We entered marriage in 1991 with our own ideas dominating our thoughts and actions of what marriage was all about, specifically the teaching on openness to life. What does the Church know about marriage, let alone being a father or mother? Does the Church realize how much money it takes to raise children? We only have limited resources and we have to use them well. Sadly, it was our own unknowns, fears and lack of trust that drove our questions: “Could Matt be a good husband and father; could Mindy be a good wife and mother? Could we trust God with every aspect of our lives or could we pick and choose where we needed him?”
Holy Mother Church proposes to married couples that conjugal love is to be a renewal of our wedding vows. Conjugal love is when the words of the wedding vows become flesh. Anything we do to render this act sterile—before, during or after—is a grave and serious rejection of God’s blueprint for mankind. “Why haven’t we heard any of this before?” was a question raised for us several years into our marriage.
Here’s the answer: “I love everything about you—except for your fertility” does not image the love of the Trinity. With our wedding vows, we profess that we come freely, that we will give ourselves away totally, that we will be faithful and fruitful; open to life. Rendering our intimate love unfruitful by utilizing birth control, sterilization, withdrawal or mutual masturbation deceives us into thinking we are in total control.
Our pregnancies have always been considered high risk, as Mindy has had Caesarean sections with all of our seven children. Our first two children, girls, were emergency C-sections; fetal distress with our first, then both Mindy and the baby were in grave danger with our second. Along came our third child, a boy, and some suggested, because of the high drama and risk, “Hey, you got your boy now, I hope you are done.” Only by the grace of God, with trepidation, we began to verbally speak up. We would respond, “It is up to God, not us,” even though we had not yet fully embraced what we were saying.
It wasn’t until 1999, when we heard and read St. Pope John Paul II’s “Love and Responsibility,” and his theology of the body, that our eyes were opened to the teachings of the Church in a whole new way. We longed to have more children and cooperate with God’s glorious plan for our union. Our seven children are ages 21 to 4.
When our words began to match what we were saying with our bodies, by the grace of God we have come to know that God is never outdone in generosity. The more we gave of ourselves, the more God filled us with his grace. Now when we go to Mass each weekend, and we pray the words in the creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life,” we have tremendous peace knowing that we are cooperating, inviting and co-creating with God.
This topic can be difficult, personal and sometimes confusing in our world. We invite you to further discussion if this has invoked any thoughts, questions or concerns.
Matt and Mindy Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-578-8287 or at www.marriagemissionaries.org.