Image and Likeness: Reflections on Theology of the Body

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When I saw the call out for submissions for this anthology I got so excited! I wished I could contribute, but none of my short stories seemed appropriate. So I decided I needed to read it as soon as it came out. And I was really, really excited when Ellen Gable agreed to give me a free copy to review!

It was not disappointing in the least. This anthology covers many aspects of St. John Paul II’s significant work, and often from different perspectives. It is a mix of poetry and short stories. Most of the short stories are straight fiction, but one is sci-fi and another is hard-boiled detective mystery. Some of the perspectives are very unique, highlighting various parts of the human condition:the humanity of a priest, the terror of a girl facing an unplanned pregnancy, a person in mourning, people facing inconvenient truths…

This book includes a number of very talented Catholic authors, a few I had heard of, others I will be looking up after reading this.

This book definitely illustrates the idea found in quotes such as this:

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Fiction is the way through which we can capture imaginations. You can better illuminate complicated ideas through stories. All of these stories will capture your imagination and give your brain more to chew on days after putting the book down. These stories and poems are examples of literature that needs to become more mainstream. Only then can we hope to really develop a culture of life.

If I was to make any complaints, I would only have two: 1) I think that the darker stories could have been broken up more with the lighter stories. Some nights when I was reading this, it felt like I got two or three really dark stories in a row. 2) This book concentrated on the more traditional aspects of Theology of the Body, namely anything involving sex, marriage, and beginning and end of life issues. Some work has been done by theologians, Susan Windley-Daoust comes to mind, to extend his theology to other aspects of being human. Maybe this could be an idea for a sequel? Maybe I can find something to contribute next time?

I did get this book for free in exchange for an honest review. I’m looking forward to reviewing more Full Quiver Publishing books. I already have a few on my Kindle.

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Everbody has a Body! Theology of the Body for Preschoolers

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OMG! When I saw these books reviewed by Catholicmom.com, I put them on my wishlist right away, but it wasn’t until months later that I was finally able to purchase them, thankfully at a local Catholic bookstore so I could support the local store rather than Amazon with my money.

Without even opening the book, I was first struck by the illustrations. These are easily among the most diverse illustrations I’ve ever seen. It really helps to show the diversity of the Body of Christ and that God made all bodies, boy bodies, girl bodies, bodies of every hue and ability.

Of all the religious books I’ve bought my son, he took to these the best. He looked at them as we checked out at the store. He messed with them when we got home. He had me read them to him repeatedly the first few nights that we had them. He even quoted from them. (“Mommy, you have a girl body. Daddy, you have a boy body. I have a boy body.”) That’s about as high a praise my 4-year-old is capable of giving a book.

These books really do summarize some of the most important points of Theology of the Body for little minds to comprehend. I think that the fact these books even exist is a great and beautiful thing! The fact that they appeal to my child is only a bonus!

Theology of the Body Thursday # 37:Women Need Abortion?

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I’m currently working on a blog enumerating the many, many ways that the assertion that “Women need abortion in order to be successful” is unspeakably insulting to… well… everyone, I want to concentrate today on that assertion from a Theology of the Body perspective.

Where do I start? The statement is so irredeemably screwed up. So, I’m going to limit myself to the idea that we are made to be gifts. An abortion is in many ways a refusal of the gift.

It is a refusal of the gift of the male who gave himself to the woman in the sexual act.

It is a refusal of the gift of fertility, that women were made with the awesome ability to bring new life into the world.

Of course, most obviously, it is a refusal of the child, a gift from God violently sent back to its Maker because it wasn’t the right time or the couple had “better” things to do.

“This likeness [to God] reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”

-Gaudium et Spes

The statement that “Women need to have the right to an abortion in order to be successful” is a huge insult to the gift. It says implicitly that women don’t want the gift of fertility. They certainly don’t want the gift of a child. That children are a burden and motherhood is a pointless endeavor. That our plans and desires are more important than morality and success can only be measured by dollar signs and fancy titles.

This idea cannot be any more incompatible with the fact we can only find ourselves through a sincere gift of ourselves.

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Theology of the Body Thursday #36: My Body Isn’t Just for Marriage

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Today I want to share with you a very insightful article from Reverb Culture. It’s by a single woman, Sarah Kuenzi, reflecting on what exactly bugs her about the way Theology of the Body is usually taught.

Theology of the Body, in its most basic form, shows us that the spiritual is shown through the physical. Our bodies have a sacramental purpose, because they both reveal and affect the truth of who we are. 

Recently I started reading a book with a couple close friends entitled These Beautiful Bones– An Everyday Theology of the Body by Emily Stimpson – I highly recommend it. Through this book, along with good old Scripture and Catechism, prayer, and honest conversations, I’m slowly becoming more conscious of how the physical and the spiritual interweave with one another. I’m discovering the true heart of John Paul II’s writings. In our work, social interactions, and leisure, our bodies are so often disconnected and disengaged from our minds. It’s easy to dismiss the physical aspect of our humanity, especially if we don’t like the way our bodies look, or the temptations that seem to stem from them. But our bodies and spirits are tied together, and we need both. God has called us to redeem our whole selves – body and soul.

Please read the whole article here: http://www.reverbculture.com/blog/tob

I highly recommend it.

Theology of the Body Thursday #35: What is a relationship?

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“We started out just hooking up but then it got serious and that was weird so we stopped dating for awhile, but then we realized it’s OK so we started dating again and now it’s great. I hope that doesn’t sound bad. That sounded bad. I mean, it was the correct information but I presented it in the wrong way. This is weird. I look like a dick. Ask him a question now.”  – The young woman in the above picture

This quote gave me pause when I saw it on my news feed the other day. She’s obviously uncomfortable talking about her relationship. She’s embarrassed to be talking about something so private. She’s confused and she’s not sure how to even appropriately talk about it. Maybe she knows who Humans of New York is and she’s worried about having her face and quote plastered across the internet. But enough speculating, let’s just take the quote at face value.

For those of you unfamiliar with the lingo, more often than not, “hooking up” means having sex with “no strings attached.” So to translate the first sentence, they were having sex, but then it got serious, so they stopped. Do we really look down on sex, on our own bodies, that much? We can have sex without it being serious?

And then, serious just seems weird? I’m not sure how to even contemplate that. Maybe it is weird because we are all so naturally stuck in ourselves and then someone else comes on the scene and takes our affections. Maybe it is weird because change is weird.

As flawed as this quote is about sex, it says even more about womanhood. In a society so saturated with sex, women’s bodies being used to sell everything from cars to cheeseburgers to cable TV, this woman and many like her don’t feel comfortable talking publicly about their sex lives. She thinks she “looks like a dick” for telling the truth of her experience while he just sheepishly smiles.

Is this what we have come down to? Women ashamed of admitting their sexuality while their sexuality is used and abused. “Relationships” being so without rules, without strings, that no one can define them, even the people involved. As I’ve said before, in placing sex outside of marriage we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and left future generations hurt, confused, and feeling just “weird.”

Here is the sexual revolution, summed up in a Humans of New York picture and quote.

 

Theology of the Body Thursday #34: The Not-so-secret Love Letters of John Paul II

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The BBC came out recently with an exposé on John Paul II’s “secret affair” with a married woman.

Although there was nothing “secret” about it. And the BBC carefully avoided the word “affair.” ::wink-wink::

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Image from the estate of Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka

 

Tymieniecka and JPII started correspondence in the 70’s prompted by a philosophical work that JPII published, “The Acting Person.” Their deep conversations about philosophy and everything else continued in letters and in-person visits for the rest of his life. After he died, she tried to sell the letters she received and a library in Poland ended up with them. The library did not make the letters available for reading until the BBC saw them. That is the only sense in which they were secret. Their relationship wasn’t a secret at all.

It only stands for reason that a man who wrote so poetically about the plight of women and had such a deep understanding of the human person would have had to have relationships with women.

But the BBC felt the need to add that there is no suggestion the Pope “broke his vow of celibacy.” They had to read sexual attraction into every page.

It reminds me of two great friendships in the Bible, David and Jonathan and Ruth and Naomi, that are frequently victims of the exact same abuse. It says more about us than it does about them. We, as a society, can’t accept a close relationship devoid of sex because we have equated intimacy so much with sex.

We are created to be a gift to others. Certainly that is stamped on our bodies, to be sure, but sex isn’t the only way to express this gift. To be celibate doesn’t mean you have no intimacy in your life. Can’t we just accept that you can be close to someone without sex. I think that would solve a lot of the loneliness in the world.

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And here’s what I think JPII would want to say to these journalists. (But he’d probably be too polite, so I’ll say it for him.)

Theology of the Body Thursday #32: When Consent Is Not Enough

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A recent issue of New York Magazine explored the sex lives of college students. One article that caught my eye was titled “Why Sex That’s Consensual Can Still Be Bad. And Why We’re Not Talking About It.”

There are protests on college campuses about rape. Politicians and people in school administration talk about rules and regulations in regards to rape. But what if what happens to you just doesn’t seem like rape? What if you don’t want to label your experience “rape”? What if it was just, as this author says, “shitty sex”?

She spends the article talking about power-imbalances and while all that is true, I’d like to point to an even more simple solution.

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The sexual revolution inspired and encouraged women to emulate the worst in men. Think about it. Putting aside all that “men have needs” baloney, what do we really think of a man who has an extremely active sex life? Who gets a girl pregnant and then leaves her? Who doesn’t bother getting to know the person with whom he’s intimate? We think he’s a real POS, right? We might laugh, but in our heart of hearts, we know what he is doing is not right.

(If you don’t, you really should rethink your priorities. Physical pleasure never, ever, ever takes priority over the worth of other human beings.)

Years ago, we saw women not being allowed to live to their full potential in the workplace and we saw women not getting a voice in their own lives, so, as part of the solution, we stripped sex of all of its meaning. We took it out of marriage and we separated it from reproduction. Now, we don’t know what the rules are. We have an idea that maybe the rules should be whatever the individual wants, but desires are so fickle and feelings are fleeting. We really, really threw the baby out with the bathwater on this one.

So now my generation fumbles in the dark, unsure of what is right and what is wrong.

He just made a comment that made me feel uncomfortable, what should I do?

She just said “no,” but her body language is telling me something completely different, what should I do?

We’ve been dating for two months, shouldn’t we have had sex by now? What should I do?

Sex feels great in the moment, but once my partner leaves me, I feel like shit. Is there something wrong with me? What should I do?

What should I do?

What you should do is wait until that person is dedicated to you for life. Playing with sex is like playing with fire. It’s fun until someone gets burned. Even if you are somehow immune to the burn, you should withhold out of respect for others.

Really, it’s that freaking simple. Keep it in your pants, my friends.

I really have a feeling that once the dust settles and some future generation resets the rules of sex and marriage, the rules will look a lot like the old ones with, hopefully, some of the flaws ironed out.

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Note: Sorry I disappeared for over a month. My other work has been driving me insane.