Jumping for joy: for love, for mercy, for life

Matt and Mindy Dalton

In the late spring of 1967, a single, young, energetic, smart, musical and athletic woman growing up on the East Coast found herself pregnant in her early 20s. In upstate New York she often frequented the local golf course for she enjoyed the outdoors and was an avid golfer. Out on the course she had met a 46-year-old gentleman who was married; however, his wife was at home dying of cancer.

Seemingly, now this young woman’s life was turned upside down. Her mother sent her to live with an older brother in Colorado and for the most part she lived nine months alone, carrying a baby in her womb. Her brother traveled a fair amount so she was quite isolated in a place where she basically knew no one.

How can it be that 46 years later God turned what appeared to be a tragedy into an abundance of life? That baby in the womb was Mindy, who 23 years later would marry Matt. We now have seven children, ages 4 to 21.

Mindy: I am so thankful that my birthmother chose life and through her one act of heroic courage, our entire family for generations now “jumps for joy.” One cannot even begin to imagine what my life would be if it wasn’t for the charity of my birthmother and the family that adopted me. And now as a mother myself, to experience the joy of God’s love, mercy and life through our seven children is a tremendous blessing. The accompanying photo was taken last week, when all seven gifts were home with us.

Recently I’ve been spending many hours helping my father fight through some difficult health issues. He is alone now because my mom passed away five years ago. When leaving the hospital the last visit, my dad’s eyes filled with tears, and with a lump in his throat, bloodshot eyes and his voice cracking with gratitude, said to me, “Thank God we adopted you through Catholic Charities all those years ago…” My parents had seven biological children, six boys and one girl, but they wanted their only daughter to have a sister, and so they adopted me and gave me a tremendous life.

Matt: I often contemplate the gift that Mindy, my bride, has been. She was conceived sometime in the spring of 1967 and born in February 1968. The papal encyclical of Pope Paul VI called “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”) was given to the Church on July 25, 1968. Less than five years later, the tragic law of abortion was made legal in our land on Jan. 22, 1973. Often my reflections turn to these dates and I find myself thanking God for the courage of a single young woman impregnated by a married man. Today, given the culture of death that has infiltrated our country, who knows what young women in this same predicament may do? Oh Lord Jesus, shower us here in this country with your love, mercy and life. This is why we are the Catholic Church. Through the sacraments, God is present to us every day, if we want; we have only to cooperate with all of his gifts. God—no matter where we have been or what we have done in our lives—can make all things new again, if only we turn and follow him.

 

 

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.