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An Interview with Dr. Alveda King: A Message of Peace and Fear

A Message of Peace and Hope in a Time of Chaos and Fear - Dr. Alveda King Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

One only has to turn on her television set, listen to the radio, peruse social media, or even step outside her front door to be witness to the winds of change sweeping through the nation. Of course, with that wind we have also seen chaos and upheaval grip much of our nation as well. Following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many have taken the opportunity to speak out against the inequality faced by people of color in our nation. And while this is a wonderful thing to do, others have used this platform to preach change through any means available, including violence. As Christians, what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to react? How can we help implement change and civil discourse and yet dissuade those using violence?

A Message of Peace and Hope in a Time of Chaos and Fear - Dr. Alveda King Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

I was blessed to speak with pro-life leader and civil rights activist Dr. Alveda King, niece of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In a candid interview, we discussed the state of our country as well as what we, as Christians, can do to help our nation move forward.  In the eyes of many, the two of us are vastly different- she is an African American from a well-known family, engaged in activism since she was born. She served in the Georgia House of Representatives and has written numerous books. She is well-known, often giving interviews for news stations and other media. She has faced challenges that I will never face. She has lived a life that I cannot imagine.

A Message of Peace and Hope in a Time of Chaos and Fear - Dr. Alveda King Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

I, on the other hand, am a white woman who was born after the civil rights movement and grew up never truly knowing what it was like not to love everyone I met. Schools were not segregated, I had friends of every color and nationality, and I was never taught to hate those who are different from me. I am married to a police officer, who was raised the same, and together we have raised our children to also love everyone they meet. I am a homemaker and homeschooling parent. I practice what I preach and volunteer in many ways to help our community thrive and uplift those who need to be uplifted. I am currently the youth minister at my parish and I would venture to say my name is not known outside of my own little world. We have faced intense hate because of my husband’s chosen profession and for our faith, but our experiences are not the same.

In most people eyes, we are more different than alike… but as Dr. King points out, speaking sister to sister, we aren’t different, we are the same and this is the message we all need to hear but that we often fail to hear.

Beginning a Conversation of Peace

Opening our conversation, I asked Dr. King about her feelings regarding George Floyd, the police, the protests, and ultimately the riots. She began, “We are having this conversation in June of 2020. This particular year there is a new election, we will be reelecting our president I believe and some others will be elected; Covid 19 has just rocked America and the world. This is not new… elections are not new, pandemics are not new; and neither is the violence we are experiencing from the death of George Floyd- a man who was killed from a knee on his neck-of course him being African American and the officer being Caucasian.” Expanding on the public’s vastly different reactions to officer involved arrests by white officers versus black officers, she continued, “So we’re down to the argument of skin color, over and over again. That has happened throughout creation since the fall of humanity. People fight about skin color, class, who’s rich, who’s poor, who’s young, who’s old, and all types of things. The answer, the cure, of course, is always- come to the Lord and seek the Lord. And treat each other, regardless of skin color and socioeconomic conditions- treat each other as humans…”

This is where we most often fail. We only see a black man or a white officer. We fail to see that God has created us each in His image and likeness. We fail to see the inherent dignity in one another. Instead, we focus on skin color, wealth, social standing, age, and a myriad of other qualifiers that don’t necessary qualify but instead divide. And we are all guilty of this regardless of our color, status, pocketbook, etc. As humans, because we are sinful, because have experienced the fall, it is difficult for us to see each other through God’s eyes.

Dr. King quoted Acts 17:26, “He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and He fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their region” several times throughout our conversation. She lamented, “I was taught by my father, Reverend A.D. King, my mother Naomi King who is still living, my granddaddy Daddy King, Mama King his wife, and my uncle Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that Acts 17:26 “of one blood” means that we have to get along. Martin Luther King Jr said we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools. We’re not separate races.” She continued, “God created all people…. Our blood is red, our skin color- we can see it. We have to see it or we are colorblind.  It’s a sin to differentiate people by skin color or money or any of the human conditions that we have. The human race has been in the condition of being a fallen group of people in a fallen world. The answer to that is always Jesus Christ. So sin is sin. It is a sin to see our brothers and sisters as other races when we are all of one race- the human race. It is sin to say “my race needs to get along with your race” because there is one race. So, the issue of racism, socially engineered to divide us, is sinful.”

Unfortunately there are those who do not wish to see the world as one race. They hope to keep us separated. How are we to react then to those who wish to keep dividing us? Dr. King, like Martin Luther King Jr and her own father A.D. King, advocates peace. Communication is the key- truly listening to one another and then actively working with one another. But what about those who say that no one is listening and so violence is the only thing that will open the government’s and people’s eyes? When asked about the response of some justifying rioting and other violence she said that people are taking MLK Jr’s quote about “rioting is the language of the unheard” out of context. She states, “Martin Luther King Jr, in that same speech when he was speaking on riots and violence, went on to say that all violence is immoral and doesn’t make sense… we need to be heard, but not with violence. We have to quickly continue to say “we hear you” and now that we hear you, let us communicate in a peaceful, sensible manner. And so we have to NOT be violent and but to work together and learn to live together as brothers and sisters and not perish together as fools- because John 3:16 “for God so love the world…” God’s not colorblind, God’s colors are magnificent!”

Working for Peace

Peace is the key. But how do we teach peace? How do our religious communities take the lead? Dr. King emphatically states, “The leaders of all faiths who acknowledge that there is a God in heaven, need to come together to teach people not to be fearful and tearful and to not panic, but to have faith to pray… to pray instead of panic and to have faith instead of fear. And as leaders do that, (and every person is the leader of him or herself and if he’s not, he’s in serious bondage)- leaders of your homes, your churches, your communities, your work, our governments- all leaders should be encouraging and not stirring up fear.”

Don’t incite fear. Don’t encourage violence. Don’t panic. Instead, pray, have faith, work alongside one another to bring about true change. Encourage one another. Simple but powerful lessons for us all.

As a mother and a youth minister I was particularly interested in what we can do to help raise the next generation to avoid the mistakes of the past and to repair the damage that the past has inflicted. Dr. King spoke eloquently when she said, “Remind these young people of their purpose and their destiny- that they have a voice and their voice comes from God; they have breath that comes from God. And even though George Floyd’s voice had been taken from him, they still have their voices and can raise them for good and unity. We have to teach our young people about God- not to fear, not to panic, but to love and to communicate, to talk… use our breath that God gives us to speak truth.”

This, of course, is not just a message for the white community, but instead for all of us. If we are truly one human race then we must all reach out to one another speaking the words of truth in love… without fear, without panic, but instead with Christ guiding our words and actions.

Conquering Sin Together

As Dr. King and I ended our conversation, I asked her if she could relay one last message to the people reading, a message that she believes God wants all of us to hear, what would it be? She responded with so much love when she said, “The Lord has said in the book of Luke, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to set the captives free”- the little babies in the womb are captives, people in jail unjustly are captive, God wants this to be a time of repentance and to understand that we are all of one human race. We need to come back to God and God will help us solve these issues together.”  With God’s help, we can be the instruments to set the captives free.

What has happened to George Floyd is unquestionably wrong and horrifying. For any person to be treated as he was can’t be justified. It has shaken us all to our core. It has been a catalyst for change (and thankfully so!).  But as Dr. King agreed, this isn’t just a police officer problem; this isn’t just a black vs white problem; this isn’t just an American problem… this is a worldwide problem. It is a problem with sin. It is a problem with the condition of our hearts. Conquer sin and we will conquer racism and every other ailment of the heart and soul. But we cannot do this without God and we cannot do this without one another.

If you would like to visit Dr. Alveda King at her website you can find it here. Additionally, she works with Priests for Life as their Executive Director of their Civil Rights for the Unborn outreach program.

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Ink Slingers Interviews Products Reviews Sarah

Pycnocline: A Faith-Filled Business

I have been eyeing these gorgeous t-shirts from pycnocline for a while, so when I had the chance to review one and interview Megan, I jumped. Megan was a delight to speak with and her story was quite interesting!

I received two Stella Maris t-shirts in exchange for an honest review. I LOVE the subtle Catholic message of these shirts! One was child-sized and my daughter wears it all the time. She searches through the laundry to find it.

Pycnocline: A Faith-Filled Business

Megan, founder and artist behind pycnocline, is mom to two awesome kids, Catholic convert, and a fish biologist. When she started to stay at home, raising kids, she searched for a creative outlet that honored her science background. Enter bleach dyed tshirts! I just love that her shirt designs reflect both her love of fish AND her love of her faith! In fact, Stella Maris seems to be the most perfect fusion of the two.

Megan has this to say about running her bleached t-shirt business:

I love the process of making my shirts. I get to be structured and organized with my orders and bleaching the shirts- that suits the scientist in me. I also get to create new designs as I feel the itch to create- that suits my creative side.

The t-shirts are great quality and quite durable. My daughter isn’t always easy on clothes and her shirt still looks brand new! I can’t wait to start wearing mine, as soon as my previously pregnant belly goes back to normal.

 

To Megan, one of the most important aspect of her business is an infusion of her faith into every facet. She prays as she designs and prays for customers as she works. I am a huge proponent of supporting small businesses, and if they’re faith filled as well, it’s just icing on the cake.

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Domestic Church Ink Slingers Interviews Kasey Saints

Interview with Chantal Baros of Shining Light Dolls

 

I was lucky enough to meet Chantal Baros at a lively All Saints celebration that a very generous mutual friend hosted for a group of local moms in Chicago. Earlier that morning I had begun to cull through my own “liturgical celebrations bin” (i.e. the catch-all tub that carries all the items I have yet to find a permanent place for) to pull out items that I would need for Advent. Among all my little treasures was a precious hand-sized doll that my son’s godmother had gotten for him when he was a baby. He carried it around for months before we carefully packed it away so that we could stuff it into shoes and enjoy it the following year.

That afternoon at the party, I was floored to see that my sweet mama friend had an entire collection of these little saint dolls on her family altar. They were so cheerful and festive. I made a passing comment that I loved them and typed a little reminder into my phone to look at the website later that night.

Fast forward (literally) a few minutes later and I found myself talking to a mother who had children that were of a similar age to mine. She had the perfect amount of sarcasm. I knew we could be friends. She also happened to be the founder of Shining Light Dolls.

I don’t feel like I need to advertise for Chantal. Her work speaks for itself. It’s colorful. It’s inviting. In my opinion, it introduces children to the saints in a very accessible, fun way. What truly amazes me about Chantal is her ability to thoughtfully blend her Catholic identity, her vocation as a mother, and her gift as an artist into a fully integrated life.

She was kind enough to let me inundate her with questions so I am just going to step aside and let you meet this wonderful Catholic girl boss.

Give us a brief introduction to who you are and your life in the Church.

I am a cradle Catholic. I owe my parents everything because they gave me my faith. My mother is a daily Mass-goer and has a very strong faith. She loves the saints and has probably read every book on the topic. So I guess you could say I feel like I grew up with the lives of the saints always around me. No matter the topic, my mom had a saint story for me. That isn’t to say that I didn’t have the normal teenage rebellion against my childhood faith- I did, but I think that having such an incredibly strong foundation made it easier for me to “own” my faith in my college years. Now I love everything about the Church. There is something for everyone. No matter who you are you have a place. I guess that’s why I still love the saints so much, aside from the obvious fact that they’re all just super cool and amazing people. It’s that they are all so different from each other. Everyone can have that beautiful connection to God. The Catholic Faith is simultaneously simple and incredibly rich. I love the theology, the traditions, the ritual – all of it.

How has your business shaped your faith? How has it overlapped with your spiritual practices, your job as a mother, and your creative outlets as an artist?

Wow, that’s a good question! The business took my faith from my head into my heart. Prior to starting Shining Light Dolls, I had a very intellectual faith. The business gave me the opportunity to experience, for myself, all the amazing things God can do when you hear His call and take that leap. Starting a business is a scary thing, even when you know it’s what God is asking you to do. I’m a mom, and I feel like the closest comparison is the call to have a child. Even when you know it’s what God is asking of you, you don’t always know the outcome. So the early years of the business were like pregnancy – a mixture of excitement and fear. Like having children, you learn that you can only do so much and then the rest is up to God. The business has definitely increased my patience, my fortitude, and my trust in God’s providence.

Back when I started Shining Light Dolls, I was just dating my now husband. So the way that I’ve related to the business over the years has changed as my family life has changed. If anything, I think the business has really flourished since I became a mom. I have less time but the love I have for my children inspires me to create differently, to work harder, and to use the time I do have wisely. My two books, “The Virgin Mary-Around the World” and “Saints on the Go” were inspired by my son. The first, a board book, I wrote when he was a baby- and then the second when he became a vehicle-obsessed toddler. I think the books have been so successful because I wrote them for him.

Starting a business is hard enough – but you started it in the throes of early motherhood! What have been some unexpected challenges and some unexpected joys in regards to your business?

Starting a business at the same time as starting a family is definitely tricky! Even though having babies is HARD (at least it is for me) – my biggest obstacle has always been myself. Life is never easy- and at some point, I woke up and realized that there was never going to be a “perfect time” for anything. There is no such thing. Life is always going to be complicated. I really have to keep my life pretty streamlined in order to have time for the business after taking care of the kids. Each new chapter of our family life brings new challenges to the business. There have been times where I stopped working because of motherhood (pregnancy sickness, postpartum recovery), and that can be incredibly frustrating. As an artist, I miss the freedom to create whenever I want- whenever inspiration strikes. BUT- the difficulties are actually the parts that have made me mature in ways I don’t think I would have otherwise. I learned that I could become a morning person, a list-maker, a work-an- hour-at- a-time artist. I learned that I can wake up at 5 in the morning and still have the energy to cook dinner. I learned how to prioritize my life around my vocations as wife, mother, and artist/business owner. I learned that I don’t need to feel like creating to create. I honestly love the balance of work/art/play my business and children give me. I’m a better artist/business owner because of my children, and a better mom because of my business. My work recharges my batteries, and my kids recharge my heart. They are a constant reminder of why I do what I do, and also keep my priorities in order.

What does your creative process look like? Do you create saint dolls that have a personal meaning to you? Are there saints you have connected with since making them into dolls?

My creative process has evolved over the years. In the beginning, all of the “TheVirgin Mary Around the World” dolls were first drawn by hand – pencil to paper on my kitchen table. Prior to starting Shining Light Dolls, I was a full-time oil painter specializing in portraiture (so pretty much nothing like the Shining Light Doll style). After a novena to the Infant of Prague, the idea of the company sort of just hit me. It was the cliché “light bulb moment”. I was like- that’s a great idea – but I have no idea how to do that! So, I used Youtube video tutorials to teach myself how to use Adobe Illustrator. Now, five years later it’s all I use. Coming from a traditional oil background, I never thought I’d be creating my art digitally, but I really love it now. I also dream of switching back to traditional media but maintaining the Shining Light Doll aesthetic- the possibilities feel exciting and endless. Each year I add more saints to the “Saint of the Day” Facebook posts. These are the images that later become dolls. I research the Saint, making notes on their imagery, symbolism, dress, time period, country of origin. This is especially important for the Saints featured in my books. I really want to make sure I illustrate a real place and time. “Saints on the Go” was such an interesting book to write/illustrate. I learned so much! It was fun trying to find Saints that actually were documented on different vehicles. I learn new things through my work all the time- I knew that St. Teresa of Calcutta had her “call within a call” on a train in India, but I had never actually seen a picture of the Toy Train to Darjeeling until I started working on my book. I always feel like I know these Saints more intimately after peeking into the world they lived in- they become more “real” to me. Choosing Saints to turn into dolls is SO HARD. They are all amazing. At the risk of suffering from analysis-paralysis though I try to create balance within the company. I like to look at the macro and the micro. How will these dolls work together in the larger collection (am I representing men and women, different religious orders, different time periods, ethnicities, etc.) as well as the individual Saint as it stands alone (what is their imagery, what are their traditional colors, what is their patronage, etc.). Now I receive a lot of feedback on the Facebook page about which Saints people are looking for, and that definitely influences which Saints are going to be produced next.

I realize this is a very big question, but from your perspective, what role can the Catholic artist play in their churches and communities?

I think there is a popular lie that the age of Catholic art and the Catholic artist ended with the middle ages. Catholic art is still relevant. Religious art is not antiquated. It also doesn’t have to be done in a Renaissance/Baroque/iconic style to be good or holy. My parents did me a huge favor in teaching that God gives us our talents for a reason and we are called to use them. Art is such an important part of any culture – and without good Catholic art what are we exposed to? I think that creating with the intention of producing beautiful work to glorify God, regardless of style, is SO important and will help to heal our culture. New Catholic art isn’t something to be feared; it doesn’t detract from the depth and solemnity of the faith. It has the ability to reach and touch people in a new way. I love traditional Catholic art, but I also love contemporary Catholic art. The Catholic artist in today’s world should do what the Catholic artist in any time period did – use the popular tools of the period to create work that glorifies God and points man toward the transcendental. Art can change the world; you just have to have faith that God is giving you the permission to create it. If God gave you a talent- don’t be afraid to use it.

Clearly, you are very busy. If God gifted you with a 25th hour to the day- how would you use it? (Sleeping is a totally appropriate answer.)

I would use an extra 25th hour (assuming my kids are asleep and I get to use the time to myself) for creating. I would paint, or draw, or do any other number of things- but it would definitely be creating in some form. (Although I should probably be using it to clean my house ) – or maybe to be more social, between work and the kids I don’t get out much (other than playgroups!).

Chantal’s way more productive than I would be with my 25th hour. She is constantly creating new dolls so check her out on her website- www.shininglightdolls.com. She can also be found on Facebook and Instagram under the handle @shininglightdolls.

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Current Events Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Interviews Michelle Same Sex Attraction Spiritual Growth

Understanding the Gift of Human Sexuality: An Interview with Jason Evert

understanding the gift of human sexuality

Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you my interview with Jason Evert who will be a speaker at the Theology of the Body Congress being held in Ontario, California next week. He will speak on homosexuality and the Theology of the Body.

jason-evertJason Evert is a renowned speaker and author known for his talks on chastity. Together with his wife Crystalina, Mr. Evert connects with both the young and the old; the faithful and those of little or no faith, as well as those who are seeking answers to the questions that have been set upon their hearts. Through the Chastity Project, various social media outlets, through seminars and talks, and through a new program entitled YOU, Mr. Evert seeks to empower, educate, and prepare the next generation to share the vision, the knowledge, and the love that comes from understanding God’s gift of human sexuality.

We began our interview talking about the new videos on Theology of the Body for teens entitled YOU: Life, Love, and Theology of the Body (which I will have a review of on Wednesday) and continued to tackle a few hot button topics.  

Once again, I feel that Mr. Evert’s words need to be heard in their entirety and so I present our interview in a question and answer format. I pray that you will be inspired, encouraged, and empowered by the wisdom that he shares today.

Q. You are well known for talking about chastity to teens, how do you think the new videos will reach out to a new generation of teens and young adults as opposed to other ways you have brought chastity talks to them?

The previous generation of Theology of the Body for Teens that we came out with was great at the time 10 years ago. Today teens are struggling with brand new issues that weren’t even on the radar 10 years ago. For example, I was talking to a young woman who wanted to go to college at Stanford and as a part of the application process she had to pick a gender… there were 18 genders to pick from and the two genders that were missing were male and female. They weren’t even an option. This wasn’t on the radar 5 years ago let alone 10.

There are questions like “what is marriage?” What does it mean to be male and female? These are fundamental issues that teens really need to have to have a solid understanding of in order to understand God’s plan for their lives. So this new version is really cutting edge in terms in being able to offer solid guidance, not just to teens but to educators to answer these tough questions.

Q. Is it just for use in schools or catechism programs or would families benefit from it as well?

Whether it is a homeschool family or a child who goes to a public school and the parents want to make sure they are getting a truly authentic education in human sexuality rather than “that’s it”… for home use or you can do it with group study, Ascension Press has a really neat offering that if you only had 4 people who wanted to do the study as a group you can just do the digital videos so you pay for the workbooks and don’t have to buy the dvds- you can get free streaming online of all the digital content.

There are 10 chapters, each chapter is about a half hour long and covers all kinds of content- homosexuality, pornography, modesty, vocations, starting over… it’s not just a chastity program. It goes much deeper into identity and John Paul’s full understanding of what the Theology of the Body is.

Q. At the Congress you will be talking about those who experience same sex attraction. How does TOB give clarity and hope to those who experience same sex attraction?

We need to take a good look at our language when we are talking about this topic. A lot of times people speak, “Oh that’s a gay person” “That’s a lesbian person”, “That’s a straight person.” But this isn’t really a Catholic way to talk about what it means to be a human being. What I mean by that is that there really aren’t like 9 different kinds of people. There are really only three kinds of people according to the Catholic understanding of that word.

A person is a rational being, so how many different types of rational beings are there? Well there are three- the Divine Persons- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are angelic persons, which are the holy angels and the fallen angels. And then there is the human person made male and female in the image and likeness of God. And that’s it.

Our personhood, our identity, the deepest truth of that is that you are either a son of God or a daughter of God. Our sexual attractions are not the defining factor of our human identity and if we make our sexual attractions the core of who we are, then we will think that our life and our identity is being stifled and we can’t act out on those attractions.

An attraction is something I experience; your personhood is that you are a son of God or a daughter of God. And typically our behavior will flow from our identity. And so if we can first understand foremost who we are as beloved children of God, then our behavior will flow from that. John Paul provides an adequate anthropology, a sufficient understanding of what it means to be a human person. The only adequate response to another person is love. Not only to give that love but also to receive that love.

Q. In trailer I found a quote that was perfect for this conversation, “Being you is not all about you; you are a gift to the world when you love as God loves you.” How does this tie into the Congress and how will you bring this ideology to the Congress?

One challenge with this generation of young people is there is so much centered on myself- I’ve got my Instagram, I’ve got my Facebook, I’ve got my Twitter and I need to tell everyone what I am doing and share the picture of me when I look the best. There is a bit of an overemphasis on me and what I feel. Even with the gender issue of today, what I feel is who I am… regardless of what my body parts are, what I truly am is who I think I am. What the TOB does is call us to step outside of that and say “you are more than just your feeling; you have been created to make a gift of yourself. Stamped into your body is not just parts that you can do away with; stamped into your body is the sign of complementarity that you’ve been created to make a gift of yourself.” That might come within marriage, it might come with priesthood or religious life, or it might come within serving in your community, by making a gift of yourself and by giving of yourself that’s how you truly find yourself.

Q. Our kids are bombarded by society telling them that they should do what makes them feel good and to do what they want and that the Church’s teachings on the sacredness of sex and love are not important. How do we combat this ideology when the world’s voice is so much louder than our own?

There is a lot that we can do. And what we have in our favor is that their minds are made for the truth, their hearts are made for love, and the Church’s teaching on human sexuality truly offer them both.

John Paul II was asked, “If you could only keep one passage from scripture and all the rest had to be gotten rid of, what would it be?” He said, “The truth can set you free.” The truth is that the Church’s teaching on human sexuality is not just a litany of rules, regulations, and prohibitions. The Church’s teaching on human sexuality is really what the human heart longs for. Do we really want a love that is forced or conditional or temporary or lifeless? No, we want a love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.

It’s not that the Vatican is imposing these things on us; this is what the human heart truly wants. Unfortunately our world has sold young people this false notion of freedom- that in order to be free you just got to do whatever you want. Sometimes true freedom isn’t doing whatever you want; sometimes freedom is having the ability to do what you do not want in order to do what’s best for another person. The Church teaches that your freedom is best measured by your capacity to love. Anything that inhibits your ability to love- lust, selfishness, pride, ego- those things limit my ability to love to that extent I’m not free.

This language of John Paul II doesn’t argue from the outside in- these are all the rules that you have to follow; instead it argues from the inside out- what is it that you really long for? As a result, even though the world may be louder, the Church’s teachings really resound within the hearts of the young people when they are proclaimed in their fullness.

Q. How can parents incorporate TOB into their family lives so that when they talk to their children their kids won’t just tune them out but will want to listen and want to be responsive?

One thing you could do is study it within your own family. If you’ve got middle school students Ascension Press has a program called Theology of the Body for Teens, Middle School Addition-for 6, 7, 8th graders. For the High school addition not only do they have the dvds that you can watch a home, but they also have the parent guide that you can follow.

The nice thing with TOB is that you can start really young with some of these teachings about what it means to make a gift of yourself. Affirming them when they are young- “Dear Jesus thank you for making little Mike a boy and for making little Sarah a girl and for making Mommy a girl and daddy a boy.” These understandings of what it means to be male and female that we may have taken for granted 10 years ago, need to be affirmed in the young people.

And just starting them with this idea of the gift of self and that you really find yourself by giving of yourself- what are ways that Mommy can give herself to Daddy and ways that Sally can give herself to Joe in our family to love one another. Whether it’s by surprising someone by doing the laundry or doing the dishes without being asked, now, what do you feel after making that gift of yourself?

It’s starting them when they are really young with the principles of the gift of self, of modesty, of the goodness of being male and female in the image and likeness of God.

Parents need to get over any insecurity they have when it comes to talking about human sexuality. Some parents are scared to death, “What if they ask me if I was a virgin?” “What about this?” You need to get over it. If you don’t talk to your kids about the meaning of human sexuality, the world is very happy to fill that void of your silence with a very contradictory message. I don’t care if your parents never talked to you about it or if you feel awkward; sometimes awkwardness is part of the authenticity of it.

Q. What is the most important concept you hope that the Congress goers will come away with from the Congress in general or from your talk?

I hope they will be empowered to take this message to the masses- whether it be in a religion class, their young adult bible study, CCD classes… whatever it is… we need an army of people proclaiming this message of TOB. It’s really a treasure that the Church has been entrusted with. My open prayer is that people will leave this conference feeling empowered and educated and equipped to go forth with these new tools that the Church has been given… that people will feel ready and excited to take this message to others.

Please keep Mr. Evert and all those who are sharing the gift of Theology of the Body in your prayers. He asks that we particularly pray for the fruitfulness of the program.

If you are interested in learning more about the Theology of the Body Congress, please visit their website. The Congress runs from September 23-25th in Ontario, CA. You can read more about it here as well.

If you are interested in learning more about Ascension Press’s new Theology of the Body program entitled YOU: Life, Love, and Theology of the Body, please visit their website (and come back on Wednesday when I review the complete program!)

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The Beautiful Mess of the Family: An Interview with Bill Donaghy

Family life… what does that mean? If we are to look at society we know that the term is changing at an alarming rate. The family is being redefined and reconstructed before our very eyes. The biblical foundations for the family are slowly being stripped away and in its place is a very worldly, very confused view of what the family is and should be.

Last month I wrote about this brokenness and about how Theology of the Body can help us reclaim the sanctity of the family. I shared with you the upcoming Theology of the Body Congress that will be taking place in Ontario, California on September 23-25, 2016. I promised you amazing interviews with two of the keynote speakers of the Congress. Today I present to you the first of those interviews.

Bill DonaghyBill Donaghy is an” instructor, international speaker, and curriculum specialist for the Theology of the Body Institute Certification Program.” As a husband and a father of four young children he understands how crucial it is to begin to teach our children about the Theology of the Body at a young age. His talk, The Beautiful Mess of the Family, will look to “reflect on both the ideal and the real of family life.” Apart from jokes about poop and the craziness of life (we both have threenagers!), I was fortunate enough to be able to share some time with Mr. Donaghy talking about how families can incorporate TOB into their daily lives and why it is so important to do so.

I have chosen to present my interview to you in a question and answer format. I feel that Mr. Donaghy’s words are so important in their original form that I don’t want to paraphrase or summarize. I hope you are inspired by our conversation and that your heart will be opened to the gift that the Theology of the Body can bring to your entire family.

Q. Let’s reflect on the ideal and the real of family life. What kind of difference do you see in what society projects as the ideal family and what we know as the real family?

A. The ideal family, in the culture’s mind, is where I get what I want, when I want it, and then you get what you want when you want it… peace only comes with individualism. But the family, as we understand it, is this beautiful mess where it’s not just me doing what I want to do, but I’m at your service. I’m giving myself and receiving myself through you- mother/father, mother/son daughter, brother and sister… there is an interchange between persons which becomes this school of love, school of patience, school of wonder- all these different facets of living a human life with real face time- authentic face time. And then the beautiful mess that comes from it… the beautiful mess where we give ourselves and find ourselves.

Q. Do you think that one of the things that is lacking in society’s view of the ideal family compared as what family really constitutes is sacrifice and not being willing to sacrifice?

A. In the culture we constantly want to divorce love from suffering or love from sacrifice; when love is suffering, love is sacrifice literally. There is no way around it that if you are really going to love you are going to have that kind of death to self. It might be tiny, it might be huge; but we can’t separate it. When we do, we limit it, we don’t get real love.

Wendell Berry, the philosopher, said the definition of modern marriage is two careerists in the same bed who have their own stuff going on. Is that really authentic self-discovery or giftedness? It’s not really that.

Q. So how do you think that TOB is related to family life? Most people view TOB, if they haven’t dove into it, as it’s simply telling you to “be chaste”.

A. Theology of the Body is first and foremost a sense of the unique and unrepeated human life that is in front of me; that there is a theology to this body- to mommy, to daddy, to myself, to siblings that might be in the family. So the first foundation is wonder-gift; and also in our sexually confused age- identity- masculine and feminine.

The first move of TOB is identity of myself. And then my vocation- what do I do with myself? I am called to love. And so the vocation part then becomes as the child grows respect for others, a sense of gratitude for the gift of others, a call to reverence others and never to use them but to love them. The first thing is the sense of wonder and self-discovery and then how you treat others comes naturally from it. If you understand that the image of God is before you, you aren’t going to want to misuse them or mistreat them.

Q. How do you feel that TOB can change our marriages and then move on to change our family life? How do we incorporate it into our lives? What baby steps do we take to incorporate it into our lives?

A. At the heart of Theology of the Body is the fact that we are made for communion. John Paul reflects on the fact that man and woman are made for communion and that life flows from it. This goes against the grain of everything we are taught by present culture. A fallen world says look out number one first, what’s in it for me? So when we realize that’s not who we are, not just a me generation but we- that I have to enter into communion, then that becomes a whole different paradigm, a whole different way of waking up in the morning. Just saying thank you God for the gift of life; now let me drink in the gifts around me and give myself to them in love and service.

Communion is not just you monologuing with everyone around you but dialoguing and breaking into the sphere of this person in my family which helps me break into the sphere of the people I work with, the people on the street, the people in the stores I frequent. TOB can become this platform, this way of entering into the human community. The whole entire human community is made for community. The labels start falling off; I’m not boxing people up anymore, I’m not putting them in little compartments. The teachings teach me that Atheists, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, whatever you are, whatever the identity the Christian is projecting as well is just another human heart that I am called to know and love and hopefully I will be with in a communion of saints one day… and the teaching broadens.

Is it sex education? Yes, it’s sexual and an education in human sexuality, but education for human life…it’s the living out of our identity as men and women.

Q. How do you feel that today’s troubles correspond to the breakdown of the family? How can we see the effects of incorporating TOB in our families in the greater community?

A. We are losing our identity in this very individualist culture. At the heart of discovering our identity- of who we really are- is this call to the commitment of one for another, and when we fail to do that we fail to know ourselves and we fail to know others. We have all this energy to helping so and so to discover themselves and we are allowing teenagers to have this alphabet soup of letters now- LGBTQIA- and it goes on and on and if we simply just say go find yourself out of the context of the blueprint of the family, they are going to be screwed up for life. They will never come to the sense of self without the sense of the other.

Families who know TOB will be able to offer the culture, in a really refreshed kind of way, a rediscovery of man and woman. Dr. Peter Kreeft says, “In an age when revolution becomes tradition, our traditions become revolutionary.” When we actually say there is meaning to femininity and masculinity, if you really probe in and gaze upon it, which is now labeled as this restrictive binary code, if you actually look at it…there is this amazing dance going on that makes life happen. It can’t happen any other way.

Families who know TOB can talk to anybody and they can use the language that is more existential that comes into the ache of every heart… who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? It equips teenagers to step into high school classrooms or college campuses and not be afraid or in some Catholic bubble but to say “I know who I am. My mom and dad taught me who I am and I want to share with you the wonder of who I am and who you are.” Can you imagine what a gift that is to the world? But kids have to marinate in this beauty that is Catholic anthropology. If they marinate in it for a solid 18 years with an open heart they will have something to say to the American culture and they will say it in a merciful way.

Q. How do parents incorporate this into everyday life? As parents with little children life can be insane and we get distracted…

A. I think, speaking from experience right now, the first move is my relationship with my wife Rebecca. If I can have a kind of recognition of her uniqueness and her giftedness and I go right to her when come home from work or come into the house- Daddy goes to Mommy and kisses Mommy and says how was your day and listens to her- that is already setting this blueprint of how people talk to each other.

If I can get down on my knees when I meet the kids and talk to them and listen to all their super excited stories of the day; if I can receive that, I am starting teach them in the body this kenosis, you empty yourself and get down to their level and enter into their stuff. Also throughout the day when you have this rollercoaster ride of emotions a parent has to establish that emotional equilibrium. Sometimes it is being the sponge that absorbs all this stuff but it’s showing the kids “here’s how you keep your cool, stuff happens, it’s alright, we don’t freak out we don’t lose it.” On the rollercoaster ride of emotions we have to be on the steady train… which can be hard depending on what has been flushed down the toilet… Mostly it’s language of the body. It’s a lot of the body language of us taking things and giving things in love.

Q. If you could have people take away one thing from TOB in regards to family life, what would that be?

A. Mercy. Literally… mercy. We have to have mercy. I have to have mercy on myself, mercy on the kids. Not be afraid to apologize when Daddy loses his temper or Mommy gets impatient. That mercy is a great lesson for everyone to learn. Pope Francis said the three most important words in the family are please, thank you and I’m sorry. That’s really good stuff. There is simplicity there which is all encased in mercy.

TOB

If you would like to have more information regarding the upcoming Theology of the Body Congress, please visit their website where you can learn more, register to attend, and find amazing links.

If you are interested in attending a 5 day course held at retreat centers near Philadelphia, PA where personal and leadership formation involves both your heart and your head being immersed in TOB while in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, visit the Theology of the Body Institute. Here you will find ways to become a part of the “life-giving experience of the New Evangelization.”

Stay tuned for my interview with Jason Evert coming up Monday!