, companionship, partnership, marriage, child-rearing….)

    The starter question might be are any two people healthy enough? Am I in fact or not, a sinner, whose exclusive property is misery (i.e. Divine Mercy 1318)?

    Here is the case for revival of devotion to the Eucharist – grace, the sole remedy in a decaying age.

    Does anyone remember what grace is?

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, jst. Yes, we are all wounded in this realm… I suppose it ultimately just stems from original sin. But yes, we have a Redeemer who can heal us with His grace! Knowing that the sacrament of matrimony carries with it a grace to fulfill the duties of marriage gives me, personally, great comfort and hope.

  7. This article is more less on target. I didn’t start praying for help finding a wife until I was in my early 30’s, and by then it was probably too little, too late. I didn’t realize that the warnings about “take your time, you have a lifetime” were probably coming from Satan. Now a lifetime has passed and I’m 60 with no hope. Youngsters, start looking in your early 20’s, and look hard if you don’t want to have to compromise, even if the compromise is simply not marrying. Finally, when so few decent Catholics exist, steel yourself for the cold reality that a Church that consistently and persistently fails to “raise up men and women outstanding in holiness,” may not have raised up a spouse for you. While God can “raise up sons of Abraham from the stones,” He usually works through far more ordinary means. If we don’t do the ordinary things that will produce such men and women, they will most likely not appear from the skies in a miracle.

    • Mr. Saucci,
      60 is rather late to begin a family but as far as marriage itself, there are way more older women than older men so I don’t think someone in your position needs to give up hope.
      I knew a gentleman in his 60s who was widowed and he said pretty much as soon as the obituary is published in the paper, widowed ladies in the community begin lining up and dropping off food at your door.
      It doesn’t work the same way for widowed women. There’s a greater surplus.

  8. First off, I haven’t read the entire article, just the introduction and first paragraph of each section. That said, I’m not sure Catholics have unique problems in regard to marriage. From what I observe, many Catholics just go along with the secular culture, which pays lip service to the importance of marriage but actually (and increasingly) undermines it at every turn.

      • as one married 60 years a more practical reason was no birth control Girls were very afraid of getting pregnant a sex outside of marriage for most was unthinkable By the time of was a university professor in the late 1960’s birth control was freely and easily available.

  9. Poor liturgies. Poor instruction of the faith. Parents not teaching and practicing their faith. Sunday mass attendance optional. Most children leaving the faith after high school. Never a homily on premarital sex, pornography, dating, modest dress etc. No wonder we have a marriage problem. Except for traditional Latin mass communities and a few good Bovus Irdo parishes the Catholic Church has failed miserabky in teaching parents and children.

  10. My rather simple take on why adults do not marry, many of which are already covered by this well-done article, like…
    My burnt offering

    “When asked what hindered them from marrying sooner, some respondents mentioned they had spent time considering religious life or priesthood—or, as one respondent put it, they were called to the religious life or priesthood during a relationship.”

    Trust: As a couple date they grow suspicious of their partner.
    Not committed: Saying “luv ya” instead of “I love you”.
    Impotent: A family-oriented partner discovers that their date cannot bear a child.
    Holy Orders: One partner seeks the clerical life. Men only.
    Revelation: homosexual desire: Say no more!
    Faithfulness, philanderer, men only: Having a child by another.
    Still playing the field: Say no more.

    I’m exhausted. Say no more! God help us all.

  11. Here’s one that is not considered: there is no real need to marry, either economically or socially. Now my one son did marry at age 23 to his GF. A big factor was her need for his health insurance plan that would cover her medications, or else they may well have chosen to simply co-habitate (and fornicate?) like one of my other sons.
    .
    A bit of knowledge on how to work the welfare system can, and apparently does, generate a lot of income for many folks, some of whom are married, many of whom undoubtedly are not. http://www.heritage_org/welfare/report/largest-welfare-increase-us-history-will-boost-government-support-76400-poor-family
    .
    Now I do love my husband, but the reality is also that I also can NOT leave him without suffering a catastrophic loss in my living standard and social system. That isn’t true with a lot of men and women.

    • Kathryn, thank you for reading and commenting. I would love to explore the economic and financial side of marriage more in the future. In some ways, it’s a blessing that almost no one needs to marry for money or survival these days–it allows us to be more selective and marry a person who helps us toward holiness and happiness. But on the other hand, as you mentioned with your son who married at 23, sometimes a little nudge of necessity might be an instrument of God’s grace. Very interesting to consider.

  12. In my perspective, the internet has ruined dating, just as it has ruined a great many social interactions. The internet has turned adults into rude, screaming, uninhibited aggressive exhibitionists. It has turned young people into self-absorbed, terribly insecure loners. The young people I see at my university have their faces glued to the smart phones almost constantly. I did not date in high school because I was not really interested. As an undergraduate in college, I conversed with female students face-to-face. (Ah, the glorious pre-Facebook era!) Only one in twenty interested me enough to ask out on a date. I probably dated 20 to 25 women at least once before meeting my future spouse. The dates were nothing fancy: a coffee, a walk along the river park, a concert on campus, an afternoon at the lake. I have a hard time giving advice to young people today, even to my own unmarried, unattached children. The culture they live in may as well be on another planet.

    • Mr. Williams, thank you for reading and replying. I would love to delve more into the topic of online dating and how it affects relationships in a future article someday. I already suspect that it leads to kind of a “shopping” mentality, which is a bit objectifying to the other person and can be very limiting.

      I personally know quite a few people who did meet their spouses online and it turned out well, but for every good experience I’ve heard, I’ve probably heard at least two or three not-so-good experiences with online dating. I guess there are better and worse ways to use such tools, just as with anything else. But it is sad to think that the days of, “I saw her across the room and just knew I had to ask her out,” are practically gone. “I saw her profile and just had to send her an emoji,” doesn’t quite sound the same, does it?

  13. Surveys even in within their limited fraction as here are subject to myriad variables. For example, how many Catholics out of the whole consider religious vocations? Likely a finite percentage, although here within a small, select group albeit at random the number seems higher. It’s difficult to select a small group that represents the whole.
    Sometimes it’s best to answer a universal question by examining known trends, known as trends due to the volume of like responses, and known behavior patterns. Would it be safe to assume then that the majority of young Catholics similar to non Catholics, due to the degeneration of doctrinal messaging, consequent nominal practice, non religious vocational, lifestyle priorities, devaluation of family life and children, and as Ms Hoover says as a side lined issue cohabitation, fornication, the deleterious effect of universal electronic relationships and pornography, and as Beaulieu alludes to, today’s full blown sexual perversity – inhibit the young from commitment to marriage.
    This said Ms Hoover’s assessment of a select group that represents a more normal lifestyle [though it appears there are increasingly fewer that are ‘more normal’] is excellent, her advice as well.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Fr. Morello! A broader study and more real data science would be very interesting. I hope my articles are just the beginning of a bigger conversation.

      • Rachel, if you’ve not seen it, may I highly recommend the research based book The Endgame? The co-author, J.P. deGance is Catholic. I’ve been involved in marriage preparation/marriage enrichment for near 40 years. Its the most impressive treatment of the cause of family dissolution and weakening of Christin faith. There is plenty of data to address the overall marriage malaise. I believe it might be useful for your follow-up column, given your initial analysis.

        In Familiaris consortio 65 and 66, St. Pope John Paul called for improved and expanded marriage preparation and, after the wedding, to accompany couples and families along their life cycle stages. Though there has been some improvement in the content and length of marriage preparation (way beyond the old underwhleming and ineffective one-day Pre Cana), it still bothers me that St. John Paul’s instruction was largely ignored by Church leaders. (The Endgame book projects, based on convincing data, a catastropic domino effect if churches continue to avoid investing time and resources in marriage.) Thirty-five years later, Pope Francis called a 2nd Synod on the Family. My cynical self questioned the value of it. However, I was stunned by his request for a marriage catechumenate. And even more stunned by the quality of the Dicastery document Catechumenal Pathways to Married Life (2022). [http://www.laityfamilylife.va/content/dam/laityfamilylife/amoris-laetitia/OrientamentiCatecumenatomatrimoniale/Catechumenal%20Pathways_ENG.pdf]

        Some have already called this idea an obstacle for couples. It takes severaal years to form a man for Holy Orders. Since the 1970s, we have been “preparing” couples for marriage between 20 and 40 contact hours in various, inconsistent formats. When a couple who have children divorce, the social, economic, emotional, spiritual, academic, and intergenerational damage affects extended families, friendships and the Church. A Bishop would not knowingly ordain a man with the faith level and understanding of Orders which too many engaged couples have of Marriage, and we witness their weddings anyway.

        Marriage and family is the organic cell of our parishes. It is a Vocation at the Service of Communion (CCC 1534-35). It has an office and a mission. We know they come to the church wanting a wedding; do they want the mission, and the Cross, of Marriage? God willing, a marriage catechumenate will deepen couples understanding of this essential vocation, mitigate some of the causes you have identified, and undo the secular contamination they have experienced, including any unhealthy past actions and attitudes – all so as to foster valid consent. This cannot be a mere didactic process. It will not be easy to implement. Neither was the RCIA.

        Marriage deserves a formation consummate with its dignity and mission. The authors of The Endgame believe churches must get into the marriage sustenance business now. They assert this may be our last chance. I’m afraid they may be right.

        • I wrote in reply to Charles yesterday, and I’m disappointed to see that it was apparently not approved by the moderator. “Marriage prep” in my parents’ day was two short meetings with their priest. Since then, it has become longer and longer and longer. My diocese now requires 9 months, last I heard. Is it doing any good? Singles aren’t meeting and dating and asking to be married anyway, so what good can come from making it such a burden and ordeal?

  14. To this fine piece, I would only add a few other causes for low marriage rates that I have observed.

    1. Feminism, including the “Chrisitian” variety, has poisoned relations between the sexes in ways that are impossible to overestimate and easy to overlook. Catholics, and especially Catholic schools, have bought into the ideology as much as anyone. Girls are taught to acquire the skills and knowledge to pursue careers, while little emphasis is placed in teaching them how to be, or the value of being, a wife and mother. Also, without denigrating the idea of marriage itself, too many conservative and traditional Catholics don’t recognize how encouraging “independence” in their daughters can critically undermine the feminine deference that is necessary to cultivate healthy relationships between men and women.
    2. On the flip slide, boys are not being taught how to be men. In fact, genuine masculinity is disparaged in every way possible. Consequently, you have even basically good young men who have neither the confidence nor the first idea about how to approach or court a young woman.
    3. There is sometimes a wholly unrealistic expectation among young people, I think especially young women, of who might qualify as a suitable spouse. Frankly, they seem to be willing to settle for nothing short of perfection, which rules out every potential good suitor.
    4. Finally, the sense of despair that pervades the greater society surely affects young people in a particular way. Governments and other powerful institutions, including the Church, seem hostile or, at best, indifferent to marriage and family formation. Crippling debt and an astronomical cost of living make raising a family very daunting. The balkanization of the nation along racial and ideological lines brought by about by government policies have had a demoralizing impact and rightly cause people to fear for what lies ahead. With the Church, the nearly total preoccupation with Social Justice and all manner of other idiocy has sent a message to young people that their futures are not all that important.

    It is clear that several generations by now have been short-changed by the people and institutions they should have been able to count on. The least we can do, for starters, is to stop making the situation worse.

    • Insightful additions, Tony. Number one includes an insidious Eve-like feminism that secretly advocates mastery of both genders in one body. If a woman becomes both the man and the woman, what is the man for?! The syndrome of Diana Prince who does not marry until she loses her “superpowers”. : o Not enough pondering of Eve’s actual confrontation in the Garden? No person can be the whole by himself.

      There is probably also a contagion of mass overthinking, even among the young. Are souls these days too smart for love? too smart for compromise? too smart for reality i.e. remembering that no one reaches perfect conversion before the marrying years arrive, not to mention, ever? Our society is oversaturated with thinking, information, perspective generally and not wordless happy living. Way too much head, far from enough heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

    • Thank you for your responses, Tony and jst. Parts of Tony’s points 2 and 3 might be addressed by my follow-up piece, already written and soon to be published. But there is certainly a lot more that could be said on all of this, and I hope my little articles are just the beginning of a bigger conversation. Jst, your point about mass overthinking is really interesting. I definitely observe that too! I suspect it stems from a combination of the “dysfunctional discernment” I mention above plus our modern society’s obsession with optimizing every aspect of our lives plus our sense of infinite options… but that’s a lot to get into in a comment. Thank you again.

  15. I keyed into the ‘Catholic Camps’ section because this actually has been one obstacle for me with a particular woman. So the author makes a good point here I think.

    • Timothy, thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear that this has been a struggle for you. I will pray for a good resolution! And if by chance you would want to chat about this further, I would be interested in hearing from you–this whole topic of obstacles to marriage and the divisions in the Church is an area I want to continue writing on. You can reach me at rachelhooverwork AT G mail DOT com (disguised to avoid spammer scraping, etc.) God bless.

  16. Interesting article and I find I dont agree with aspects of it. As a Catholic with friends who are at least cultural catholics or have been raised Catholic, I dont know a single one who ever considered becoming a religious. Nor have that issue stop them from dating. This is simply not a factor in my experience. Nor do I have any friends whose children have ever considered religious life. Marriage is low on the agenda of current generations because society, the media and tacitly the church, has given the ok to simply live together, have kids together, and NEVER marry. For many of our youth, they think, sex without responsibility—hooray!!! I NEVER hear a homily about the beauty of marriage, of having someone who loves you unconditionally, of raising a family together with all its hardships and rewards. The weddings I have attended in recent years, often between two catholics, have expunged the church ceremony for one held at the catering hall or beach with a judge or justice of the peace. At no time have I heard this condemned in church. Some who DO show up to register for a church wedding often go away mad because they are not parishioners and thus cannot book a wedding date, have never registered with the parish, or cant get the date they want. Their general motivation is not religious, it is so they ( especially the bride) can have their Disney moment. Thats why they go away mad so easily. The religious aspect means nothing to them, sadly. Personally, I feel that if all they want is a Hollywood memory, let them leave. But, never having heard ANYTHING in church about marriage, or the immorality of living together ( even the practical pit-falls) what else would we expect to result?? People today dont expect to put their will second to God, nor give up things they want in order to do the right thing. IF moral thinking is not presented in church, where do we expect them to learn it? It’s a “me first” world. Maybe its time to spend a lot less time of fake social justice issues and a lot more time on basic morality, and basic right and wrong.

    I never had anyone give me permission to date. In my Catholic grammar school there was no explicit sex ed. But enough commentary about young women needing to observe modesty, purity, etc for us to catch the drift. We may not have understood those concepts while still very young, but over time their meanings became clear. Some of this presented in the general framework of the idea that Jesus always knew what we were doing, and we did not want to be found disappointing him by doing the wrong thing. In any area of our lives, this being just one more. I met my husband as a freshman in college. We knew within months where this was headed, and married at 21. We had a solid marriage until his unexpected death. I think the church needs to be less afraid of alienating people, less afraid to pronounce the rules out loud, and less afraid for people to leave the church if they dont feel inclined to obey the rules. You cant expect to hand on a culture you never teach.

    • LJ, thank you for the excellent comment. I agree with you.

      The Catholic Church is under assault by satan and its minions in the Democratic Party. And marriage — the family — is a key objective in the attack.

      I haven’t seen anyone comment yet about a huge weapon in the attack — unfettered online pornography, accessible to all ages.

      It’s difficult to imagine any force more destructive of marriage than addiction to pornography. When enflamed by pornography, boys’ sexual cravings will overwhelm any contacts they have with girls. In fact, their online habit will, in time, replace actual meaningful interactions with girls.

      And, since no digital consort ever says no or has actual emotional needs that require attention, the awkward pornboy eventually finds himself alone on his desert island of perversion. Most malevolently, it all happens by choice.

      Many will recall that when the internet was going mainstream in the mid-nineties, there was a debate in Congress about trying to prohibit the underaged from accessing pornographic content online. The Democrats pitched a fit, posturing about free speech (yes, that was well before Twitter and Facebook, which the Democrats are all in favor of regulating), and the craven Republicans soon crumpled and limped away as they always do.

      And when those pornographied generations of males eventually came of age, they were otherwise occupied with gratifying themselves and never found the messy, rough-and-tumble reality of marriage a desirable option.

      Thus, millions of families — and even more children — never came about.

      Abortion.

      Pornography.

      Gay “marriage”.

      Trans mutilation.

      It’s all part of the ratfaced evil one’s plan to eliminate humanity. And the Democratic Party is wholeheartedly behind every single bit of it.

    • This is a good comment.

      It certainly is a lack of teaching and preaching morality which is the issue. I am not sure that this is generally known, but it is the DUTY of priests, bishops, and parents to teach and correct. If they aren’t doing this, then it is evil.

      Sin will have negative effects regardless of whether it is formal or not. Then there is a fact not well publicized: sins against the Sixth Commandment indirectly infringe on the natural rights of future children.

      While not explicit in the comment, it is important to remember that according to the object, all sins against the Sixth and Ninth Commandments are mortal sins, which merit Hell.

      • Absolutely, Shawn. Thank you for elaborating on my points.

        To the extent which the Catholic Church fails to fight back against the left’s attempt to marginalize her and her teachings, the American Catholic Church is cooperating with evil.

        It’s up to all of us to hold our deacons, our priests and our bishops accountable.

    • I guess we all have differing experiences and move in different circles but 3 of my 4 daughters expressed an interest to join a cloistered order and one actually began the process but was eventually turned down for health issues. She ended up marrying a young man who also had been discerning a religious vocation. Her college roommate joined a religious order as did two of her younger sister’s homeschooling friends.
      Perhaps homeschooling and enrolling in orthodox Catholic colleges makes a difference. I think those make a great difference in marriage opportunities also.

      Authentically Catholic colleges are a huge blessing but can be a serious source of student debt. I hope we can come up with less expensive ways for devout Catholic young people to meet each other and grow in their Faith.

    • LJ, you make some excellent observations here. I read your comments twice. You mention something that really resonated with me, and that I believe is too often neglected in homilies: Expounding on the beauty of living out Church teaching. As it concerns marriage, here’s where I believe married deacons can step into the breach and fill some of the gap. While I’ve long observed that Pope St. John Paul II as a celibate understood more about marriage than I ever will as a married man, we can’t expect many of our parish priests to bring his level of wisdom on marriage to the Sunday homily. A holy, faithful married deacon can join lived experience with Church teaching to fill the hearts of married couples, and those called to become married, with a rich understanding of how God calls married couples and their families to live.

      Of course, this also requires a measure of courage. There are plenty of weekly Mass attendees in my own parish who would not hesitate to confront a priest or deacon for not being “inclusive”, or some such twaddle, after he had preached on the beauty of sacramental marriage. For that reason, I’d expect that a fair number of pastors would actively discourage deacons from preaching plainly on “controversial” topics…as if sacramental marriage itself were controversial…though that’s pure supposition on my part.

      In the end, though, beauty sells. I can think of nothing more beautiful this side of Heaven than Church teaching lovingly and authentically taught and lived.

    • LJ, thank you for reading and commenting! It is interesting to see how very, very different people’s experiences can be even within the Church. I acknowledge that there are far too many Catholics who ignore Church teaching on marriage and don’t consider religious life either. But as mrscracker says, there are sectors of the Church where things are quite different… but running into different problems.

      I personally went through a lot of turmoil over whether I might be called to religious life, despite really wanting marriage. I have also been told by more than one wonderful man that he had changed his mind and decided to discern religious life, ending our budding relationships. I have met many others who experienced the same things.

      I think there’s a population in the Church, probably a minority, who are either zealous young-adult converts or who grew up with remarkably orthodox Catholic educations who should be excellent candidates for either religious life or holy matrimony, but who are somehow still getting stuck. That’s mainly whom I’m writing about here, but I realize it’s a very incomplete assessment of the situation. I’m sure a whole book or several would have to be written to cover all the obstacles to marriage, and all the things that need to happen to improve the situation. Thank you again and God bless!

      • Rachel, I want to thank you again for opening up in honesty and writing this article. It is such a sorely needed subject. Yes, half the population is single and most will likely remain single their entire lives, and NO ONE in the Church is addressing it yet!
        One major obstacle to dating is the fact that people carry high emotional hopes upon meeting someone they like enough to date. How to keep it “casual” is not clear. Especially for the conscientious Catholic deeply sensitive about the feelings of others, not wanting to put someone in the position of heartbreak x months down the road!
        Today people are more circumspect about dating and about entering marriage, and is that a bad thing? People will always have difficulty finding the right person who is faithful, attractive, AND loves them back.
        “So what do we do about it?” Is not necessarily “How do we get more people married?” But, “How do we spiritually develop and nurture the single adult Catholics among us, pointing them to God, valuing their lives and making them and their works feel valued and loved, honored and respected for staying strong and living an exemplary life?”

  17. Several years ago, my wife and I were at my second cousin’s high school graduation party and had a short conversation with one his friends, who also graduated that year from an all-girls diocesan school. She was a sweet, intelligent, pretty kid who cheerfully told us she was headed off to Smith College in the fall. Without having specific knowledge of the place, I immediately felt my gut recoil. I have since discovered that the truth apparently is even worse than I suspected. Not just a standard Marxist, feminist hothouse, it has a reputation for being a bastion of lesbianism.

    What on earth were the parents, teachers and guidance counselors who helped this girl gain admittance to such a hellhole thinking? Ah, there’s the prestige and the academic reputation to consider. She’ll be able to write her own ticket with that degree! If you want an example of how not to prepare and encourage a young person for marriage (or, for that matter, preserve her morals and sanity), I offer this one, which, sadly, is not that unusual.

    • From etymonline:

      prestigious (adj.)
      1540s, “practicing illusion or magic, juggling; deluding, deceptive,” from Latin praestigious “full of tricks,” from praestigiae “juggler’s tricks,” probably altered by dissimilation from praestrigiae, from praestringere “to blind, blindfold, dazzle,” from prae “before” (see pre-) + stringere “to tie or bind” (see strain (v.)). Derogatory until 19c., marked as obsolete in Century Dictionary (1895); the positive meaning “having dazzling influence” is attested from 1913, from prestige. Related: Prestigiously; prestigiousness.

  18. Well, now I have read the entire article and the comments too. The section (and comments) on dating bear reflection. Myself, when I read the word dating today, I put quotation marks, either physical or mental, around it. Overall, I’ll go with the reflections of LJ, Jan. 14. I’ll read the follow-up article with those reflections in mind.

  19. Then there is this: is the testosterone level of each succeeding generation of American males in fact declining, as some suggest?

  20. The tortured nature of this article exemplifies why, perhaps, so many people might be running the other way rather than getting married. My parents encouraged both my sister and me (I’m male) to go to school, find something we love to do, make friends and enjoy life. Along the way, we met our spouses (both in our ripe “old” mid 30s), married and each now have two kids. We never worried about “intentionality,” being alone, not having children, not finding someone to marry, working too much, working too little, etc, etc. Do I regret not having been married at 22? 25? 30? Hell, no. And if I were still single today the odds are overwhelming I would be happy and living my life without guilt and fear. People live longer and healthier lives these days, care more about quality of relationships than appearances and have more opportunities to be independent and self sufficient. Of my closest friends (male and female, some still single, some married and some divorced) I do not know of a single one who would pick either a dominant or dependent role over an inter-dependent one of two well adjusted individuals. Become the person you would want for a spouse and go from there. Don’t get caught up in some 1950s desperation for bland domesticity. It’s stifling.

    • Society may have changed & lifespans are longer, but our reproductive systems basically remain the same & fertility levels begin a steady decline into our 30’s.
      So having a family isn’t a sure thing when women marry later in life. We can take fertility for granted but an entire industry has sprung up around that.

      • So what? Maybe some couples will adopt, others will not have kids. Not exactly unheard of in any generation. The point is I don’t think God wants us torturing ourselves to “find” a spouse and hurry up and make babies. Love, marriage and children are best enjoyed when they are spontaneous and not the result of some forced march to get things done.

        • I agree with John’s point of view. Some may call this “late” to find your spouse in your thirties; but others will wisely consider this lucky to have found someone they love who loves them back!
          We as Catholics do not have a “mission” to get married, thank God, nor are we all born entitled to a [good] spouse! The spouse is “Late” only if you feel tortured at not having any success finding your true love and do not recognize the supreme workings of God in all these matters. The worse tragedy is rushing into marriage because of a self- or society-imposed deadline, and then passing the sorrows onto your young-borne children. CHECK IN WITH GOD, people.
          (That person who mystically fits the entire filter Rachel described so aptly: am I alone among Catholics for calling this person your “true love”? That would be so sad!!).

    • Thank you for reading commenting, John. I think some of your remarks will be partially addressed at the end of part 2. Marriage is a sacrament given by God to help us grow and bring us toward Him. If God leads some individuals to marry in their 30s and they have better relationships as a result, that’s wonderful! But wouldn’t it be great if more people were truly ready to have that kind of awesome marriage by age 25? It’s okay if some people choose to marry later because God is calling them to do other things in the meantime, but in my opinion, it’s not good for problems in our society to be the things that prevent a marriage.

      • I honestly see no great benefit to being married by 25. If it happens organically and works for a couple, great. But marrying in your 30s, 40s, 50s or even later is no great tragedy. My main point is, focus on being a good person and be open to whatever God has in store. There is no need to feel tortured for not “finding” a spouse “early enough” or having children by a certain date. Relationships, marriage and children should start out spontaneously and joyously, not as some arduous forced journey to “hurry up and get going.” The Holy Spirit guides us in peace, not with fear, anxiety and angst.

  21. I wonder about the people who felt that someone should have told them when they were ready for marriage! Seems silly! Before fornication was normalized, when young men started being attracted to young women, and realized they would have to marry before intercourse, and that most families would not let their daughters marry a man who couldn’t support a family, then they realized they had to prepare themselves to be husbands. They knew they couldn’t get a nice girls to be intimate with them before marriage, when the girls realized that they would bear a burden of shame and a ruined reputation if they got pregnant. The boys were motivated to learn how to make a living so they could marry. If young men are waiting to look for a wife, then perhaps they are taking advantage of the immoral options that are normal in our society, and the urge to marry is being diverted into immoral acts.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Mrs. Sullivan. I am sure you’re right about a large number of people, but I do know of others who find girls attractive and want to be married and strive not to sin in the sexual realm, but still don’t know how to take steps toward marriage, or simply fear starting the process. If all you ever hear is “wait,” and how difficult marriage is and lofty things about it being a reflection of Christ and the Church, etc., you don’t know what to do. We also need to hear, “Go find a girl and ask her out to dinner.”

      That said, the flip side of your excellent comment is worth noting too. If a man doesn’t know how to get from attraction to marriage, he may become increasingly frustrated and tempted to commit those sins.

  22. I’m 39 years old. Married at 26. We have two wonderful children. I was lucky as a millennial to meet my future spouse before online dating really kicked in. I feel for younger people today (especially Catholics) trying to navigate with the bizarre dating practices that have taken hold.

    Just want to make one comment about this. You don’t stop dating when you get married. It continues to be something you have to work at. Especially after you have children. My husband and I go on dates the same way we have for over 15 years. We eat and then we walk. Long walks. We talk. We listen. I wish I could go back 15 years ago and listen in on what we talked about on our long walks then. I only have vague memories of those conversations.

    Dating doesn’t have to be complicated and it shouldn’t be in my opinion. There doesn’t need to be flowers and wine (although sometimes that’s nice). You just need to listen to each other. You’ll know soon enough if it will lead to marriage.

  23. I didn’t see the most common reason I’ve both known and observed: economics. Marriage is many things, but the financial implications are huge and should never be ignored or dismissed. In today’s economy, the ability to find employment that pays enough for both marriage and children is much more difficult than it was decades ago. Part of this is basic employment for blue-collar trade-skill jobs like manufacturing and electronics/cyber, more things that need a high school plus apprenticeship or certification. Those either don’t exist or don’t pay enough or don’t have benefits like healthcare that would cover spouse and children. For instance, I didn’t have dental care for 15 years starting in my teens, and healthcare only when I was in school, on student plans. Some of it are the costs incurred to get the education for white-collar jobs. I’ve known people in their late 20s, very smart, driven, talented, and loving people, who are nearly $200K in debt from college degrees. They are working at decent to good jobs, but there is no house, spouse, or kids in their near future with that mountain of debt.

    We’ve spent decades destroying low-education jobs, making college both vital and hugely expensive, and failed to make healthcare affordable or even available for young kids who might want to marry.

    We as a nation have made the financial side of marriage and family out of reach for significant swathes of young people.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting! Agreed, as other commenters have mentioned, finances and economics are undoubtedly a huge factor too. I didn’t focus on it here, because it doesn’t just impact Catholics, but I think it’s well worth exploring more in the future.

      • Economics affects everyone, and from what I’ve seen it’s reasons 1, 2, and 3 why people either get married super late, don’t get married, or marry early but wait till late 30s to have kids.

        I actually have a beef with conservative Catholics about this. They made a deal with the devil economically over contraception and abortion. But the GOP has been siding against living wage, affordable healthcare, equal pay, workers’ rights, collective bargaining, regulations protecting workers, etc, over the morality issues. Literally working against themselves. Name one conservative politician that is in favor of living wage, affordable childcare for working parents, free prenatal care for poor mothers, etc. That’s all condemned as socialism but is seriously affecting how young Americans today are dealing with supporting themselves at all, much less marrying and having children.

        • Simple Horn,
          If you look at statistics from nations where all sorts of social welfare programs, state sponsored child care, socialized medicine, extended maternity leave, etc. are provided, they’re not marrying or having children much either.
          The only populations who are going against that trend are people of traditional faith communities like the Amish, Hasidic Jews, Traditional Catholics, etc.

  24. Comment on a comment: Roseanne T. Sullivan above – last sentence – Congratulations, Roseanne. I think you’ve identified the elephant in the room.

  25. The comments tend to be excellent on the subject. Ideally, love should be the compelling reason for marriage. If both parties love God and wish to serve Him, this is a very good foundation. To love and want to stay with the partner is vital and it can often be hard work, yet very rewarding.

    Marrying for money, status or what a person gets out of the marriage may not be the best approach. Giving of oneself, desiring to uphold the other makes for a strong marriage. The physical aspect of marriage is another boon from the Lord and should be nurtured. To find ones soulmate within the church is a blessing. For God to join a couple and the couple to help one another aids beyond measure.

    Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honour among all ….

    Ephesians 5:33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

    Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

    1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

    Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord.

    Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

  26. I am just now seeing this article. No one writes on this topic any more. This is easily the first such article in five years. I’ve commented until my fingers turn blue that the underlying problem for all of the author’s points is that parishes have become cold corporate un-social places that teach “discernment of vocation” in a most unfortunate way.

    The Catholic marriage rate is practically zero. We all know that. And I see no proof that parishes or dioceses care about this at all. Oh sure, we hire and pay careerists to be “Directors of Marriage Prep” (a task that priests used to handle for themselves quickly and efficiently), but how many clients do they have for their months-long ordeal? Young people get whatever pressures they are taught, but do we provide any social opportunities for them to learn how to approach each other and learn how to interact? It’s been decades since I’ve seen a parish sports league or a Friday night dance or a weekend carnival for basic social interaction among singles of all ages.

    The author puts too much emphasis on being “devout”. Maybe she’s a in a camp that I would never visit. Starting in the early 1990’s, I wrapped up my education, which I took so seriously that I barely had time to sleep, much less date. I attended mass every week, and there were no social activities way back then, and my entire generation was leaving the Church. It’s on me for not being attentive enough to notice that and to foresee the consequences. Starting at about age 28, I would have gladly befriended any mass-going single Catholic lady that crossed my path. But none ever did. Never ever. Game over. I’ll be 60 before the decade is over.

    The parish social environment has been dire for a long long time. Asking for activities and volunteering to organize them has been a non-starter for many years. I fear that nothing will change until yet another “ministry” will be pushed down from above, and it will fail just like all the other ministries do.

    • To echo Larry’s comment, I was going to Mass every day when I was in my 30’s. Almost no one ever, struck up a converstaion of any sort with me, and no one in Church ever, ever asked if I were single, or might be interested in meeting a daughter, niece, granddaughter, sister, mother, or aunt. (I’d often be sure not to hide my bare ring finger.) I went to Mass almost every day throughout my 40’s and well into my 50’s (until it became more of a stressful burden than anything else) and nothing ever came of that. And if a gentleman can’t meet a good Catholic lady at Mass, where does he go?

      • What you and Mr. Larry describe is a symptom of many Catholic parishes these days. And to be fair it’s something that’s widespread beyond the Catholic Church. Fellowship is a scarce commodity in our society.
        The Mennonites and Amish work hard to provide opportunities for their young people to meet. Pentecostal and Baptist churches do a better job than we do also.
        I wish the diocesan powers that be would visit other churches and figure out how it’s done. One exception to the rule is the Latin Mass community. There’s a shared meal and fellowship opportunity after most Masses, a weekly newsletter, lectures, events for the children, etc.

        • mrscracker, you’ve made this claim elsewhere that “the Latin mass community” is all vibrant and social. I’m humbly going to suggest that your parish is an anomaly. On other forums when this statement is made, it’s quickly shouted down as being untrue in most Latin mass parishes. So just like normal parishes, a very rare few have some social activity but the vast vast majority are dead.

          • Mr. Larry,
            I only have experience with Latin Mass communities in 2 states but both had lots of fellowship opportunities. Perhaps that’s unique to Southern US dioceses. I just don’t know. But joining a group of Catholic people that share the same interests can be starting point to meeting other folks. A TLM community, church choirs, Knights of Columbus, etc. I’m not a charismatic Catholic per say, but they’re very nice people & have get-togethers also.
            Every US diocese & region is different & I just speak from personal experiences.
            Statistics do demonstrate that the Amish are growing exponentially so that suggests they’re doing something right for their young people. I think traditional Mennonites are doing well demographically also. And Hasidic Jews. In fact, one of the highest birthrates in the entire world is in a New Jersey county that has a large Hasidic population.

        • These communities, the Hasidic Jews, the Amish, even the Baptists and Pentecostals, put a staggering amount of pressure on young people to marry, and marry young, (remember “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” How Toula was a failure at 30 for not being married yet?)
          We Catholics, on the other hand, have this tremendous tradition of value on the virginal single state, offered to God in service to our neighbor and Church, with or without public consecration, that they simply do not have. It is Biblical, and it is one of the gifts of being Catholic. Our communities should value this!! Value each other no matter their state in life!
          How true is it, that your parish single people over age 50 or 60 are invisible to you? Do they matter? YES! Their faithful prayers and sacrifices are SANCTIFYING YOUR FAMILIES. Their works of mercy are sustaining their parents, friends, service professions, neighborhoods, etc. How often are their sorrows mentioned in the general intercessions, while we pray for married people and families and children? What pastors are thinking of their pastoral spiritual needs? I’m asking for many friends!
          Arranged marriages may work for some, but in reality, happy marriages stay happy also when the chemistry and spark that initiated a relationship remains between two people and they fight for that too! And that is, yes, those poor, derided “feelings” of love. I tell you, young Catholics are being done a disservice today, being told love is not feelings, and thinking they ought to marry without regard to those feelings, in order just to get married. If God wills, we will find a partner in love. If not, I’m not willing to put the idol of marriage above someone else’s happiness, willing myself to love someone I don’t have feelings for, who deserves to be completely loved.

          • Z, I think we put way too much emphasis on romantic feelings. Other cultures put more emphasis on the family which can last a whole lot longer.
            Marriage based upon romantic love is a fairly recent thing & in places like India it’s still not the norm.
            I’ve only spent a very limited amount of time around the Amish but a great deal of time with conservative Mennonites. No pressure is exerted on couples to marry but every opportunity is given for young people to meet each other through social & charitable activities. Catholic parishes could learn something from that.

      • I cannot tell you how many times over the past several years I have seen in the “com boxes” on various news or blog sites about Catholics not talking to each other or being friendly and welcoming to strangers, and the reason given is always “We are here to be with Jesus!”
        .
        Having said that, one parish we did attend many years ago was quite noisy. After Mass, the place would explode in chattering and talking. Not possible to pray silently afterwards. Even that parish has dropped in numbers as the young abandon the faith and the aged die.
        .
        I met my husband through friends almost 30 years ago. We are the only one of two couples in that friend group (about 14 people) that ever got married.

      • Mass is not the place for chitchat and introductions. I can recall a few times over the years, noticing a seemingly single lady and wondering if I should approach her, only to discover the next week that she returned with husband and children. I’m glad I didn’t get a reputation as “that guy who hits on single women in the parking lot”.
        But the fact remains that if you want to meet people that hike, you join a hiking club. People that read books, you join a book club. But church is definitely not the place to meet other Catholics socially. And in my adult experience, never has been.
        In my childhood, parishes held socials. A single man might volunteer all day along side an older couple, who at the end of the day might offer an introduction to their neighbor’s co-worker’s niece who attended the parish a few towns away. Or a single woman might be working with children on the playground, demonstrating qualities that might attract a man. Those are the opportunities that I speak of, and they are all long gone.
        I can’t relate at all to the author’s “anonymous survey of 300 self-identified practicing Catholics ages 18-39”, many of whom were evaluating religious life. One because I’m too old, and two because when I was that age I didn’t know that many other Catholics of the same age, and three because I’ve never known anyone that wavered in “discernment” of becoming a priest or nun. But I applaud her effort anyway, and I would be eager to participate in follow-on discussions. It is way past time to raise the visibility of this critical problem.

  27. Comment on comment again – SimpleHorn above – Why doesn’t our society (I’m Canadian) value and support education in trades/hands-on work? Why do we import people from other countries instead of creating opportunities for our own children? (Oops. What children?)

    • I applaud the author for participating. Many of these sites take articles from remote authors who don’t answer questions at all. She seems to have a real personal interest in the topic, and I hope that evolves into something of value.

    • I’m completely with Larry on this one. Ms. Hoover’s active exchange with the commenting community shows that she cares a great deal about the subject of her writing and how it’s being received. This is exactly the level of care I would hope for from someone who writes an insightful, well researched piece on a matter that is now a full-blown crisis within the Church. Her comments add value to her already-excellent article, and I hope her engagement with commenters continues in the future.

  28. Another possible reason for delayed marrying: diocesan requirements.
    My oldest son (20) is dating a wonderful lady and they plan to marry. But they are both sophomores in college, and she would like to finish her degree before starting a family. And he wants the degree to support the family.

    Additionally, he’s at college in one town, she in another. So they can’t go ahead and do the marriage prep so that they can marry right after college.

    So – into this situation we have diocesan and parish requirements. Parish – must be there a year before asking. Diocese – 9 months preparation time. So unless they can get in at the parish one of them grew up at under the year thing, and hope it doesn’t have to be both registered there, too, that’s going to add almost 2 years after college.

    I’m not saying we should cheapen the marriage prep time (although I don’t think I got anything out of mine 23 years ago, except thankfully our diocese required NFP classes), but try to accommodate young adults who aren’t in the same geographical location so that they can marry earlier.

    • Becky, have one of them register at the parish they are at now to establish themselves with the parish, and then begin prep when they get engaged before graduating. Even college parishes (Newman or otherwise) should be able to handle their prep. That parish will give permission and forward everything to the parish that does the sacrament. The registered parish’s diocese dictates the requirements for prep, not the diocese where the ceremony will happen. So their current diocese(s) may have shorter length requirements. We handle these situations (prep done elsewhere or one of the engaged couple living in another city/state) in our parish commonly.

  29. A Catholic (someone who believes in the teaching of the Church) searches for a like-minded Catholic and marries. Circumstances of life too often reveal that he “like-minded” Catholic misrepresented him/herself and doesn’t really believe in the teaching of the Catholic Church. Too late to marry someone who believes as you do. There are no “conservative” or “liberal” Catholics. Those who believe in the teaching of the Catholic Church are Catholic; those who don’t believe in the teaching of the Catholic Church are not Catholic. They are, instead, “trans” Catholics who identify as what they are not.

  30. This is a very comprehensive list of reasons and it exposes many of the difficulties young people face. However, it strikes me that one important component for dating is under considered. The author touches on it in her conclusion – “enjoy a date”. Like travel, dating is exciting and enjoyable. This was the primary reason why I would ask a young lady on a date – it was an opportunity to do something fun, like go out to dinner, and get to know the person better. There was also an element of trepidation: I had to ask her out and face the possibility of being rejected. It was part of growing up and being a man. The desire to go out on a date with a particularly attractive woman would overcome the fear of rejection.

    I bring up this point because I believe most young males are not being brought up to become men. The culture – Hollywood, social media, etc. – have been emasculating men for decades. Is it any wonder that Harry Styles dressing as a woman is now considered sexy and manly? Furthermore, as described in his book “Cheap Sex” by Dr. Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas, many young men would prefer to watch porn than to be on a date with a live woman. In essence, men don’t have to date for enjoyment. There are many other alternatives.

    Like most young men growing up many decades ago, I didn’t have to be told how to date; I figured it out by talking to my peers, watching movies, etc. However, I do believe the author when she states many people don’t know what to do on a date. This was confirmed by the “Dating Project” documentary. Once again, I attribute this to the “virtual” opportunities of entertainment, which require little or no effort as the main culprit. Furthermore, dating apps appears to the primary way most young people meet to go out on a date. Once again, very easy and non-threatening, which encourages young males to remain boys instead of men.

    Thanks for a wonderful, yet depressing article.

    • I also grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s knowing how to date. But I devoted my twenties to my education, and by the grace of God somehow avoided the hook-up culture that almost all my peers fell into. As I wrote earlier, I was open to meeting and dating single Catholic women starting in about 1993. I didn’t date non-Catholics seriously, because I wanted to avoid an argument every weekend about whether to go to mass. But since parishes had died socially by then, my fate was sealed. Maybe I’m the only 50-something single Catholic man that still attends mass, but I really doubt that.

      I can accept that the younger generations have other issues to deal with, but I refuse to stand on the soapbox and accuse them of not being “men”.

      • Mr. Larry, I think the point was more that young men in our culture are not maturing as they did in the past. And really that applies to young women today also. People are remaining virtual adolescents into their 30’s. In my parents’ day, 30 was the beginning of middle age.

      • “Enjoy a date”? A problem with dating for at least 25 years, since junior high, the normal time of the start of dating in past eras, is the extreme sexualization of our peers. A faithful Catholic girl or boy waded into these waters with trepidation, if at all! That cute guy or girl in homeroom? What was fun for us would be laughed at by them. This was a swamp difficult to even wade in. You had morals, you stood out, and it cost you. School dances which used to be such fun, were a time of mortification instead because of the music and dancing style. They made wallflowers out of exuberant kids! And Larry said elsewhere, parish socialization was dead. These peers I’m talking about were *members of your parish!* So, dating started late, if ever.
        My first date, even though I was considered beautiful, happened at 27, with a guy I had no interest in. I wouldn’t have known what to do if I had gotten asked out by someone I liked, never having learned how to manage my emotions of wonder and happiness that someone I liked asked me out, but it was supposed to be for fun and getting to know each other.
        Now, you’re expected to get excited and marry someone just “because [he or she] goes to church”?
        I’m sad, but it does bring you closer to God and that’s the point of being Catholic.

  31. Wanted to comment on this line in the article: “When, if ever, is it acceptable to use Natural Family Planning to avoid pregnancy?” – NFP is always, always a church accepted practice for both achieving and avoiding pregnancy. Thus, the rhetorical question of “when, if ever” is not presented correctly – it is always acceptable. The question is more “am I / we as a couple called to try to conceive at this time?” It’s that openness to life question that should dominate. Without being open, at least when no serious situations exist for deeming it appropriate to avoid pregnancy, NFP can be used as simply another version of a non-parenting mindset that contracepting allows, although again NFP is church approved and doesn’t subject couples to chemicals and other risk factors from various contraceptives. But openness/willingness to cooperate with what God’s potential plans for you/your family is a big key.

    Thus, the question could be “When, if ever, is contracepting acceptable?” As a traditional or conservative Catholic, “never” comes to mind, but there are likely certain rare circumstances that might come into play that make it confusing or unclear – that’s where obtaining the insights of a quality priest or spiritual director would be of high value. However, there is a serious issues with those who’d say “follow your conscience” – this is a cop-out and a way for people to feel “justified” for whatever they decide to do. “Follow the Catechism” (of the Catholic Church) would be much better advice in all situations, not just for this example related to pregnancy.

    Thanks for your research and writing this article on the important topic of marriage.

  32. This can always be the expected result when a church becomes engrossed in attendance to itself and its own “needs” and desires rather than engagement in singular attendance to God. The former can be identified simply as selfishness while the latter can only be the product of the personal and institutional embrace of the selfless disposition of Christ with respect to our Father and to us, which is the true disposition of Heaven. It has escaped the hierarchy of Catholic Church to a greater and greater degree for more than half a century now that it has chosen an existence that is irrelevant to the true mission imparted by its founder which is simply promoting and imparting the genuine means to each individual and exercising within itself, a sustained communion with God which can be identified by the incessant an selfless attendance to the Person, needs, and desires of God. This was and continues to be the destiny of every single Catholic. It is a coniction an a participation in the life of our Savior which requires a conviction and an expectation which are now nearly non existent in the life of the Catholic Church. They are the conviction of the consummately near and intimate proximity of our God to each of us and and expectation that His all consuming desire to become bound inexorably to us as if we can wholly possess one another, is entirely available to each of us. It was for establishment of this conviction and expectation that the Catholic Church was founded and for lack of these that in itself it imparts so little of the life of Heaven to its faithful and at times that of Satan. Our Church of today can often be more of an impediment to true sanctity than an enabler of it. It is truly a shame that Catholics are now so easily deceived in the belief that their religion is somehow, by virtue of its claims to have an association with God, insulated from the rank selfishness in mankind it purports to remedy. In fact it is in the practice of our faith that can be found what are rightly recognized by those outside of Catholicism, but nearly always hidden from us, to be the worst displays of personal and institutional selfishness on earth. Due to a truly diabolical deception more than 50 years in its establishment, few Catholics including its clergy and hierarchy, can now imagine that our embrace of a consummately self serving disposition now extends even, and maybe even especially, to the pursuit of our so-called “spiritual welfare”. If that welfare has been seen to, it has only been because it is a concern of God and not our own. It is one that can only be attended in the context of a selfless and destitute surrender to God and within the embrace of our union with Him rather than being a pursuit to which we attend ourselves. Our mission is to attend to God and in that selfless pursuit, our needs are attended by Him as He always intended they should be. The genuine exercise of personal and therefore institutional Catholicism is never self concerned but is concerned only with attendance to the Person, needs, and desires of God. In essence it is the taking upon ourselves here on earth the very state with respect to God in which we are destined to exist for eternity in Heaven. It was and is this result that Jesus intended to establish in the founding of our Church and our divergence from its one true mission imparts, instead of the life of Christ and Heaven, the same means of death one can encounter literally anywhere else in the world. A Church that expects the true practice of its faith can hardly hope to enable that result by abandoning the constructs of its founding and here we have the only one of the result so doing just that. Christ did not impart the means to us of what we could accomplish by our own efforts but of what we could never attain except as a result of His restoration of the possibility of our lives being bound inexorably to our Father through incessant participation in His.

    • Yes. I think what you are saying is, when did marriage ever become the reason for the Christian’s existence, that we should be so downcast if it doesn’t occur? Not in Christ’s Eyes for sure.

      Salvation is the reason for our existence, to know, love, and serve Him with all our hearts, minds and strength, and God’s Will to be done in whatever life circumstances He puts us in or whatever path we are inspired to choose or not choose. The Church personnel has lost sight of Christ’s mission: our Salvation and Eternal Life.

      I’m not worried anymore about what anyone says about me! God is my judge!

  33. Thanks to CWR and Ms. Rachel Hoover for this article. Rachel, the filter! Yes! You have nailed it exactly! And someone’s comment on the “overthinking society.” And another’s, on the lesser economic need for marriage. But, while third wave radical feminism was absolutely a catastrophe for us all, blaming it all on the wimmin just doesn’t fly, guys.

    Yes, the single living of a near majority of *devout* Catholic adults of child-bearing age— and please include Catholics in their early-mid 40s in this demographic because some of them have not “lost hope” of marrying yet, but definitely check every box Ms. Hoover cited— is a significant issue to be addressed. Not only by people interested in demographics, but it should be significant to anyone involved in pastoral, spiritual care. The single adult devout Catholic has unique spiritual needs that were NOT addressed by the Jason Evert pamphlets. (“How to Date…”) And the Catholic online dating sites seem to depend upon the position that marriage is so important to your happiness that you should marry anyone who matches your values

    In reality, there is practically NO spiritual resource in the treasury of the Church which addresses the single adult not married/not consecrated, dating or not, and his or her spiritual needs. Because either this group did not exist, or was highly discouraged, or was, well, marginalized. “Single Life is not a vocation” — translates to, your life stinks and isn’t valid for sanctity. How wrong this is!!!

    How do we deal with friendships with other adults of the same age who are “taken”? How do we deal with the pain of social ostracization? How do we deal with caring for/respecting/obeying parents who do not recognize our autonomy? What about the vast spiritual wealth we gain in denying ourselves for the sake of others’ needs, like parents, or siblings whatever their state, nieces/nephews, godchildren or anyone else God has placed in our path instead? How much comfort that consideration could give to souls if priests and others in spiritual care recognized these varied experiences and tuned into them spiritually?

    I look at the sadness of men and women alone in their 60s, who cared for ailing parents their entire lives, and see their hiddenness in the parishes, and I know God holds them very dear. As well, those whose marriages deserted them long ago. The Last shall be first.

    But even we, devout Catholics, have lost the supernatural, transcendent long-view of these things in our quest to attain the best of “both worlds”!

    So, how about, yes, I’m sad that I can’t marry the one I’m attracted to and care about…it’s a soul-level grief that sometimes nearly killed me… (and this soul-level grief of the unmarried is never touched by our spiritual leaders, but that’s another story)… but I’m happy that I’m free to love with God’s love everyone who comes into my path. It’s brought me closer to my Lord and Savior and Perfect Lover. The whole point of our existence is to know, love and serve Him, even though this undermines the business model of Catholic dating sites.

    So, teach us again, how to reap the treasures of graces from any and all circumstances of our lives! Teach us what it means to love our Tremendous Lover and feel the consolation of His Love!

  34. I can relate the discernment part of the article. It felt stuck in a perpetual discernment “holding pattern.” This was exacerbated by the plentiful, modern distractions that undermined meaningful and actual discernment. Thankfully, through consistent prayer and a lot of help via therapy with a Catholic therapist, I was able to work through those things that were perpetuating my fear of “choosing the wrong vocation,” and actually make a decision. The fear of choosing the wrong vocation can paralyze people. I had to grow my trust in God and finally make a decision. Yea, I am 32 and my wife (married three months ago) is 40. This is considered “late” but we both needed to go through what we did to be open to marriage. I am so glad I did not let fear dictate my life. I am working towards a Counseling degree to help my future clients navigate exactly this kind thing (among other things a mental health professional does)

  35. A last thought. There appears to be nothing of a social nature offered to Catholic singles between the ages of 25 and 45. A Catholic Singles Travel Group might be an idea. These could be trips to the usual travel sites with a few Pilgrimage stops included. For instance, a trip to Paris with a stop at Notre Dame Cathedral and some other local religious sites. Or, a trip to the Holy Land. Just not at quite the break-neck pace as the typical ” if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium” tours. I am a widow NOT in search of a new husband, but recently took a trip with my parish . I felt safe as a single woman with the group of mostly married couples, and we spanned all ages, mostly middle age to upper. I did come out of the trip with a new set of friends!! I think if singles had a chance to get to know each other on a trip over the course of 10 days or so, it might be an opportunity for connections to be made. On our trip a priest was with us, and we had daily Mass in beautiful local churches of historic significance, which is another way to measure the genuine religious commitment of the participants. Just a thought. In fact, several local parishes could combine to organize and draw on a larger body of Catholic Singles for a trip.

    • Starting in the 1980’s, parishes starting segregating young people away from the general parish community, with organizations like Life Teen, Focus, and then young adult ministries. They’ve lost the natural desire of past generations to grow up and become contributing adult members of the Church. Separating the young by some arbitrary age limit (45 is acceptable but 47 is not?) prevents them from interacting with other adults who can perhaps provide introductions to people that they would never meet inside their cocoon. And as for your idea of age-segregated travel, it would be a flop due to lack of time, lack of interest and lack of affordablility. Holy Land trips are full of retirees for obvious reasons.

      • Larry, you raise some very good points on this topic. To the one regarding “segregated” groups of the kinds you identify, the objective of any such group should be twofold: Foster engagement at the group level as a starting point, with the ultimate focus on incorporating the individuals and the groups’ practices into the larger parish community. If the group doesn’t encourage this integration, it’s not properly practicing its ministry.

        The question of an age “limitation” for something like a pilgrimage is also a sticky one. You’re right, a hard age cutoff should be avoided, but indicating that the event is geared toward a loosely-defined age demographic can still be welcoming at the same time it generates focused attention for a smaller group within the larger community. Again, to your point, one of the guiding objectives of any such group is that the group’s activities are ordered toward integration with the larger community.

        Regarding a pilgrimage, you called out time, cost and lack of interest as obstacles, and those are real. I’m thinking if a group started with something smaller, and generated some buzz and desire for more, over time you could build up to something more ambitious, along the lines of what LJ suggests.

        • Several years ago, our former parish priest organized a pilgrimage to our archdiocese cathedral, an historic convent & museum, & a shrine. There were breakfast & dinner stops along the way. We have a little bitty rural parish & Father managed to put that all together. Truthfully, I think we borrowed some folks from a neighboring parish to fill the bus but still if we could that larger parishes shouldn’t have any trouble.
          People of all ages came on the Saturday bus trip. I hear what Mr. Larry is saying. It’s weird how everything seems to have become segregated by age groups.
          My son is friends with a wise Irish priest who advised him that when he gets older not to just spend time with people his own age. I think that’s good advice in general.

    • LJ, this is an excellent suggestion. I could see this as something that would benefit young people a great deal. I had a very similar pilgrimage experience in my late 20s that indirectly led to me finding my now-wife of 27 years.

      Thing is, there are two key limitations, and I’m sure you’ve already guessed them: Time and cost. I was fortunate that neither was a disqualifier for me at the time, but my wife and I haven’t been able to go on a pilgrimage since due to one or the other of these limitations. For those for whom neither is an obstacle, again, your suggestion is an excellent one. If that’s not possible, perhaps something along the lines of a “local” pilgrimage – say, a Sunday afternoon guided tour of a nearby cathedral, basilica or shrine with focused time for prayer, adoration and confession, with a group dinner to follow – would be of similar value.

      • I’m going to say, Forget “Singles Trips” which as you guys said, only attract retirees with the time and the money (and many run away from the appearance of being a “desperate single”). What about reviving all-ages dances at parishes?? Great music is such fun, everyone enjoys watching a great dancer, if everyone is on their feet. Dances do not need to be ritzy $55 a plate fundraiser dinners. They could be seasonal events of hours-d’oevres, and GREAT MUSIC! It requires consistency to build up.
        You don’t know how kids today suffer from lack of great music, and they really appreciate the classics from the 60s-80s dance music! And someone in the parish needs to take charge of the DJing and playlist, because there seems to be a conspiracy among DJs and radio stations to play the same tired 300 songs over and over for the last 30 years.
        The problem to overcome here, is too many people being old farts thinking they have no more energy to move. And they give in to that. AND, too many men reject dancing. Don’t leave it to the kids. Get Moving!! God bless!

        • Red Shoes, I’ve tried to get activities going in my area parishes. Oh, how I have tried! But Covid notwithstanding, and everyone-involved-must-take-safe-environment-training notwithstanding, the parish staff have flat out said things like “we don’t do social activities any more”. The only explanation I can come up with, is that until the 1980’s the suburbs of Phoenix were small farm towns with small rural parishes with small parish halls and facilities. But now they are mega-parishes with thousands of registered families and multiple church buildings but still the one small parish hall built in the 1950’s, and they would not know what to do if 5000 people showed up for a social event. So they won’t even try. It’s a nut that I don’t know how to crack.

          • Hmm. I see. I seriously doubt 5000 people would show up to any Catholic parish function, but they are run by their own bureaucrats who don’t actually want what you or I want.
            To be honest, I have completely given up on mainstream Roman rite parishes. Period. Since the Pandemic and the priests and bishops exposed their actual lack of supernatural faith de facto by allowing the Sacraments to be deemed “non-essential.” And most of the parishioners have absolutely no faith-depth themselves likewise; many running things are simply pretentious human beings.
            I am fortunate enough to have taken up with the converts’ Ordinariate parish, with an Eastern rite parish, and a TLM parish, and there are several Eastern Catholic rite parishes in my area, all under non-mainstream non-Roman bishops, which other devout but burned-out faithful have likewise gravitated to, and found a real home in! And these parishes are small, and welcome new blood and fresh ideas and energy! And they are FAITHFUL. I hope you are similarly geographically blessed, and will reach out to these. I know there are many over-50 but still-youthful single Catholics faithfully active in these parishes who welcome each other maybe not as dates but as friends who can support each other in the difficulties of living the single Catholic adult life faithful to God.

      • Well, glad to see my comment on a young catholic travel group sparked so much discussion!! Let me clarify a few points. One, I have no problem with a travel group starting relatively local, as with a bus trip a few hours away Or a local weekend trip. It would be a good and easy trial balloon to measure response. Second, I dont have any trouble personally with hanging with “older” people. I am “older” now myself, but for much of my adult life many of my best friends have been older than me. Some, well older. HOWEVER, the reason for this group would be to allow YOUNG people to potentially meet other young catholics. I can guarantee no 25 year old young woman is interested in meeting a 60 year-old man, no matter how nice he may be. They would have little to nothing in common. In fact, knowing the trip would be “open to all” would be the primary reason you would then guarantee NO young people would bother to attend.

        Let me cite an example. I was widowed relatively young, at age 47, and my husband did not die of natural causes. All of the church bereavement groups were naturally geared to ( mostly) women in their 70’s and 80’s who had lost a spouse to old age. Such a group would not have helped me , in spite of the fact that I have many older friends.We would have had nothing in common ( I was still raising children!) nor could we relate to each others experience. There most certainly IS a time to divide groups by age. If the object here is to help young catholic people meet each other, it makes no sense to throw the trip open to 70 year olds. As I say, this is just a suggestion.

        • To the single people reading this I do recommend checking out the National Catholic Singles Conference. I have found that a good way to make some Catholic friends and there are a few people who have organized events and even some trips. I do recall Catholic Match and Ave Maria Singles (I have heard Ave Maria Singles is going through a reorganization) having some pilgrimages, trips, gatherings, and even some retreats. Since the Wuhan Devil I don’t know if Catholic Match is still doing regional gatherings or pilgrimages.

          Here’s a worthwhile perspective: Anastasia Northrup who helps with the National Catholic Singles Conference had a really good article titled “the Seven C’s” that give a perspective of why are we single? This article was written several years ago and it can be found online through the Catholic Match Institute.

          Hope this post is worthwhile.

          • That conference was supposedly held in my home city of Phoenix awhile back. I never heard about it, none of the parishes I attend mentioned it at all, and I’ve never heard anyone local mention that they, or anyone they know, attended it. So you’ll excuse me if I don’t take it very seriously.

  36. Rachel, I really appreciated both of your articles on this topic. I can relate particularly to the “dysfunctional discernment” obstacle, but really all four in some ways. I am currently working more on myself but hoping to start dating again soon. I don’t look forward to “online dating” but I am willing to give it a try. Be assured of my prayers for you and that your writing is a blessing for many young (and not so young) adults who are looking for a future spouse.

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