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: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

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The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.