Marriage Missionaries: Three walks

Matt and Mindy Dalton

In 1971, at seven years old, my family lived in a tent for the summer — as my dad fulfilled a longtime dream of building his own home.   Camping at Cherry Creek State Park was an adventure for me and my three siblings.  New people coming and going, with us wondering if the new campers had any kids.  Our days were spent hanging around the cool reservoir to soothe the hot summer days, and most evenings ended with camp fires crackling and acoustic guitars playing us to sleep. One night we were awakened by lightning and claps of thunder that rumbled the ground we slept on – trees sounding as though they could fall as the wind violently blew.  Dad scrambled outside to secure the canvas windows of the tent.  Breathing hard, he leapt back through the opening as giant raindrops began to pound our tent.  Within minutes, it was raining in torrents and our homey camp site was turning into a pond.  Mom and Dad snatched us and we took shelter in the car.

Reflecting on that era, there was a much larger storm raging: the sexual revolution.  Dr. Peter Kreeft, in “How to Win the Culture War” states, “Every single issue today which there is dissent in the Church is about sex; feminism, inclusive language, contraception, masturbation, homosexuality, abortion, fornication, divorce and re-marriage and the various clergy scandals.”  All of this can be daunting, as we have no idea where all of this is taking us.

Fast forward to 1993.  I, along with half a million people from around the world, flooded Cherry Creek State Park.  Sleeping bags and backpacks were spread out all over the ground, with people for as far as you could see full of joy and, yes, acoustic guitars –  singing praise and worship songs in every language known to man.  This extraordinary event was where I met the witness to hope: Pope John Paul II.

As we at Marriage Missionaries work with couples to help them to re-discover the joy of marriage and family life, we have come to discover that a large majority of individuals never received a consistent, glorious and magnificent vision of God’s plan for sexuality.  For generations there has been very little discussion in our homes about sexuality, and difficulty following God’s prescription for a healthy marriage.  We are left to figure out on our own the God-given hungers of our hearts.  From the culture, what we learn only brings enormous confusion.

JP II’s Theology of the Body is a deep, prayerful biblical study that boldly reminds each of us what it means to be human.  He revolutionized the idea that sex is not first a “verb,” something that we do.  Rather, sex is something that we are, male and female, made in the image and likeness of the Word who became flesh – Jesus Christ.  A way out of this cultural tsunami is through the eyes of St. John Paul II.

Read “The Theology of the Body for Beginners” by Christopher West, and let its beauty echo in your heart.  Then take a walk in Cherry Creek State Park or some other park this Spring; see, listen and catch the scent of God’s creation; flowers in bloom with aroma to attract bees for pollination, nests of new birds chirping with new life.  Ponder your own experience of life and love, what it means to be a man or a woman with eternal dignity.  Receive God’s love through this magnificent teaching.  Ask yourself, “How can I better live out this love?”  Walking as a beloved disciple of Jesus Christ, ask, “How can I share this love with my family and beyond?”

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.