Guiding Married Couples to the Divine Physician

Matt and Mindy Dalton

We agonize, we hunger and we thirst for every couple that comes to us for marriage coaching.  Spouses call with trepidation, send emails crying out for help, share that their spouse may not come.  Pursued by the Holy Spirit, the “hound from heaven,” they end up walking through the doors of our simple office, sitting at our table and sharing their lives.  Their stories are similar although their journeys can vary.  They come wounded, broken and tired; there seems to be a universal thread with this commentary, Jesus is not the central part of their unions.

Oh, how we know this scenario, as we too were busy, in the first five years of our marriage, being distracted by the things of this world.  It was our careers, spending hours on planning and then remodeling our house to meet our desires.  If we weren’t still playing sports, we were either immersed in our kids’ athletic success or imprisoned to our favorite college/professional team.  Sadly, looking back on our early years in marriage, if we really think about it, our married relationship was based on selfishness.  Once the “honeymoon” was over or the sentimentality of “falling in love” dulled, we didn’t experience joy.  We had fun, individually, at the expense of our marital and familial joy.  Fun is momentary, joy points to the eternal.

Experiencing joy in our marriage occurred when I decided to give God some of my time.  I remember hearing a layman talk at the end of Mass about the fruits in his life of visiting our Lord Jesus regularly in the adoration chapel.  One thing rang in my ears, He said, “If you have the courage to sign up to be a regular adorer and pray in the chapel, pick a sacrificial time.”  That comment blazed a hole right in the center of my heart and I knew my time, 2 PM on Sundays.  That is when the Broncos game comes on.  Secondly, it had been several years that I had gone away from the sacrament of reconciliation.  Upon my reluctant return to confession, I became aware that God longed for me.

19 years ago, for the first time in my life, I experienced intimacy with Jesus.  In all of my brokenness and sin and its ugliness, the Divine Healer – Jesus – touched my heart.  I understood, in a profound way, why Holy Mother Church calls this the sacrament of healing.   From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC 1456), “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.”  When I heard the words of absolution through the priest, “I absolve you from all your sins,” I knew that it was Jesus, through our Holy Mother, that was making me new again. As my love for Jesus and Our Lady continues to grow, so does my burning desire to share this with my bride, Mindy; as we now approach 25 years married.

Allowing the stories of sacred scripture to come alive in our own lives, we get the answers to why Jesus is in such agony in the garden and why He thirsts from His venerable cross.  It is for each one of us.  In our marriage coaching, we are like physician assistants, helping other married couples open their hearts to God.  The fruit of inviting God into every part of our lives is gaining the eyes to see, our spouse is not our foe.  With grace, we stop fighting for our own rights, align with our helpmate and drink from the only source that will bring everlasting joy – Jesus Christ, the bridegroom of our souls, the Divine Physician.

COMING UP: 500 years later, who was Luther?

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Hero, villain, heretic, saint, reformer, corrupter, man of integrity, bombastic glutton. Which image of Luther should we believe? Because Luther primarily sought not to reform abuses in the Church but to reform the Church’s beliefs, Catholics cannot recognize him as a true reformer or a holy man. Nonetheless, it is widely agreed that Luther played a major role in shaping the modern world. With the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant movement he initiated approaching on October 31st, we have been given a number of new books to assess his legacy.

Paul Hacker, Luther’s Faith: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion, preface by Pope Benedict XVI (Emmaus, 2017).

Hacker’s book provides an in-depth, theological analysis of the issue that stands at the heart of the Reformation: Luther’s teaching on salvation by faith alone. Pope Benedict’s preface tells us that the Reformation dispute fundamentally concerned Luther’s “turning away from the center of the Gospel” (xxii). Emmaus released a new edition of Hacker’s book for the anniversary this year. It was published originally in 1970 (in English translation), the fruit of Hacker’s own intense study of Luther’s teaching on faith that led him into the Catholic Church from German Lutheranism.

Catholics agree with Protestants that salvation comes only through faith. The key issue of dispute, which Hacker reveals, is Luther’s subjective emphasis of absolute, personal certainty, which cannot be undermined even by serious sin. Hacker describes Luther’s faith as reflexive, that is turned back on oneself, by emphasizing subjective experience and personal surety more than anything else. He describes how Luther differs from the Catholic position: “Faith is the way to, or the perquisite of, salvation, but Luther makes it coincide with salvation itself. This becomes possible because he has first identified salvation with the consciousness of being saved or the certitude of salvation, and then he equates this consciousness with faith” (71). Hacker shows us how this view of faith negated the Church’s authority, the sacraments, and even the need to love God.

Brad Gregory, Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape Our World (HarperOne, 2017).

For those looking for a more general and accessible book, Brad Gregory gives us a broader narrative of how Luther’s troubled conscience exploded into the crisis that tore Christendom in two. The first section looks at Luther’s own story, tracing step by step his conflict with Church authority. The second section explains how Luther’s teaching spawned a multitude of new sects and divisions, all interpreting the Bible in their own fashion. Greggory explains: “What the early Reformation shows so clearly is that scripture and the Spirt can be interpreted and applied in radically divergent ways. Once the papacy and the Catholic Church are thrown off, there are no shared authorities to adjudicate disagreements” (137). The final section looks at how the Reformation set the tone for the development of a secular culture. Though not intending these consequences, Gregory argues that the Protestant Reformers “led indirectly to a profound diminishing of Christianity’s public influence in Western societies. The religious disagreements and conflicts that followed the Reformation set the stage for religion’s eventual separation from the rest of life” (2).

Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Viking, 2017).

Metaxas, who wrote a monumental biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, provides us with a different perspective on Luther. His book seems poised to capture the largest audience for the anniversary this year. While I can’t agree with his view of Luther as a hero of faith, I can appreciate his presentation of a more sympathetic and thorough look at a man who has inspired many Protestant Christians. It is helpful to recognize why Luther is such an important figure for so many people. This book definitely provides many more details on the life of Luther (with over 450 pages). However, I would exercise caution, because it unfortunately also contains many gross misrepresentations of the state of the Church at the time of the Reformation.

For instance, even though Metaxas shows us many ways that Luther encountered the Bible in his early life, he still claims that the Bible and Church had no connection in the early 1500s and that “the study of the Bible per se was simply unheard of” (52). Luther himself was a theology professor and throughout the Middle Ages the Bible was the primary text for teaching theology. Brad Gregory makes clear in his book on Luther that there were even “twenty-two editions of the complete vernacular Bible . . . published in German . . . by 1518” (29). Metaxas presents a false picture of Catholics as ignorant, afraid to pray to Christ, and thinking they must earn their salvation through works. Good historical research could easily dispel these myths, such as the books of Eamon Duffy, but we see Protestants continue to project Luther’s own scruples (hating God and spending six hours in Confession, 47) onto the Church of his time.

Jerome K. Williams, True Reformers: Saints of the Catholic Reformation (Augustine Institute, 2017).

What could have Luther been if he had chosen faithful reform? The answer is a saint. There is no doubt that the Church was in need of serious reform in the 1500s. We have a number of great saints who show us that fidelity to God does not contradict fidelity to His Church. They stood against corruption and initiated deep and abiding reform. The Augustine Institute has release both a book and video series on true reformers, who boldly spoke out against abuses and led to a deeper realization of the truth found in the Bible, read in harmony with the Church. These figures—Teresa of Avila, Thomas More, Ignatius of Loyola, and Charles Borromeo, for instance—continue to inspire us to take up the task of genuine reform today.