If you’re single, or have a family member or friend who may be leading a single lifestyle, please share this article with them and refer them to CatholicMatch.com for additional resources.  Today's article was written by Stephanie Weinert of CatholicMatch.com.

I spent this past New Years Eve in Orlando, Florida. It was a New Years Eve I won’t soon forget – not only because I spent it with 4,000 other Catholic young adults at the Marriott World Convention Center (we were all gathered for the FOCUS National Conference: www.focusconference.org), but also because of the discussion and controversy the question in this article’s title sparked at the event.

One of the talks I presented at FOCUS was called "Don’t Settle." In a nutshell, it was a challenge to my peers to keep their standards high as they searched for a spouse, and to avoid the danger of compromising their standards – which is a natural and frequent byproduct of loneliness, discouragement, and anxiety when time marches on and you are still single and waiting.

I discussed several traps Catholic singles can fall into by lowering their standards while in search of a date. Over the next few months, I hope to discuss some of these fatal traps with my Catholic Match readers.

This month I’d like to tell you about the trap that received the most significant response from my audience at the FOCUS conference. Young adults stood in line for up to three hours after my talk to get a chance to tell me what they thought of my treatment of one simple question. It’s a question that many Catholic singles have asked themselves over the years: "Should I only date someone who is Catholic?"

If we are honest about it, all Catholic singles who take their Faith seriously desire a spouse who can share in, support, and encourage that same faith in Jesus Christ and His Church. It’s as natural as desiring a spouse who also loves to drink coffee in the mornings and who loves dogs as much as you do, or whatever the case may be.

However, I’ve noticed that many "relationships experts" – even those who tell singles to pursue someone with as much in common as possible and who compliments them in many and varying ways – STILL are often afraid to say "it’s best to find someone who shares your faith." After all, it doesn’t sound politically correct or open-minded to say "be picky about the religion issue."

Even worse, are the "relationships experts" who try to use scare tactics on single Catholics regarding the faith question. Many of you may have been told something similar to the following (I know I have!): "You don’t want to be single for the rest of your life, do you??? Then you need to stop being so picky and expand your horizons by dating people who aren’t Catholic!"

Sure it’s easier to find dates who do not share our Faith. We don’t need relatives or relationships experts to tell us that. What we DO need to be encouraged and challenged to do, though, is to not lose sight of what is critically important to each of us in a future spouse.

In my talk at the FOCUS conference, I didn’t mention any statistics or professional research on the marital satisfaction of those couples with a shared faith vs. an interfaith marriage. I didn’t mention the researched effects on children of interfaith vs. same-faith marriages. I didn’t even mention what happens to a couple’s probability of divorce based on whether they share the same religion or not.

I just asked each of the Catholic singles present a simple question: "Is having a Catholic spouse vitally important to YOU?"

Instead of getting caught up in whether or not you can make a mixed-marriage work, whether or not you’ll be a confirmed bachelor or old maid if you don’t expand your dating horizons…be honest with yourself about how deeply a shared faith with your Better Half means to you.

When my husband was young, his oldest sister gave him a piece of advice that Peter says stuck with him through all his single years. She said "when you date someone, ask yourself if you died suddenly and this person was left to raise your young children in your absence, could you die with confidence knowing that your spouse would do everything in her power to ensure that your family would be with you in Heaven someday?"

Peter said that became his dating litmus test, because he realized how deeply he desired a spouse who could share his love for Catholicism with him, but also to pass it on to his children someday.

As for myself, I often thought about things like:

• It would give me a profound sense of loneliness if I sat in a pew every Sunday without my husband there – and it would make me feel even worse if I was taking kids to church every Sunday by myself.
• Even if I married a guy who respected my faith enough to sit in the pew with me on Sunday, it would be really hard to go up and receive the sacraments alone for the rest of my life.
• Would my children be baptized and raised Catholic?
• How would I feel never sharing the sacraments (especially Eucharist and Confession) with my spouse?
• What would it feel like to perhaps never pray together as a couple?
• Would my children feel a pressure to choose one religion over the other when they were older, even if they had been baptized Catholic?

The more I thought about different interfaith scenarios, the more convinced I became that I truly desired to marry a Catholic more than anything else in the world. I realized that a shared Catholic faith was really the bedrock of everything I hoped for in marriage. My desire to only marry a Catholic thus defined my dating choices.

At the FOCUS conference, I challenged my audience to ask themselves the same questions I asked myself, to think about different scenarios down the road in married life, to determine what they truly desired for their future.

After the talk, I was mobbed by young adults who wanted to tell me their personal stories of wrestling with this question. Many of them were the children of interfaith marriages, and wanted to share how their parents made things work (or what didn’t work). Some were irate that I would even bring up this topic, because it’s too personal and too sensitive to talk about with a large audience. Others thanked me profusely for reinforcing their courage to stick to their standards. Most of the singles I talked to, even the ones currently in dating relationships with someone non-Catholic, expressed a deep desire to be mated to someone who shared their Catholic faith.

"I think we’re all just scared that we’ll end up single for the rest of our lives if we remain that picky about the Catholic faith topic" one young man said to me.

He’s right. Many single Catholics are more scared of being alone than feeling potentially lonely in an interfaith marriage. And yes, this is an issue that is extremely personal to each single Catholic in their prospective situations. The "trap" that many singles fall into is being influenced in their decision by other people or other fears, instead of focusing on what YOU really desire, and what GOD desires for you.

I’ll leave you with the same food for thought that I left the single Catholics at the FOCUS conference:

If God your Creator is also your Heavenly Father , and if you feel that HE has placed deep in your heart a desire to be united in the sacrament of marriage with someone who shares your Catholic faith, do you trust Him enough with your future to wait as long as it takes for the right person?

If you do, then you have nothing to worry about.

* * *

"Do not be mismated with unbelievers...For we are the temple of the living God." – St. Paul (2 Corinthians 6:14, 16)

Stephanie Weinert can be reached at stephanie@catholicmatch.com

If you’re single, or have a family member or friend who may be leading a single lifestyle, please share this article with them and refer them to CatholicMatch.com for additional resources.