We are at war. You are at war. The war is inside our hearts.
If you are the sort of Catholic who subscribes to this blog, you already know this. But many don’t. And strangely, it is important that we tell them, especially the young people. They can’t effectively fight an enemy they don’t acknowledge as devious, powerful and bent on destruction.
For Christians, the enemy was unveiled in his intentions from the beginning. God said to Satan, the deceiver and murderer: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. He will strike at your head while you strike at his heel.” It has been war ever since, not because we willed it so, but because it is in the nature of fallen humans to struggle for the good while the enemy attacks.
To voluntarily take on hardship requires a clear view of the necessity of fighting. We must see the enemy. We must understand the strategy. We must desire the victory.
This is what TOBET attempts to impart to 7th graders in The Body and The Heart. At this age, they are camped on the battlefield by simply living in this culture. The enemy has targeted them for exploitation. Images on screens are like the carpet bombing of young teens.
The hard work of acquiring virtue is supported by no one in the public arena.
The Body and The Heart sends a message of hope. Our kids are as competent as kids of every other historical era to win the battle for their hearts. The enemy has more sophisticated weapons in our time, but it is the same battle that has produced saints for centuries.
The first necessary step is to become aware that, since the Fall, our hearts are conflicted. As St. Paul said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15) It is the classic statement about fallen human nature: we desire the good, but the not-so-good still looks attractive to us. Woe is us!
Chapter One exposes the conflict, and shows that there are reliable sources of truth to resolve it: revelation in Scripture and the Church, and the natural law which is discoverable in our bodies. This may be the first time 7th graders encounter the topic of natural law, and if they absorb it, it will be a game-changer.
Even young teens can observe that certain actions are either compatible or incompatible with the design of the human body. Eating only junk food produces results that can be easily seen: overweight or obesity, shorts spurts of high energy followed by crashes, greater susceptibility to colds. Conversely, any high school or middle school athlete knows that a regular habit of lifting weights and doing ab work leads to greater strength, more confidence, and healthy weight. These kinds of observations lead teens to discover the design of the body, what works and what doesn’t. At a higher level than physical training lies the truth that the body is made for love, as God designed.
The book guides teens to examine what they know about God, and invites them to trust. Misconceptions about God are explored and corrected. They are shown that true identity lies in acknowledging that we are God’s beloved.
When they can make the connection between what they know is good and doing that good, they will have significantly advanced in holiness. Without that connection, they may act in ways that break the heart, wound the body, and injure hope.
This is really the struggle. The enemy tries to paint sin with a glamorous brush so that it appeals more than virtue, but once teens have the experience of knowing and doing the good, they will try to duplicate it. Virtue has all good after-effects; sin has all uncomfortable ones.
Finally, the book presents a map for teens, directions for wholeness and freedom. Very few people in this culture will ever tell them what they need to know to arrive at adulthood healthy and unbroken: good friendships, active play, prayer, self-mastery, for instance. These things used to be built into the culture; they did not even need to be said. Now they do.
While we as parents and teachers certainly desire peace for our children, the hard truth is that it must be fought for. The enemy has been unleashed, and the unknowing among us are suffering the effects of spiritual decay and death. We either acknowledge our condition and arm ourselves as soldiers of Christ, or we will be casualties.
The Body and the Heart arms readers to win the battle waged in our hearts.
Sheryl Collmer writes for TOBET in Irving, Texas. The Body and the Heart is one of her favorite books because it sets out in the open a truth that has been in hiding, to the detriment of Christians: the good is under attack and we must fight for it.
To see all the books that make up TOBET’s ground-breaking theology of the body curriculum for children, check out The Body Matters here.