This week will bring change, of the sort none of us can comfortably predict. Whatever happens on Tuesday, our nation will reap what has been sown. The genie is out of the bottle, Pandora can’t stuff it all back down in the box.
We’ve sown a disregard for authority; we’ll reap a lawless society. We’ve sown a fear of babies; we’ll reap an economy unable to sustain itself for lack of young productive workers. We’ve sown vulgarity, promiscuity and a penchant for using sex for every purpose but its essential ones; we’ll reap a barren culture with no appreciation for delicacy.
And whichever party prevails, we cannot prevent the ripening of this crop. It’s been growing for decades. We know that, but what can we do?
CONSEQUENCES OF DENYING THE MEANING OF THE BODY
If you’re a follower of theology of the body, then you understand the depth of our problem. What we teach at TOBET, that the body matters, that the body tells a truth, that the body must be honored, that the body is a gift from God, is exactly what our culture most radically misunderstands.
The body is all any of us have. If we misunderstand that, then we’ll get everything else wrong, too.
For example, around 95% of American women have used contraception. To even question its use is anathema. And yet I can prove from science, medicine, psychology, and statistics that contraception is destructive to women, relationships and the environment.
So if 95% of Americans (men are complicit) tell a lie with their bodies and enshrine self-destruction as a right and a good, what can we possibly expect the outcome to be?
Once contraception is hallowed in the culture, abortion has to be available for all the times contraception fails, because we have decided that babies can only be born under our own narrow conditions, and only rarely. Babies were once an occasion of awe; now they are a commodity which we can choose to add to our portfolio, or not.
Boys are confused about what it means to be male. Girls believe gender is a choice. The difference in the sexes was once a source of mystery and wonder. Now it is just one more thing to grasp and own.
The joys of life built into the very fabric of the universe have been neutralized by the misunderstanding of the body.
How can we reclaim those things that have always made life worthwhile?
WITNESS TO HOPE
Hope. That is the take-away.
If the misunderstanding of the body is at the root of our troubles, then proper understanding is the solution. Theology of the body has been given to us for this time. Perhaps it is even the reason that St. John Paul II was given to us as Pope. At the end of this post is a bibliography to help you dive deeper into the theology of the body. Read some of these books, and you cannot help but re-discover hope.
It is a joy to watch young people who are captivated by theology of the body. They become natural evangelists. They look for husbands and wives from among others who love the theology of the body and are ready to live it. They have children who grow up with a sense of the honor and gift of their bodies, and they take that giftedness out into the world. Family by family, goodness grows.
These young people are the pivot on which the culture will turn. At TOBET, we are reaching out not only to teens and young adults, but to grade school children, by means of a new curriculum, The Body Matters. Our program teaches children the true meaning of the body and the ways in which the body calls us into a community of love. The heart of a child just naturally leaps to this message. I’m not advertising; I’m just saying we have reason for hope.
Whatever happens this week… our task is unchanged, to be witnesses to goodness and hope no matter what occurs around us. That is the very message of the martyrs, and of the Crucified.
Our patron saint, Pope John Paul II, has equipped us to evangelize, giving us the words and concepts that enlighten and correct the misapprehension of the body. Be not afraid… to witness to hope in the midst of the culture of death. Our hope is founded on unassailable truth.
On Wednesday, wake up to hope.
Sheryl Collmer, M.T.S. is the Director of Outreach for TOBET in Irving, TX.
Theology of the Body (TOB) Bibliography, with annotations
Anderson, Carl and Fr. José Granados. Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. (Doubleday, 2009)
Anderson, chairman and CEO of the Knights of Columbus and instructor at the Pontifical Institute of Marriage and Family Studies and Fr. Granados, professor of patrology and theology at the Catholic University of America, have authored a profound yet accessible introduction to TOB, weaving in other works of St. John Paul, such as his plays and poems, for a more integrated view. Called “a joy to read” by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia.
Healy, Mary. Men and Women are from Eden: A Study Guide to John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (Servant Publishing, 2005)
Very readable summary of TOB, following the chronology of the original audiences. Dr. Healy is associate professor of Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. Her wide teaching experience is evident in the way the book takes the density of TOB and makes it immediate and understandable.
Hogan, Richard. The Theology of the Body in John Paul II: What it Means, Why it Matters. (The Word Among Us, 2012)
This volume is theologically “meatier” than others on this list, but is nevertheless very readable, even for the beginner. It’s comprehensive enough not to short-change the brilliance of JPII’s work and can function well as a side commentary if you were to tackle Man and Woman He Created Them.
May, William. The Theology of the Body in Context. (Pauline Books and Media, 2010)
Another theologically “meaty” work, this book puts TOB in the context of St. John Paul’s other teachings on the family, specifically Love and Responsibility and his two encyclicals on the Christian family in the modern world (Familiaris Consortio) and the dignity and vocation of women (Mulieris Dignitatem.)
West, Christopher. The Theology of the Body for Beginners: A Basic Introduction to Pope John Paul II’s Sexual Revolution, Revised Edition. (Ascension Press, 2009)
This book is a much-simplified overview in only 151 pages. It can serve as an introduction and as a book to give others who are brand-new to the theology of the body. If you are trying to explain TOB to friends and family and need help getting to the gist of it quickly, this book can help.
West, Christopher. Theology of the Body Explained. (Pauline Books and Media, 2003)
This is a thick volume (650 pages) and a good intermediate source if you are serious about investing your time in the theology of the body but are not yet ready to undertake St. John Paul’s original talks. It’s a full, yet comprehensible instruction on the primary text.
Stimpson, Emily. These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body. (Emmaus Road Publishing, 2013)
Once you have been well introduced to the theology of the body, you may begin to wonder how it applies to everything the body does besides marital relations. This book explores the implications of TOB for such everyday matters as leisure and exercise, food and dress, liturgy and technology. Very readable, enlivened with stories and exciting in the way it applies TOB to the “rest of our lives.”
This is by no means an exhaustive reading list. As study and understanding of theology of the body grows, new works are being published, recorded and made available. The above represent some of the “tried and true” resources we have found. The annotations are personal opinion.