The Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life

Matt and Mindy Dalton

We entered marriage in 1991 with our own ideas dominating our thoughts and actions of what marriage was all about, specifically the teaching on openness to life. What does the Church know about marriage, let alone being a father or mother? Does the Church realize how much money it takes to raise children? We only have limited resources and we have to use them well. Sadly, it was our own unknowns, fears and lack of trust that drove our questions: “Could Matt be a good husband and father; could Mindy be a good wife and mother? Could we trust God with every aspect of our lives or could we pick and choose where we needed him?”

Holy Mother Church proposes to married couples that conjugal love is to be a renewal of our wedding vows. Conjugal love is when the words of the wedding vows become flesh. Anything we do to render this act sterile—before, during or after—is a grave and serious rejection of God’s blueprint for mankind. “Why haven’t we heard any of this before?” was a question raised for us several years into our marriage.

Here’s the answer: “I love everything about you—except for your fertility” does not image the love of the Trinity. With our wedding vows, we profess that we come freely, that we will give ourselves away totally, that we will be faithful and fruitful; open to life. Rendering our intimate love unfruitful by utilizing birth control, sterilization, withdrawal or mutual masturbation deceives us into thinking we are in total control.

Our pregnancies have always been considered high risk, as Mindy has had Caesarean sections with all of our seven children. Our first two children, girls, were emergency C-sections; fetal distress with our first, then both Mindy and the baby were in grave danger with our second. Along came our third child, a boy, and some suggested, because of the high drama and risk, “Hey, you got your boy now, I hope you are done.” Only by the grace of God, with trepidation, we began to verbally speak up. We would respond, “It is up to God, not us,” even though we had not yet fully embraced what we were saying.

It wasn’t until 1999, when we heard and read St. Pope John Paul II’s “Love and Responsibility,” and his theology of the body, that our eyes were opened to the teachings of the Church in a whole new way. We longed to have more children and cooperate with God’s glorious plan for our union. Our seven children are ages 21 to 4.

When our words began to match what we were saying with our bodies, by the grace of God we have come to know that God is never outdone in generosity. The more we gave of ourselves, the more God filled us with his grace. Now when we go to Mass each weekend, and we pray the words in the creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life,” we have tremendous peace knowing that we are cooperating, inviting and co-creating with God.

This topic can be difficult, personal and sometimes confusing in our world. We invite you to further discussion if this has invoked any thoughts, questions or concerns.

Matt and Mindy Dalton can be reached at matt@marriagemissionaries.org, 303-578-8287 or at www.marriagemissionaries.org.

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.