“Mom and Papa, do you think I should really publish this book? I may go to jail for it.”
“Do what’s right, Monica. We will visit you in jail,” they said with wry but truthful smiles!
That was not the response I was expecting back in early 2017 when I showed them the rough draft of Our Bodies Made Male and Female. But they knew the stakes were high, as cultural norms were taking children further away from the truth of the body, and thus, the truth of their identity in Christ and His Church.
Last Friday, I joyfully drove to the printer to pick up thousands of copies of TOBET’s Our Bodies Made Male and Female (Second Edition). We knew more than five years ago that it would be the hardest book to write. The TOBET team and Board of Directors even considered not publishing it due to lawsuit concerns. We knew that this book was necessary and decided to step up.
What we offer to those who read this book (it is meant for 7th graders, but some younger, some older, and even adults will find it very useful) is a Sacramental View of Reality. What does that mean? It means that matter matters, and it gives rise to a deeper, transcendent reality. It is the basis of our sacraments—visible signs of invisible realities that reveal the Divinely Mysterious.
Having established this viewpoint, we can show readers that, contrary to many popular ideologies, masculinity and femininity are not things we autonomously decide upon in the abstract. Rather, these are mysterious gifts, based on the concrete body and its meaning, to be received reverently from God.
We avoid stereotypes throughout the book. For instance, we point out that there is a feminine way of connecting and a masculine way of connecting; there is a masculine way of protecting and a feminine way of protecting, and both are necessary.
Our Bodies Made Male and Female has a two-page spread that shows women and men of various races and ethnicities throughout history—Marie Curie, Harriet Tubman, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Eduardo Verástegui—who use their gifts and talents for the common good in their God-given mission.
However, we do not stop there, for we apply this sacramental view of reality to vocational discernment. Being made male or female is for a purpose: life and love. It is precisely by viewing reality in this way that we can counter the ideologies that say we can remake ourselves in any way we choose.
The book’s last chapter shows a way of navigating attraction and sexual desire. My favorite diagram of all 18 lesson books is this one, with its mention of “crawling under a rock for fear of the opposite sex!”
Indeed, all of our books are filled with funny and vital teachings so that children and youth find them compelling and are formed in St. John Paul’s Theology of the Body.
As we celebrate St. John Paul’s Feast Day today, I am confident that The Body Matters, particularly, Our Bodies Made Male and Female, are worth any potential imprisonment to free children from their captivity from messages today which counter the sacramental view of reality.
St. John Paul, pray for all of us, especially those reading The Body Matters series, that we might come to know and embrace our deepest identity in Jesus and His Body-Bride, the Church.
—Monica Ashour, MTS; M Hum
President, Content Creation, Founder of TOBET
October 22, 2020