QMeeting people who I want to date is difficult. I’ve tried online dating on and off since college, but it feels like I’m taking the lead and trying to stand in God’s shoes instead of just letting it happen naturally. Is it OK to search for “the one” online?

A: In our society, we do so much online. We stay in touch with people and keep up on the latest happenings through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or whatever the latest social media might be. We are constantly sending texts or checking our email as a means of communication. Computers and technology have become a central part of our everyday lives. Anyone who has a smartphone has a computer with them 24/7. We are able to gain access to information instantaneously and we are constantly staying in touch with others. 

So the question you are asking is whether or not it is OK to use technology to try and meet “the one.” And my answer is, “Of course.” Trying to meet someone online is not necessarily a bad thing. I have worked with numerous couples in preparation for their wedding who have met through online dating services. 

But here is the downside to technology: it allows you to hide behind a computer screen. If you want to find “the one,” you can’t hide behind a computer screen. Online dating services simply work on matching people with similar lives and interests. The couple still needs to meet, still needs to get to know each other and eventually fall in love. So the online process is no different than the friend introducing you to their neighbor; you still need to do the work of developing a relationship.

I do find part of your question very interesting – “trying to stand in God’s shoes instead of just letting it happen naturally.” Sometimes I think we misunderstand the way God works in our lives. We are not robots; God gave us free will to be able to make decisions in our lives. At the same time, we believe in God’s grace and blessings in our lives. What we need to remember is that God’s grace and our free will work hand-in-hand.

Someone once told me God’s grace is like the gas in an automobile. We need God’s grace, just as a car needs gas to go. But even with a full tank of gas a car will not go anywhere until the driver gets behind the wheel, turns the key and drives.

So trust in God’s grace that you will eventually meet “the one,” but do your part as well. Meet new people, get involved in new activities, be open to new possibilities and as you develop these new relationships, God will show you “the one” for you!

QI’m trying to be more socially conscious of everything from the food I eat to the clothes I wear. As much as I’d like to buy everything organic, local, free trade … etc. so that I know the products I purchase are made in a just way, that people are being justly treated and compensated for their labor, that I’m supporting local businesses … etc., it’s expensive! What can I do?

APope Francis has really stirred the hearts of people to look at the issues of poverty and simple living. Even the bishops have been called to task, with a bishop in Germany being reprimanded for spending $43 million on his luxury residence, and the Archbishop of Atlanta apologizing for building a $2.2 million mansion in the upscale suburbs of Atlanta. Pope Francis is sending a message to all of us to be aware of how we spend our money and the impact it has on people.

So your train of thought is very good. We should do whatever we can to be socially conscious. I applaud you for the efforts you have made. Here is where your train of thought comes up short: you think you need to be perfect and let me tell you, you’re not going to get there. 

No human being is perfect; it is impossible. But that doesn’t mean we should not try to be holy. Striving for holiness is not the same as striving for perfection. Some of the holiest people of all time were nowhere near perfect in their lifetime. So it is time to change your mindset.

Here is the analogy I like to use: think of a light switch; you either switch it off or on. So your mindset right now is that you are either socially conscious or not. That’s the wrong way to look at it. Change the light switch; it is time to install a dimmer switch instead. What I mean by that is just as a dimmer switch can slowly bring light into a room, so we work at being more socially conscious a little bit at a time. You don’t need to jump right in and buy absolutely everything organic or local in order to be socially conscious. Take small steps, do what you can afford, work in ways that don’t cost you money, such as recycling or planting your own garden. There are many ways to be socially conscious.

Another important step is helping to educate other people of the importance of being socially conscious. During World Youth Day, Pope Francis said that “the measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need.” We have a long way to go in assisting the poor and the vulnerable, in caring for our environment, in protecting the rights of all people, and in so many other social justice needs. Each of us needs to become more familiar with Catholic social teachings; we should be talking to others about the need to assist the poor or writing letters to our elected officials. There are many ways to be socially conscious. Please, keep working at it.