Romance in the pews

  • April 9, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Spring and a young man’s fancy turns exactly where you think it does, and so does a young woman’s. Anything wrong with that?

Of course not, said Newman Centre pastor Fr. Pat O’Dea.

“Watching a romance unfold before you is very edifying,” said the priest on the campus of the University of Toronto.

The church treasures marriage, honours it as a holy vocation, and you can’t have marriage without courtship, said Catholic Organization for Life and Family executive director Michele Boulva.

“The Catholic Church is perhaps the best place to learn how to meet a serious mate and experience courtship,” Boulva told The Catholic Register in an e-mail.

Proof? Charlie and Clea Min are living proof, along with their newborn son Joseph Nathaniel.

Married 19 months, the couple met in 2002 at the Newman Centre, to the great delight of their pastor O’Dea.

“To watch two people falling in love before your eyes is quite a miracle,” said O’Dea. “I consider it more of a miracle than anything else.”

It was a slow romance that blossomed as the couple sang together in the parish choir.

“We became very close over a year. After that, he pretty much took the initiative,” said Clea.

They were engaged in the fall of 2006 and married a year later.

Charlie is convinced that church was the perfect place to meet his perfect mate.

“It was seeing how strong she was in her own personal faith that attracted me to her,” he said. “Besides the fact that she’s beautiful and has a beautiful voice.”

It’s the legitimate role of parishes to bring young people together, help them foster friendships and even encourage a little romance, said O’Dea. He points to the venerable tradition of Catholic Youth Organization dances.

“They had dances every Sunday night and people met one another and ended up getting married,” he said.

In our own time, World Youth Day has fostered many a vocation to holy matrimony.

“This was one of the ingenious methods of Pope John Paul II when he invented World Youth Day,” said Fr. Thomas Rosica, national director and CEO of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto.

You can’t make it happen, points out Gerrard Calderon of the Office of Catholic Youth in the archdiocese of Toronto.

“I always welcome it,” said the youth group leader. “As long as they’re there first and foremost for their faith, and if it happens that they meet someone as a result of what they do as part of their church life, then that’s even better.”

There are many ways and many places to meet your love, but the church provides a context that can’t be reproduced elsewhere, said University of St. Michael’s College chaplaincy leader Marilyn Elphick.

“There are a lot of students who because of their faith don’t fit in anywhere,” she said. “So their retreats are sometimes a way for them to connect with people who have the same kind of love of the church and faith... Not everybody wants to go to a bar to meet somebody.”

Church as the context for romance isn’t just a social exercise. There’s serious theology behind it, said Dennis Patrick O’Hara, director of the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology. In theology, fecundity is much more than a social or biological concept, he said.

“The fecundity of creation is a constant reminder of the abundant opportunities for rebirth that are presented to us,” he said.

A reading of Psalm 104 shows how the goodness of God’s creation is contained in our ability to reproduce.

“We can recognize fecundity as a natural part of creation, of the gradual evolution of the universe that gives glory to God,” said O’Hara. “So long as that fecundity increasingly leads to a full and right relationship with God, it is cause of celebration.”

New, young mother Clea doesn’t have to be a theologian to figure it out.

“Baby Joseph is really an extension of our love. It’s such a gift. It’s really unexplainable.”

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