When It Comes to Christ, the Doctor Is Always in

BOOK PICK: ‘Jesus, the Master Psychologist’

‘Jesus, the Master Psychologist’ offers advice for our time.
‘Jesus, the Master Psychologist’ offers advice for our time. (photo: EWTN Publishing)

Jesus, the Master Psychologist:

Listen to Him

By Dr. Ray Guarendi

EWTN Publishing, 2021

144 pages, $15.95

To order: EWTNRC.com

 

Dr. Ray Guarendi is a Catholic father of 10 children, a practicing clinical psychologist, and a popular author and media host. He’s known to EWTN audiences for his down-to-earth, “actionable” advice, especially for parents. However, his latest book is a pivot into general psychology, emotional well-being and relationships, drawing upon wisdom from the mouth of our Lord Jesus himself. 

The first chapter is a very brief apologia to establish Jesus’ credibility to speak authoritatively that he is who he says he is — God Incarnate. 

In the rest of the chapters, each beginning with a brief quote from the Gospels, Dr. Ray elaborates on the psychological principle demonstrated by that quote. For example, “For where your treasure is, there will be your heart be also” (Luke 12:34) is the launching point for an exhortation to avoid the snares of materialism and the emptiness of inordinate seeking after worldly goods. 

One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ teachings and public pronouncements is that they contradict conventional wisdom. Being wise and learned may in fact often be an impediment to true understanding of the things of God. The surer path to greatness is to be meek, childlike and the servant of all. Put another way, it is better to give than to receive. Dr. Ray covers all these lovely paradoxes and how embracing them makes us happier and more balanced.

The author also asserts that in some Gospel teachings, “Jesus is two millennia ahead of what psychology is only now coming to understand.” For example, Our Lord’s exhortation to simply do one’s duty and then regard oneself as no more than an “unworthy servant” (Luke 7:10) controverts the pop-psychology doctrine of “self-esteem.” Modern psychologists are starting to realize that too much emphasis on self-esteem (and, if I may extrapolate a little, its corollary, “self-care,” as secular culture understands it) has created a tendency toward unhealthy self-absorption. 

By contrast, being able to laugh at ourselves and our foibles is healthy, and Dr. Ray’s gentle humor helps with this. 

Of course, certain things are no laughing matter. Dr. Ray’s chapter on divorce is a stinging indictment of the current culture of no-fault dissolution of marriage and the ease with which so many couples commit “marital suicide,” to the severe detriment of their children. He also confronts the cultural fallacy that “the kids will be fine” if squabbling parents put an unhappy marriage out of its misery. 

“It’s a nice theory,” writes Dr. Ray, “plausible-sounding on paper. Real life shreds it. Plenty of parents find that separate households don’t lead to a truce or a more peaceful coexistence. They might ease the former day-to-day strife, but they introduce new trials.” Dr. Ray also acknowledges the very real exasperation of the kids who live with their parents’ high-conflict marriage. They sometimes say to him, “Why are they staying together? Why don’t they just split and get it over with?” But this is a lament arising from despair and frustration. According to Dr. Ray, “Divorce is not what the kids want; it’s what they’re bracing themselves to accept.”

This book’s readability and solid applicability to daily life make it suitable for any reader, in solitude or in a group. It would also be an excellent book for couples to study as they prepare for marriage and family life. 

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