What makes a true valentine

Matt and Mindy Dalton

Many years ago when I was in the business world, I often got together with another gentleman whom I looked up to greatly, as he was the young maverick of the industry.

He was one of those guys who was very inspiring and had it all going in his favor. It was late in the month, as I remembered, as I was busy trying to get some transactions funded before month-end, when he called and insisted we go to lunch. He always had a little more expensive taste and we ended up at his favorite spot. This particular restaurant had white table cloths, real silverware wrapped in linen napkins and the wait staff was always extremely accommodating.

As we sat down, I anticipated hearing yet another nugget of what made him successful, so I could practice that myself. Deep within my own heart, this was the guy I wanted to be. Instead, he started in on a litany of all of the things that he does as a husband and a father, and how his wife falls short of doing the things he expects her to do to satisfy him based on the lifestyle he provides.

As I was listening to his complaints about his life, unbeknownst to him, God was unfolding another narrative.

A husband and wife came and sat at the table just in back of my friend. This couple caught my eye in a very particular way; first, the husband was pushing his wife in a wheelchair. He stopped short of the table as the hostess moved the chair out from under the table so that this man could comfortably push his wife into place at their table.

They were a seasoned couple—a bit older—and they were dressed very sharp. As the man pushed his wife into place, I noticed that she was unable to use any of her limbs. The care that this man displayed was extraordinary and he did it with such grace. He unrolled the white napkin, placed it on his wife’s black turtleneck, tucked it in just below her chin, picked up her glass of ice water, gently held the glass to her lips, set the glass down and kissed her on the forehead. This woman, his wife, had the look in her eye of pure joy, pure love.

As the man sat down, I caught his eye as he wiped his own brow, as I figured he started his day quite early to get himself ready along with getting her dressed, loaded, and situated for their day out. He too had that spark of joy in his eye.

What I witnessed while at lunch that day was the battle over the meaning of life. Mother Teresa said it best, “We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful.”

While attending Mass this week, may we look up at the crucifix and contemplate deep in our own hearts the suffering that Jesus was willing to endure so as to teach us the true authentic meaning of sacrificial love. What kind of men and women are we going to choose to be? Will we allow Jesus to crucify our selfishness so as to be set free; free to love others, especially our spouse, as he loves us?

For Lent this year, let’s embrace the concept of loving our spouse faithfully, just as I saw in the couple at the restaurant that day.

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.