Edited by John L. Long One More Soul, 2003 296 pages, $8.95 To order: (800) 307-7685

Most of us have at least one or two “skeletons in the closet”—regrets that we manage by pushing them to the backs of our minds. Some of our past bad decisions have brought about unfortunate circumstances that, even now, we wouldn'

change even if we could.

Here are 20 courageous couples who tell how they squarely faced the biggest moral mistake of their lives—contraception by permanent sterilization—and describe the extraordinary measures they took to reverse their self-imposed, life-denying condition.

Most of the couples in Sterilization Reversal: A Generous Act of Love began their marriage with good intentions and some rudimentary religious sensibility, but financial pressures or health concerns or a wrong-headed search for peace of mind motivated them to end, for once and for all, the possibility of conceiving any more children. Yet, instead of increased freedom and joy in their marriage, they experienced turmoil and a growing realization that, in contributor Greg Alexander's words, “we had totally strayed from the way God had intended things to be.”

All the couples eventually recommitted to their shared Catholic faith and, as they grew in their understanding of Church teachings on marriage, they realized the enormity of their sin. Even when these couples confessed their sin and received absolution from a priest, they wrestled with a lack of closure. “I liken this to breaking someone's window and feeling the need not only to ask for forgiveness, but also to try and fix what was broken,” writes contributor Bob Mallett.

Sometimes the husband is first to realize the error; sometimes the wife. Often, the decision must be delayed until both come to a shared understanding of their sin. Many prayers are said in the interim and small miracles abound—often through the practical help of this book's publisher, the pro-life organization One More Soul.

While the stories vary in particulars, most are uncannily similar in theme. Many couples blame watered-down moral theology, or inaccurate doctrine, they received from representatives of the Church. Lisa and Michael Rein are “cradle Catholics,” but, according to Lisa, their premarital counseling primarily concerned details of the wedding ceremony. “Looking back,” she writes, “it wasn' just the Church's teaching on birth control that we didn' understand; we really didn' have a clear understanding of any of the Church's teaching on marriage and the family.”

Most contributors have agreed to tell their very personal stories in the hopes of dissuading other married couples from making their mistakes. Equally important is their desire to share the great joy they experienced when they fully embraced the Church's teaching on sacramental marriage and resolved to make God's will, not their own, central. Sallyann Gowen writes of a new intimacy with her husband, Mike: “Our love-making has been raised from a mere physical act to a spiritual partaking of in the renewal of our marital bond with the Lord.”

The book concludes with four informative appendices. Baker, Ore., Bishop Robert Vasa and theologian Father Matthew Gutowski discuss the Church's position on sterilization and reversal. Medical information is provided by a urolo-gist and by a gynecologist.

Sterilization Reversal: A Generous Act of Love offers clear information and thoughtful encouragement on a difficult issue. Its largest lesson, though, is applicable to any situation. In Kathy Piper's words: Our freedom is in following Christ's teachings.

Maryanne Hannan writes from Troy, New York.