The Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life

Matt and Mindy Dalton

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 matt@marriagemissionaries.org, 303-578-8287 or at www.marriagemissionaries.org.

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

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We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.