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YOU: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body

 

For many years, centuries perhaps, the Catholic Church has gotten a bad rap regarding her teachings on sex. Considered prudish by some and demanding by others, her insistence on purity and chastity has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and ignored by many.

pope-john-paul-iiIn recent years the Church has worked tirelessly to help people understand what Christ, and consequently the Church teaches regarding human dignity, sex, and why it is important to understand how these subjects intertwine. Pope John Paul II began this process with a series of talks that would later be compiled together as the Theology of the Body.

Theology of the Body emphasizes the sacredness of the body and how when we understand the true nature of our bodies- that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that the gift of our bodies have the ability to make visible the invisible mystery of God’s love- we can not only come to know and love God in a manner that is impossible to do in any other fashion, but we can know and love one another in a much deeper and spiritual manner as well.

Continuing Pope John Paul II’s work and as part of the New Evangelization movement, Ascension Press has been active in helping to bring the Theology of the Body to the forefront of Catholic education. Their new program, You: Life, Love, and The Theology of the Body, seeks to remind us that we are worth more than the world says; that we have an inherent dignity that sets us apart and can bring us to happiness, joy, and communion with God and one another.

You: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body

The You program is amazing. With inspirational presenters, captivating visuals, and down to earth advice, You connects with teens and parents alike. The program first builds a firm foundation regarding human nature, love, and responsibility and then tackles the difficult subjects that our teens are faced with today- pornography, masturbation, premarital sex, same sex attraction and marriage, and gender issues. It does this all the while reminding them of Christ’s love for each and every person.

This modern interpretation of age old teachings tie in Scripture references and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in a way that makes sense and that will resound in the hearts and minds of all those who watch the videos and read the books. The program consists of 5 DVDs, an instructor’s guide, a student workbook, and a parent’s guide. It can easily be used by schools, religious education classes, youth groups, a homeschool program, or even within a small group setting. Additionally, this isn’t made simply for teens. Adults who wish to learn more about the Theology of the Body would benefit greatly from this course.

You is not just another chastity program that says, “Don’t have sex! You’ll regret it!” Instead, it reminds us that human beings are created for love and created for communion. Our bodies don’t make sense on their own, but when we view them in the light of chastity, respect, communion, and love, we can see how beautiful and important the human body truly is.

Our society wants us to believe that what we want right now is all that matters. It has taken the words chastity, purity, and sacrifice and given them negative meanings. Chastity frees us from the attitude that it’s ok to use others and to allow ourselves to be used by others and instead opens our hearts to love- both to give love and to receive love. The You program shows us how living a chaste life, as we are all called to live, can bring us not only happiness but true freedom and love.

For those who are nervous to teach on this subject, You provides everything you need to teach the class. The instructor’s guide is broken down by session and provides notes, prayers, ways to engage the students, ice breakers, different activities to connect with the teens, and for those who need it, a complete breakdown of how to run the class including minute by minute instructions. This program can be used for beginners or veteran teachers alike.

The DVDs are simply amazing. Set against beautiful backdrops, well-known Catholic speakers who are vibrant, engaging, and relatable talk to the teens in a way that captivates them. The videos, while varying in length, seem to always last just the right amount of time. Some are longer (about 10 minutes), while others are short (about 3 minutes). But the message they each carry will speak right to the viewer’s heart.

The student workbooks are engaging and informative. They dive into the topics raised within the videos and they help the teens immerse themselves in a very meaningful way. With encouragement to “take it to prayer”, random tidbits and facts throughout, and review questions both at the end of each section and at the end of each chapter, students “will discover the truth about their bodies, their sexuality, and their unique call to love.”

The parent’s guide briefly reviews what the teen will cover in each lesson, provides questions to ask the teens, and family applications to help teens live out the teachings they are learning. The guide is an invaluable source for parents who wish to connect with their teens but may not know how to. .

You impresses upon our teens what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman and why this is important. It reminds us that we are each created not only out of love, but we are created for love. It helps us answer the question “who am I?” It tells us that purity “isn’t being numb to the beauty of God’s creation of masculinity and femininity” but instead that purity allows us to see the beauty of masculinity and femininity the way God wants us to- through a lens of true love and respect.

If you are looking for a program that will help you to teach the your teen how to live an authentic life of freedom, love, and happiness; if you are looking to guide your teen through confusing and challenging topics such as same sex attraction and marriage, pornography, and gender issues; if you wish to teach your teen that true love involves sacrifice, discipleship, chastity, and charity, then You: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body is the perfect program to try.

If you are interested in this program (and I promise you will love it!), check out Ascension Press’s website. Here you will find this program and many other resources to help you on this journey toward love, respect, chastity, and faith.

created for love

 

I was given this program in return for my honest review. I am not being compensated for this review.

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Theology of the Body Congress: Hope for a Broken World

 

theology of the body congress

There is no denying that our world is broken. We only have to turn on the television or read the news online or in print to know that our world is hurting. As a result of this brokenness, we see our society seeking to change what it means to be a family. As concerned parents we have to wonder how we can prepare our families to remain faithful to God’s vision and hope for the family.

Between 1979 and 1984 St. Pope John Paul II began giving Wednesday audiences known as “Theology of the Body”. In his talks he spoke of the beauty and dignity of the human body. He reminded the Church that each person was made in the image and likeness of God and that the human body therefore had a specific meaning- it made visible an invisible reality. Instead of being made simply for personal pleasure or gain, the body was capable of answering fundamental questions about life but also was able to give us the means to love others in the way that God loves us. It is through the God-given gift of our human bodies, made both male and female, that we are able to find true happiness and fulfillment.

TOB for every bodyTheology of the Body is not simply for married couples or for those wishing to teach their teens how to stay chaste. These of course are wonderful reasons to study Theology of the Body, but TOB is made for all people. It is for those who are single, those who are married, for the anxious teen, the celibate priest or religious, for those who are in relationships, those who wish to instruct others, and most importantly it is for families. TOB reaches into each and every facet of our lives and helps to educate us all on the beauty and the sacredness of the human body.

This coming September in Southern California The Theology of the Body Institute will host a Congress to bring St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to all those who wish to discover the joy and freedom that comes from understanding the sacred gift of the human body.

The Institute’s mission reads, “…the 2016 TOB Congress will propose a powerful vision of sexual complementarity that reaches the core of what it means to be human, made in the image of the God Who truly is a Family – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Through presentations from experts in the field of TOB, participants will encounter God’s plan for fruitful, self-giving love, which lies at the very heart of what the family is meant be, as well as ways of ministering to the human family on the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and sociological level.”

TOB

The three day Congress will be led by over 30 powerhouse Theology of the Body experts and enthusiasts including Greg and Julie Alexander, Christopher West, Jason Evert, Dr. Pia De Solenni, Bill Donaghy, Dr. Angela Franks, Matt Fradd, Fr. Sean Kilcawley, Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, O.C.D., as well as many more amazing men and women dedicated to sharing the joy and freedom that comes from understanding God’s intent for the human body.

Through keynote speakers, break-out sessions, and panel discussions Congress goers will have the opportunity to hear how TOB relates to numerous topics that affect our lives- pornography, teenage sexuality, infertility, same sex attraction, the struggles of married life, the struggles of family life, teens in a digital age, TOB for singles, TOB for feminists, divorce, and many other issues.

In the coming weeks here at Catholic Sistas we will be featuring interviews with a few of the keynote speakers from the Congress. We are honored to be able to share with our readers the insights these amazing individuals have gained through study, through prayer, and through their everyday lives. Not only have they dedicated their lives to learning about the sacredness and beauty of the human body and how it relates to love of self, love of others, and most importantly love of God, but they also seek to live their lives embracing these tenets as well.

We hope that you will be inspired by their stories and encouraged by their advice. We hope that they will bring hope to you in a time where hope often seems to be lacking.

 

male and femaleOur human bodies are sacred and wonderful. They are fearfully and wonderfully made. They can lead us into a fuller and deeper relationship with not only one another but ultimately with God. It is through our humanity that we can come to know God. Theology of the Body gives us the insights and the tools we need to grow closer to one another and to our Father.

If you are interested in attending the Theology of the Body Congress in Ontario, CA from September 23-25, 2016, please check out the TOB Congress website here. You can read about their mission, you can view the complete lineup of speakers and their topics, and you can register for the Congress.

If you are interested in learning more about the Theology of the Body but can’t attend the Congress, check out the Theology of the Body Institute website here. “The Theology of the Body Institute spreads the life-giving message of Theology of the Body through graduate level courses, on-site speaker programs and clergy enrichment training. Theology of the Body Institue seeks to penetrate and permeate the culture with a vision of true sexuality that appeals to the deepest yearnings of the human heart for love and union.”

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for interviews with some of these amazing speakers! I promise you will not only learn about the importance of the Theology of the Body in all aspects of your life but you will also be inspired and entertained!

tob pope john paul II

 

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8 Reasons I {am trying to} Pray the Rosary Daily

I have one memory of praying the rosary as a child. I don’t know how old I was but I’m going to guess it was sometime around my confirmation (8th grade for me). The only thing I remember is being in the church with lots of other students, feeling bored, and wondering just how long this rosary thing was going to take. It made an impression on me. Unfortunately not a good one.

I don’t recall ever praying the rosary again until I was in my 20s. I was coming back to the church after a few years hiatus, and I was in a better place then because I was more interested in learning my faith and trying to find ways to connect to it. Group rosaries were a great introduction at the time and those times were wonderful ways to learn the rhythm of a rosary. I enjoyed praying it and could see the merit in making it a regular habit. For several years I had varying levels of success with keeping up a regular devotion to the rosary. Unfortunately, again, I never developed that daily habit.

Then last year, during late summer/early fall, I participated in a 54 Day Rosary Novena. I was impressed with myself for keeping up with it. I had some accountability, which helped, and when I did miss a day I would often find a way to “catch-up” by saying two rosaries the next day (or within a few days to eventually catch-up with the rest of the group). After 54 days I had hoped it would be a habit that would be easy to continue. But prayer is not easy, it’s a struggle at times due to distractions placed in front of us and the busyness of life. That’s when I decided that a daily rosary was going to become part of my Lenten promises this year.

8 Reasons I {am trying to} Pray the Rosary Daily
Photo Attribution: By Daniel Tibi (Dti) | daniel-tibi.de –  (own work), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

 

I may not have a great track record, but I’m trying. If this is you too, maybe these reasons that I am trying to say a daily rosary will be encouragement to you too.

~1~ Deep Contemplation on the Gospels

If prayed rightly, the rosary should lead us into deep meditation and contemplation on the major events of Jesus’ life. The rhythm of the rosary is predictable, constant. While we say the prayers we should be reflecting on the mysteries, putting ourselves in Mary’s shoes as we watch Jesus carrying the cross or as she searches for him following their visit to Jerusalem. I feel like I have gained a lot more understanding of the Gospels from praying the rosary and that is a good reason to continue doing it.

~2~ The Perfect Companion on Long Car Rides

Or even short ones or any time we can pray while doing something else. My husband used to commute an hour each way to work before he finally moved to the city where we eventually met. During his car rides he would say a rosary. One time, on a drive down to visit my parents, 6 hours away, I put a rosary CD in my car and prayed all 20 mysteries on the ride. I also used to pray a rosary (with the help of a CD) while bottle feeding my twins. My hands were both occupied with bottles and I had nothing else to do at the time. I could have turned on the TV, but the length of their feeding actually worked out perfectly for praying a rosary. A Rosary app (there are lots of them out there) is a great way to say a rosary while taking a walk, on your commute to work, or any time that you have a free 10 minutes or so.

~3~ Powerful Intercessor for Souls

This is the biggest reason I decided on a daily rosary for Lent this year. This Lent I am praying a rosary specifically for those close to me whom I would like to see return to the Church and bring their families with them. The rosary is a powerful prayer!

~4~ Get on Mary’s Good Side, She’ll Nudge Jesus for you

He’s her son afterall! We all know that if you want to get an “in” with someone, befriending their mom is a great way to do it. Yes, we can go directly to Jesus, but why not also have his mother talking you up, too? Seriously though, Mary’s a powerful intercessor. Praying the rosary, something she often encourages and is seen with in reported apparitions around the world, makes us a friend of Mary’s. She’s our mother, too; get to know your mother, pray the rosary.

~5~ Mary said to

Related to #4, Mary has told us to say the rosary. Daily. So basically, mom said we should.

~6~ Great Way to Fall Asleep

The rosary should always be said with the right intention. As long as we intend to meditate on the mysteries of Christ’s life and put forth that effort, it’s okay to use it at the end of our day even if we might fall asleep while doing so. The calming, meditative, consistent rhythm of the prayers can certainly cause you to nod off if you’re not careful. And that’s okay. If you think about, we usually fall asleep with some thoughts going through our heads, they might as well be centered on our Lord as we drift off to sleep at night. And I’ve heard that if you fall asleep while praying a rosary, your guardian angel picks it up where you left off and finishes it for you.

~7~ When You Don’t Know What Else to do

Are you mad and can’t think? Pray a rosary. Are you too upset to string your own words together to ask God for a special intention? Pray a rosary. Are you angry at someone or something and don’t know how to handle it? Pray a rosary. Do you need healing from hurts, mental, physical, or spiritual? Pray a rosary. Are you wired up from an exhilarating day and need a way to calm your body and mind? Pray a rosary.

~8~ I Can’t be More Busy Than Him!

Who? The Popes of recent memory (and I’m sure many, many others as well). Pope St. John Paul II was known for having a deep devotion to Mary and the rosary. He was a busy man! I may complain about my busy life, but if he can pray a rosary (or 3) every day, I can certain fit one in as well. Pope Francis also has a devotion to Mary and the rosary. Again, he’s a busy man. I really can’t hold a candle to the schedule of a world leader. So … I think I can do this!

More inspiring posts and resources on the rosary:

From the website The Most Holy Rosary.com: The Fifteen Promises Granted to those Who Recite the Rosary (also includes all the prayers you need, tons of other information, and so much more!)

From the website Spiritual Direction: My Message from Heaven to Stay Awake and Pray the Rosary by Patti Maguire Armstrong

From Young and Catholic: 5 Reasons Why Young Catholics Should Pray a Daily Rosary

From a blog, Held by His Pierced Hands: I Don’t Like the Rosary-6 Reasons I Pray it Anyway

And two posts from Catholic Sistas on the Rosary: Rosary Walk by Rachel M., and From Loathing to Loving the Rosary by Misty

8 Reasons I {am trying to} Pray the Rosary Daily

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A Prayer for Peace

 

Jean-Jullien prayer for peace

In the wake of the tragic events that have taken place this past week, Pope Francis has encouraged all of us to continue to pray for peace in the world. He tells us, “I want to strongly reaffirm that the path of violence and hatred doesn’t solve the problems of humanity!”

Here at Catholic Sistas we stand beside our Papa in praying for those who have been mercilessly murdered and for those who will forever be impacted by the events that have unfolded. We ask that you pray along with us, not only for these people, but for those who have inflicted such cruel and terrible pain upon others. Matthew 5:44 tells us, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” We pray that God will work within their hearts to help them turn from their sins, to accept Christ into their lives, and to work for peace.

Pope John Paul II penned the following prayer for peace. Today and every day we ask our Father to help us usher in peace in our own families, our communities, and in our world.

O God, Creator of the universe, who extends your paternal concern over every creature and guides the events of history to the goal of salvation, we acknowledge your fatherly love when you break the resistance of mankind and, in a world torn by strife and discord, you make us ready for reconciliation. Renew for us the wonders of your mercy: send forth your Spirit that He may work in the intimacy of hearts that enemies may begin to dialogue, that adversaries may shake hands and peoples may encounter one another in harmony. May all commit themselves to the sincere search for true peace which will extinguish all arguments, for charity which overcomes hatred, for pardon which disarms revenge.   Amen.

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A Beloved Pope Becomes a Beloved Saint

pope john paul IIThis Sunday, on Divine Mercy Sunday, our beloved Pope John Paul II will be canonized as a saint. I doubt there was a single person who questioned that this day would one day come. Many of us are so thrilled that it is sooner than later! What a joy this day will be for all of us! I feel very blessed to be able to witness his life, his death, and his official canonization.

In his honor I want to share something I wrote on April 2, 2005. When our wonderful Papa died I felt it very intensely. How funny that a man I had never met, had never talked to, and who didn’t even know I existed would have such an impact on my life. But he did. He was such an influence in my life and I, like so many, mourned when he died. I look up to him for his teachings on life and love, forgiveness and trust. He touched me in so many ways.

I would love if you would share your memories of our amazing Papa with us. In the coming days we are sure to see how the world remembers him but I would love to hear how he affected your life. Has he helped changed the way you view others? Your view on life? Faith? How and why was he important to you?

Below you will find my memories of the days following his death. My heart still misses this great man but I know he has claimed his heavenly inheritance and is surrounded by all the other saints and angels giving praise to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. What better reward could one ask for? On Sunday I plan to celebrate with the world as our Church recognizes and canonizes this great man. May we each live our lives in such a manner that glorifies our Lord in all we say and do. May those who see us in turn see Christ’s light shining brightly in the dark night.

A Sad Day for the World

pope john paul wailing wallRegardless of the faith you profess, the passing of Pope John Paul II is very sad. As a Catholic I am sad for many reasons but mostly because he was such an outstanding human. Notice here I didn’t say Catholic, I didn’t say Christian, I didn’t say man. I said human. The Pope could see past the invisible lines that separate us all from each other. He bridged gaps between Christians and Jews, between Christians and Muslims, between Jews and Muslims. He wanted the world to be united in its love for God. He took tremendous strides in helping to heal past pains and to make steps toward that ultimate unity that he knows the Lord hopes for. Yes, he was the leader of the Catholic Church, but he was a man that mirrored Jesus’ life, one filled with the love of God, concern for others and an unwavering faith.

pope john paul with babyThe Pope was so concerned about human rights that he made it a pillar of his ministry and evangelization. He lifted human life up and reminded us that we are made in God’s likeness and so must respect life in all its forms… from the unborn to the handicapped; from the youth to the elderly; from Americans to Africans to Europeans. All life was sacred and he was at the forefront in helping to defend and preserve the sanctity of life. He was definitely one of the soldiers in God’s army… ready to defend the gifts and the precious life that God gave us.

I have sat watching the news channels, seeing the life of the Pope unfold, hearing the testimonials from not only Catholics but from Jews, Muslims, and other Christians throughout the world. I am in awe at the far reaching affect that Pope John Paul II has had. God certainly worked through this holy man. He has touched so many lives. I think that some might think he had no effect on their lives but his firm stand on moral issues, his willingness to help all others and his desire to unite the world for the Lord does touch every single person.

I feel lucky to have lived in a time that was blessed with a man as holy and as dedicated to the Lord as Pope John Paul II was. We should all strive to have the faith and dedication that he possessed. I am sad that our Pontiff has passed but am thrilled to think of him in Heaven. He is no longer suffering. He is with our Lord Jesus now and one cannot be sad about that!

I pray that we are further blessed with another Pope who is as dedicated to God and His people as Pope John Paul II was. I pray that perhaps others will view the Pope as not just the leader of the Catholic Church but as an ambassador from God. Someone sent to help the world continue to heal, continue to strengthen our bonds and help us to see and live the life that God is calling us all to live.

May Pope John Paul II rest in peace.

pope john paul II