All the love songs ever recorded, all the "love stories" ever written, cannot compare to the reality of the "truth of conjugal love." It is not a melody I've always known by heart, but in my heart I, Cyndi, have always sought to master with God's help. Looking back, without Him I would be totally lost. Without Him I wouldn't have my loving husband Michael. Without Him I would not be blessed with our strapping sons who are beginning to mature into strong, responsible young men. There are so many blessings God has bestowed on me that I sometimes feel unworthy. Yet, it is not our worthiness that God measures, but our willingness. In that, I am more than willing. Let me share with you from my own personal journey to the altar and marriage. How, through God, Michael was able to help complete me in what Pope Paul VI in "Humane Vitae" called, "the communion of persons" that "perfect each other so they might share with God..." It is always best to speak from experience when sharing such a sacred subject.
I met Michael when I was thirty-two. For the years before meeting Michael, I lived a very religious life, working in the world, but not being part of it. From the very tender age of six, I felt a calling to the religious life. I was unable to follow this calling until I was in my late twenties. The reasons are many, but they were all of God's choosing. I entered the cloister with the Visitation Nuns on my twenty-seventh birthday. It was a very difficult time in that my parents still did not support any idea of a vocation, and my other family members went so far as to tell me that I was doing them great harm by "leaving" them, for they might not be around for very long. Loving them very much, I had to muster all of my courage, and to rely upon God's grace to see me through. I loved the way of life of the Visitation Nuns, and I admit it was a tremendous adjustment for me. The Sisters were wonderful, and guided me gently into my postulancy. It was some months later that, together with the Mother Superior and the Mistress of Postulants, that we mutually agreed that my calling was not to the cloister, and that I might very well be called to an order that was both contemplative/active. I sought one that still maintained the traditions of religious life, so with the help of these wonderful nuns, I found out about the Carmelites of the Sacred Heart. There was a period of transition, and so I was able to return home for this transition period while I readied myself for entrance to this Carmelite Order.
Again, the Carmelites of the Sacred Heart brought to me a wonderful experience, but also one of sadness. Having entered upon my postulancy again, I was shocked at the struggles I had. The life was all that I had thought of my entire life. The Rule and Constitution of this Community was balm for my soul. Yet, I found myself restless. The Superior and the Mistress of Postulants saw this in me, but guided me onward, awaiting the Holy Spirit to assist all of us in fulfilling my vocation. I had just entered the novitiate and within two weeks, while one night gazing out of the window of my cell, being able to see into the neighborhood where dusk had fallen and the lights were coming on in the homes, I knew, in that moment, that my vocation was not to the religious life after all. I felt shattered. Here I was, now thirty years old, approaching my thirty-first birthday, and I knew with certainty that I was not called to religious life, be it cloistered, or active.
I spoke with the Mistress of Postulants/Novices. She was not surprised by what I had said to her. I knew that I had been obedient, for God had sought to test that very virtue by admitting me to religious life. Now, with certainty, I knew that God wanted me to work out my salvation through the married life.
There was no shortage of sorrow as I left the convent, but I also knew that when God closes one door, He always opens another. In my case, I could only pray that He would be quick in opening that new door, for I was by no means one to join in the "dating" game.
I went back into the work force, but even the work could not keep me from wondering just how Our Dear Lord was going to help me find the husband that He had planned for me from all eternity. With reluctance, I went on several dates that were pitiful, to be kind. Many of the women I worked along side of suggested I join them in their "dating" plans, which meant going to the watering holes in San Diego. I refused.
Finally, I was drawn, through exasperation, to join the "Catholic Singles" Club in San Diego. I went to several of their meetings, and found that this didn't seem to be the answer either, since the same people went to each meeting, and there wasn't any man there to whom I was drawn.
Then, on January 18th, a Sunday, there was a "mixer" of this Club, which was intended to bring together new members. I was working eighty hours a week, and I definitely didn't want to go to this mixer. I clearly remember saying to God as I walked out the door, "God, if you want me to marry, then please bring that person tonight, for if he isn't there, then I'm not going back". It wasn't a threat, but rather a plea, for I hated playing the dating games most were involved in.
At 8:45 pm that evening I saw a handsome man enter the room where the Club was gathered. Time stood still for me then, and I knew that this was the man I would spend the rest of my life with-my future husband, Michael Cain. This was January…we married May 10 of the same year-1981.
How, you may be wondering, does this fit in with the challenge of conjugal love and obedience?
First, having striven to be obedient to God all my life, I was committed to Michael from the first moment I saw him. Once married, we both wanted children very badly, and of course that was part of the wedding ceremony as the priest prayed that God would bless us with children. I became pregnant at once. We were ecstatic. A child was on the way. We were going to be parents.
Within a few weeks, we faced a sorrow that many are familiar with: I miscarried within the first trimester. We were devastated, but we clung to our faith to see us through. We named this child Angel, and we sincerely believed then and now that this was our little daughter, whom God saw fit to call home to Himself.
Life went on. Then, three months later, Michael and I became pregnant again. Oh, what joy soared in our hearts! This time…this time! Again, within the first trimester, I miscarried the child. We named her Dawn, conditionally baptizing her as we had done with Angel. Now we had two daughters in heaven, and the doctors didn't think I would ever be able to carry a child to term.
That was the medical opinion, but not God's intent.
Obedience! It sounds too strong a word, but that is the duty, the "obedience" of the married couple to place their trust solely in God. Three months later we tried again, and I became pregnant with our third child. There were difficulties…the same difficulties I had faced with our first two children. It was touch and go…and Mike and I prayed and prayed, always seeking God's Will, always wanting to be obedient to His Will.
Our third child is now eighteen years old. God saw to it that I was able to carry him to term, despite on-going difficulties. The moment he was conceived, he was conditionally baptized, and dedicated and consecrated to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts. The moment he was born, Mike conditionally baptized him. We had a bright, beautiful, wonderful child-our Kevin.
All this time Mike and I were learning that conjugal love becomes beautiful only through obedience to God, to Holy Mother Church's teachings. Was it easy to be obedient? Looking back, we weren't as spiritual as we have become through God's mercy. Still, the intent of our hearts was good, and through that good will, God brought us to absolute obedience to His Will.
When I became pregnant for the fourth time the same difficulties were present. The doctors told us time and again that I would never carry the child to term. But Michael and I felt in our hearts that I would carry the child to term, and we never wavered in our trust in God. Thus, in April of 1985 our fourth child, our son Kellin, was born healthy, happy, and absolutely beautiful!
But there was a test now of our conjugal love. During Kellin's birth major damage had been done to my uterus. This became known two weeks after his birth when I hemorrhaged to death on the operating table (this is another story I will share with you in a later installment). Suffice it to say that I had to undergo surgery to stop the hemorrhaging, and then two weeks later I underwent more surgery to relieve the pain caused by a large blood clot that was behind my uterus. This is when the doctors informed both Michael and I that the damage was so significant that should I ever become pregnant again, there was no doubt that the child would not only die, but so would I. We had to make a very difficult, very emotional decision then and there. We decided, with all the faith we had, to have my tubes tied. It was the only way at that time that I would not face another hemorrhage.
Our conjugal love was put to the test. In order to raise our two sons, it was necessary for Michael and I to become fully aware of each other's well being. Being very much in love, there were many sacrifices we had to make, but God's grace helped us to be obedient to His Will. We had four children-two in heaven, two on earth. After the initial period of adjustment to my declining health, Michael and I found God's graces flowing in ever increasing measure into our hearts. There were many factors that nearly drew us apart. We started to drift apart due to the exhausting work schedules we both kept in order to keep a roof over our heads, to provide for quality child care, etc. These years were probably the most trying times we had ever experienced in our marriage. Constantly, we were reminded of our vows to one another, and only in God's time did we begin to realize that our conjugal love was not diminished, but despite all things that were going on in our lives, was growing stronger all the time.
We were challenged! So many couples are challenged each day to uphold the sanctity of conjugal love, and the only way they are able to do this is by total obedience to the teachings of Holy Mother Church, to live precisely what Pope Paul VI wrote in his excellent and much maligned encyclical "Humane Vitae."
To reach the fullness of conjugal love is a life-long process. It does not happen at that moment when the marriage is consummated. It does not happen when the children have come and the childbearing years have waned. It does not come when one complains against the constraints of abstinence. It certainly does not come from the practice of any means of artificial conception methods. It comes from day-in, day-out obedience to the Will of God as made known through the teaching of Holy Mother Church. Our present Holy Father has exposed the glory of Humane Vitae in his many writings, and his challenge to all married couples today is the same as it was from the time of Adam and Eve: Be obedient that you may know the fullness of conjugal love, the gift, the very life of married love.
In this series Michael and I only seek to share what we have experienced, and what we have learned in our marriage. We wish to share with you the graces the God gives to those who are faithful to Him in all things, and to awaken you to the very real possibility that God will give to you, as individuals and couples, the graces He knows you need. The graces will be different for each couple, but all lead to the ultimate fullness of conjugal love: The union of the couple through their conjugal love in all its humanity, and the mystical union with God that is the goal of the married life.
As the marriage ceremony brings forth so beautifully, the two become one. In that oneness, God works His miracles to bring the couple to the awesome awareness that unity is the goal of married life, where the two, without losing their individuality, truly become one, and in that oneness, God brings them into mystical union with Him. Mystical Union can only be brought about by God, and He brings this to fruition through Obedience to the true meaning of Conjugal Love.
Our goal is to share both the joys and sorrows that are part and parcel of married life, and to offer to you the hope that in the fullness of His Time, this union of the couple on the human plane, and the elevation of that union into Mystical Marriage with God is His intent for the married state.
The society of today makes fun of married life…it trivializes that which is sacred. Only when we realize the sacredness of conjugal love will we be filled with the graces of God to assist us on our path of true holiness, of sanctity.
We are called to holiness…and as God is All Holiness, He is also all Love, and the married state allows the couple to live and be an example of this holiness and its accompanying love.
Obedience bears the greatest fruit. The challenge of conjugal love must go beyond the human emotions, and be lifted up into the spiritual realm. Therefore, through obedience the married couple grow toward total oneness as the reality of mystical marriage with God slowly becomes a reality in their lives. We know we have many hurdles ahead for our love has so much more room to grow if we allow it to expand through God's grace. Michael and I, as we celebrate our 20th anniversary of meeting this coming Thursday, are going to do all in our power, ennobled by His Power, to increase our love as He so wills.
NEXT WEEK: Lesson Thirteen: Putting the "Vitae" back in "Humanae Vitae"