Most of us are tired of all of the discussion about COVID19 and general upheaval, so we are relieved to speak of something else. To that end, let’s talk about Cardinal Sarah’s latest book, The Day Is Now Far Spent.
At a time when we are uncertain whom to trust, here is a slam-dunk: Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, in West Africa. He says what he thinks, and what he thinks is unswervingly formed in Christ. No grandstanding or cheesing for the media. The man is so thoroughly drenched in prayer that God seems to shine out from his very countenance. Cardinal Sarah has a way of reminding you of how things were meant to be, like watching a 50’s sit-com; you are reminded that life was not always as fractured and afraid as it is now.
In his newest book, The Day Is Now Far Spent, Sarah states in the foreword, “I will not hesitate to use forceful language,” which is a classic understatement. You have been warned. The good Cardinal pulls no punches and names the present darkness for exactly what it is. Thank God, because the time for airbrushing the truth is over; the enemy is at the door.
This is the third of Sarah’s book-length interviews with Nicolas Diat, a French journalist who knows how to open the Cardinal up. The books have been building up to a critical question: as darkness is fast approaching, what are we to do?
You’ll have to read the book to delve into the crisis of the priesthood and the Church, but here I will discuss the crisis having most to do with the body, our particular focus at TOBET. It’s the misunderstanding of the body that is at the heart of everything else: the crisis of the family and specifically in its latest manifestation: LGBT and gender ideology, coming at us relentlessly like a cannon barrage.
It is the latest, and probably most destructive, of the many “-isms” thrust on us by global power players with bottomless bank accounts and a desire for fewer human beings mucking up the place. Some might think gender ideology just one more idiotic, but more or less harmless, idea of people with too much time on their hands, but in fact, Sarah sees it as particularly pernicious.
“Gender ideology puts societies into chaotic situations. It endangers the institutions of fatherhood and motherhood. In the view of some Western governments, the words ‘father’ and ‘mother’ have become improper. They speak about ‘parent 1’ and ‘parent 2’. The first victims of these behaviors are obviously the children. This system threatens to muddle the very notion of filiation and to turn children into perpetually displaced persons. How can anyone deny a child the right to know and to love his biological father and mother?”
Sarah appeals to common sense when he asks:
“Beyond all ideology, in all honesty, do you not know, by experience, how necessary a father and a mother are?”
Speaking more personally to those people at the heart of the matter, he implores:
“I think that the first victims of the LGBT ideology are the persons who experience a homosexual orientation. They are led by its militants to reduce their whole identity to their sexual behavior. I beg Catholics who are tempted by homosexuality not to let themselves be shut away in this prison of LGBT ideology. You are a child of God by baptism! Your place is in the Church, like all Christians. And if sometimes the spiritual combat becomes too hard, fraternal charity will support you.”
At TOBET, we believe that teaching children early-on about the rock-solid reality of the body, and what it reveals about God and about persons, is the answer to the -isms that are destroying the ability of people to live in harmony with God, each other, within themselves, and with creation.
One of the most helpful concepts, which we teach in our Level 3 book, The Body Is God’s Design, is the idea of limitedness. It’s not a concept that often comes up, even in Theology of the Body forums. It may even be counter-intuitive until examined, and it is exactly what is lacking in the LGBT world.
The idea is that the body is limited. If you are female, you are not (cannot be) male. If you are human, you are not (cannot be) a dog. If you are a creature, you’re not God. Of course, this all used to pass unnoted as something called common sense, but our 21st century smarts have taken us beyond that. For children especially, it has to be clearly elucidated.
When we recognize the body’s limits as essential to our humanity, we begin to mine more deeply into what it means to be human, and what it means to be female or male. To chase continually after an identity that has not been given to us is to waste the life that we have. We’re not lost in a vast, relation-less emptiness where we can be anything or nothing. We are what we are. We become who we are in relation to others.
Cardinal Sarah quotes Pope Benedict XVI on this:
“The freedom of a human being is the freedom of a limited being, and therefore is itself limited. We can possess it only as a shared freedom, in the communion of freedom; only if we live in the right way, with one another and for one another, can freedom develop.”
That is to say, our limitedness is precisely what draws us to one another. In that recognition is the freedom to become who we were meant to be, and not some hybrid creature who is doomed to be never free, never himself.
The Cardinal sees limits as a gift. When we reject the gift,
“[B]asically, we refuse to let God be incarnate and to enter into the heart of our lives. I wonder whether there is not a subtle form of pride behind this attitude. Does it not quite simply reject our created nature, with its limits? Does it not refuse to receive this nature as a gift, of which we are not the author? Is this not a secret echo of Lucifer’s rebellion against his creaturely condition?”
This concept of limits is not something I ever learned while growing up. In fact, I had always considered limits as something negative, to be overcome. But it is in acknowledging the limits of the human body that we may discover our true identity, true purpose for love and our place in the Body of Christ.
For children to learn this, I recommend The Body Is God’s Design. For adults, I recommend The Day is Now Far Spent. And while you’re immersed in that book, you will find many reasons to be thankful for Cardinal Sarah’s untarnished view and forthright direction for where we must go next, before the day drains away.
Sheryl Collmer, MTS, is TOBET’s monthly blogger.
For more information about TOBET’s curriculum, The Body Matters, click here.
To order The Body and Heaven, click here.
As always, Ms. Collmer gets to the heart of a matter concisely and with eloquent logic. Thank you all for everything you do!!!
Thank you, faithful reader! I value your response as I know you have read and respected Cardinal Sarah as I have.
Thank you for this thoughtful and thought-invoking reflection. I have begun to read The Day is Far Spent, but haven’t reached his discussion about the LGBT ideology. I have been involved in Theology of the Body for a number of years, and as you, I haven’t heard of limitedness. I was wondering if complementarity and communion are the TOB concepts that “get at” limitedness. Thank you for the suggestion of “The Body is God’s Design.” I have a daughter who is nearly 13 years old; would you recommend this book for her? We homeschool her and I would like to give her a greater understanding of the beauty of her body in its limitedness, in the light of God’s design.
Thank you for your response, James. As an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed reading “The Body is God’s Design.” However it was written for children ages 8-9. I’m afraid your 13-year-old daughter might feel it was a little young for her, but only you or her mother would be able to say for sure. We have books written towards 13 and 14 year olds on our website. They would be labeled Levels 7 and 8, and I recommend them. One of the most critical books is the seventh grade book entitled, “The Body is Male and Female.” We are in the process of refining it and hope to have it back in print by September. In the meantime, check the level seven and eight books on our website now, and please do check back in September. The volume on male and female will be very helpful for you.