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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Living the Truth in One’s Body
How Familia for Men helped Matthew Darpel to “walk the talk” and let God lead.

The Darpel family
The Darpel family.

One of the reasons why Familia is so helpful at building up strong Catholic families is that it helps parents to know and live Church teachings. In the following testimony, Matthew Darpel tells the story of how his participation in a Familia for Men group gave him the clarity and courage he needed to “walk the talk” all the way.

I’m a “cradle Catholic.” I was raised in a large Catholic family – in a very loving environment.  I consider my parents excellent examples of truly unselfish, holy people who did everything they possibly could to set me up for “success” as a Catholic.  I have distinct memories of my father re-iterating his key philosophies – he would ask when leaving church on Sundays: “What’s the most important thing in life?” and we would answer “To get to heaven.”  Their other key phrase was “Be unselfish.”  (By the way, I use both of these on my kids today.)

I began my adult life with this foundation to support me, and it served me well. I went to church, said my prayers, and tried to be unselfish.  I went to college, found work, became a husband, and then became a father.   

Facing a challenge

God very quickly blessed my wife and me with four daughters—in fact, we soon had four daughters under four years old. What an incredibly wonderful and incredibly challenging time.  I could tell some excellent stories, but let me just say two words that every parent can understand: “sleep deprivation.” I’m not sure how my wife did it – she was incredible through it all—but we began to wonder how much more we could give…

Facing some huge challenges trying to raise these young children, I contemplated taking matters into my own hands to ensure that we didn’t end up with “five under six.”  I rationalized that it was the “unselfish” thing to do because how could I ask my wife to take on more? Would additional children make it harder to give each one the attention he or she deserved? And could we afford it?

My wife and I prayed about it, discussed it with those we loved and trusted, and concluded that our motivation was unselfish. I went ahead and scheduled my vasectomy procedure.

I remember thinking, “If I figure out it’s wrong later, I can reverse it.” In fact, on the way to have the procedure done, I went to the wrong office. But instead of hearing what perhaps the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me, I called the doctor on my cell phone and sped across town, making it to the right office just in time to still have the procedure done that day. That was the summer of 2000. 

“Walk the talk”

Over the next year, something in my conscience was challenging me about the decision I had made, so I made some half-hearted attempts to research the matter. 

Then, in the fall of 2001, I started FAMILIA for Men.  It was a group of about 12 men from the local parishes, and was just the adult formation I needed to build on the foundation from my parents. We covered all the major teachings of the Catholic Church, and had great discussions about many of the challenges we faced as husbands and fathers. One constant theme that stuck in my head from this group was “walk the talk.” 

Familia for Men led me to the true teachings of the Church and helped me understand why they are what they are.  It led me to the Pope’s encyclicals, the Catechism, Theology of the Body, and so on. 

“Something” or “someone” kept prodding me to really explore the teachings on contraception, probably because I kept hearing “walk the talk” and I knew that I wasn’t. I did my best to listen with an open heart. Fortunately, my wife was learning the same truths in her Familia sessions, and there were many occasions of us bringing each other along in our learning by challenging and supporting each other on difficult questions.

Realization and decision

Through this formation, it became clear that I had made the wrong decision in trying to take matters into my own hands. I sought forgiveness and tried to move on and live as God wants.  I also learned that the teaching does not require a reversal of “the procedure.”  God forgives us for our mistakes when we are truly repentant and that is enough.

But when I thought of our growing girls, my conscience kept nagging me: If I understand why what I did was wrong, and I don’t want my girls to make similar mistakes, what’s the best way to teach them?  Familia challenges us to reflect on how we model Jesus’ love as husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. I realized that I should not only tell my girls what was right, but also “walk the talk.”

We kept listening, praying, and asking for God’s guidance about what I should do.  I believe God was calling me personally to live this particular truth with my mind, my words, and my body. I decided I had to make right what I had broken so that I could look myself and my daughters in the eye and say what is true, and they could see from my actions that I had lived it. Most importantly, I wanted to be able to stand before God with the firm belief that I had lived what he taught me to the best of my ability. 

I had a reversal of the procedure in April 2005. I can definitely say that once it was done, I truly experienced God’s peace in my heart. I hope that by doing this I can more closely model Jesus’ love to my family. 

I realize now that if we had had more Catholic formation as adults prior to those challenging days with our “4 under 4,” our decision in the summer of 2000 would have been different.  I don’t know what will come now. Perhaps God will bless us with more children, perhaps not – that’s his decision.  I do pray that we continue our formation journey so that we can make the right decisions as husbands, fathers, wives, and mothers, as more challenges face our families in the years to come.   

Learn more about how Familia can help you build a stronger marriage and family at



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