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Alyssa Azul Relatable

Modesty: A Stripped Perspective

Growing up modesty was taught to me in relation to what I wore. It was a sin to show too much skin, wear clothing that accentuated curves, or wear too much makeup. I’ve seen girls reprimanded publicly for their clothing, and I also heard that it is a girl’s fault if a guy lusts after her. It’s only a matter of time before she associates modesty with shame, thinking society resents something about the female body. There’s a real problem with this approach.

The truth is, modesty is not simply a way of dress, but a virtue. In my experience raised in the church and serving in ministry for almost 10 years, an open discussion on this topic never happened. Unaddressed, it remained a thorn in my side. My own lack of understanding regarding modesty caused me to be resentful towards men and insecure about my body. 

I’m only scratching the surface, but I’ve taken what I’ve learned from Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body coupled with my lived experience to deepen my understanding of the wounds which a lack of modesty may flow from. 

Why might modesty be a struggle for her?

She feels ashamed.

She feels embarrassed about the parts of her body that she is told to “cover up”. If showing too much skin is a sin, then her breasts, hips, and all parts of her body that make her feminine are wrong. She feels guilty for wanting to look nice. 

Response:

Understand that the aspirations for beauty and adoration is not a sin, or something to be ashamed of. Pope John Paul II said “by modesty the human being manifests almost ‘instinctively’ the need for this ‘I’ to be affirmed and accepted according to its true value.”(General Audience, 1979). The need to be affirmed comes from our deepest desires as women to be seen. When Eve was created, she was first seen by God, then by Adam. Adam, on the other hand, was made to seek. Our desire to be seen is manifested when we choose to present ourselves in ways that attract love. The parts of our bodies that we might feel shame about have a divine function – to create and nurture life. Modesty aims to protect that, so that it is only seen according to its true value. 

She feels repressed.

Believing that it is liberating, she tries to dress in ways that the media or others show as empowering. She feels as though dressing the way that she wants is how she can “take control back” of her body. She may think modesty is not for her.

Response:

Due to our fallen natures as men and women, our good desires have been twisted, which results in the toxicity we see in the world today (ie. the sexual revolution, hook-up culture, etc.) Man’s nature to seek has been distorted to see people as a sum of parts, to objectify for his use. Woman’s desire to be seen is distorted to accept attention from anyone and anywhere, at the expense of her dignity. The world has successfully convinced people that bodies are expendable, which results in the connection between the body and soul being metaphorically “severed”. We all seek to love and be loved, but the truth of authentic love of the person is lost in the noise of a culture that screams self-gratification, loneliness, and pride. Dr. Edward Sri says that “modesty is about inspiring a reaction to the value of the person not just to the sexual values.” Contrary to what many people think, modesty is not repressive, but rather freeing once you understand what you are being freed from.

She is confused.

She doesn’t understand why it’s her responsibility to dress a certain way to keep men from objectifying her.

Response:

As mentioned before, men’s desires are distorted due to their fallen natures, so their journey towards purity looks different than ours. . . a topic of its own for another day! While it’s true that women have a role to play in averting a man’s gaze by dressing in modest attire, I am a firm believer that a woman needs to find the reason to do it for herself. Young girls need to know that they have the power to protect, preserve, and uphold their dignity as a person by making their own choices. Self-esteem is so important. When you have love for yourself, you begin to understand what about you is worth honoring, and what is equally worth honoring in others. A woman who understands that her body is a reflection of her God-given soul and fights to protect that, is frankly, more empowering than who you might find on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Modesty is driven by the commitment to see others and be seen as a whole person, rather than as a sum of parts. With that idea in mind, the conversation on clothing and physical presentation might make more sense.

So what now?

Believe me, no one is perfect. As I write this, I am mulling over whether or not the ripped jeans I’m wearing could even be considered pants. Keeping up with trends and beauty standards today is hard enough, so compassion goes a long way. Clothing decisions are not always black and white because bodies come in all shapes and sizes. This is where building a strong sisterhood is important. I hope we can move towards a place where girls growing up today understand modesty by being taught the beauty and sanctity of their bodies rather than by a slap on the wrist. We’re in this together and we have a responsibility to not only hold our brothers accountable, but our sisters as well. Affirm and uplift each other. Share your wounds. Educate and empower.

Related Resources:

Theology of the Body Explained-Revised Edition by Christopher West

Come, Holy Spirit, Give Us Modesty

 

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Ink Slingers

God’s Fabulously Fashioned Feminine Form

 

photo credit: hernanpba

It was a clear, sunny afternoon. Immersed in some mundane daily chore, my routine was abruptly interrupted by the ring of my cell phone. It was my doctor. After the usual greetings, she seemed to pause before continuing. “Lynette, I want to commend you for following up on this.” Darn. Any doctor starting a conversation that way couldn’t possibly have good news. “You’ve caught this early and the good news is, it’s not cancer.” Ok…. “but the biopsies did not come back with clean edges and the report states stage 2 and 3 precancerous cells. You will need to have an excision of the area to remove any remaining abnormal cells.” Darn, again. With a family history of melanoma and other related skin cancers, I knew the excision was unavoidable. What paralyzed me in that moment was the realization of what she was implying. This wasn’t my dermatologist. She was my gynecologist and the skin cancer was in an area that had never seen the light of day. Back, arm, leg, even face…. but there?

I met with a highly respected gynecological oncologist a few weeks later and he only confirmed the inevitable. Family and personal history, combined with the biopsy results, screamed negligence if I ignored or chose not to have the excision done. But it wasn’t just a simple matter of choosing to do it or not. Once I accepted the necessity of the procedure, it then came down to my level of pain tolerance. Financially, excision in the office would save a significant amount of money. Torn with the guilt of spending more than perhaps I needed to, I asked for my doctor’s opinion. His words cut through the stillness in the room. Economically, the office was the best choice, “but if it was my wife, I might tell her something different.” Double darn – enough said. Surgery and related appointments were scheduled.

My husband, in an effort to become educated about the subject at hand, spent an evening looking up my “condition”. As he read, he reported interesting information, hoping the knowledge would make me feel better. A few articles into the research, what he was discovering, however, was nothing short of horrifying. What is performed medically in our country as a response to female genital pre/cancer is routinely carried out in other countries as a form of female mutilation. The statistics for FGM (female genital mutilation) are staggering. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Fact Sheet dated February of 2017, “More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated.”[i] While some of the reasoning behind FGM is sociocultural factors, the conditions in which it is carried out (unmedicated with poor hygiene), along with the long-term psychological and physical effects, have prompted a world-wide effort to eradicate it.

Lest we fall into proudly boasting our country is above such atrocities, “the Centers for Disease Control estimate that there are around 513,000 girls and women in the United States who have either undergone FGM or who (are) at risk of doing so—mostly in immigrant communities from regions of the world where it is still practiced.”[ii] Although FGM was prohibited in the U.S. with the passing of the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1995[iii], our country has not escaped unscathed.[iv] On April 24th of this year, CNN reported, “In the first federal case involving female genital mutilation filed in the United States, two Michigan doctors and the wife of one of the doctors have been charged with performing the banned procedure on two 7-year-old girls.”[v] Just two months later on July 14th, CNN published perhaps the most alarming report I have read yet, “The alarming rise of female genital mutilation in America.”[vi] I will warn you. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Years ago, I would have received my husband’s informational reporting with a half-hearted “that’s horrible” response and I would have moved on to my own self interests. But this time, I was almost instantly seized with a deep sadness and pain. Why the difference? My faith.

photo credit: Pascal Rey Photographies

Having recently studied the writings of Pope St. John Paul II on human sexuality contained in his teachings on the Theology of the Body, I couldn’t escape the reality of the attack at the very core of the dignity and the femininity of these young girls and women. We are sexual beings. This fact is undeniable and unavoidable. We are conceived into being within the context of a sexual act. We are formed within our mother’s wombs with DNA that marks us indelibly as either male or female. Not just biological beings, we are made in the image and likeness of God, which means our bodies are “even more so, theological. Our bodies offer us, if we have the eyes to see it, a profound ‘study of God.’ Just as a work of art points to the heart of the artist, so too does the human body point to the heart of the God who made us.”[vii] Every cell, every inch of our body was intricately designed for a definite purpose. To rob a woman of her femininity as God physically designed is to alter what was divinely inspired. And then, as a result of the intervention of man’s disordered misconception of God’s plans, all havoc breaks loose. The pain is felt not just by the woman herself, but it trickles down to every aspect her life touches – her future relationships, her ability to mother, her role within society, her impact on her peers, etc.

We have all heard the cry to protest the “Culture of Death.”[viii] We think of such issues as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, etc. With FGM, I propose we are facing a culture of death to the dignity of femininity, a death of the sacredness of God’s design, a death of the beauty God created in the creature He called “woman.” There is hope – a surgeon, speechless by what she saw, hoping to establish a clinic for reversal surgery[ix]; organizations like Kakenya’s Dream[x] that educate and keep young girls safe from FGM and child marriage; and a documentary, Jaha’s Promise[xi], that chronicles the story of Jaha Dukureh, an activist named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

It would have been much easier for me to have brushed aside the inner voice prodding me to write about this. I could have come home from my surgery (which ended up being more extensive than originally planned), pampered myself with pain meds all the while confident in the knowledge that I had an excellent surgeon and medical team who treated me with dignity and respect, and let the topic slide by. But I know God doesn’t work that way. He won’t let me forget those women whose faces I see when I close my eyes to offer my discomfort for them. He won’t let me be silent about the pain they surely endure that I have only experienced a mere fraction of. It is for them I share my story. It is for them I share their story.

________________________________
Sources:

[i] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

[ii] http://time.com/4707899/victims-of-fgm-see-new-hope-in-life-changing-surgery/

[iii] http://www.fgmnetwork.org/legisl/US/federal.html

[iv] https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-04-21/female-genital-mutilation-illegal-us-so-why-it-still-happening

[v] http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/22/health/detroit-genital-mutilation-charges/index.html

[vi] http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/11/health/female-genital-mutilation-fgm-explainer-trnd/index.html

[vii] Christopher West, Foreword, Theology of Her Body, p 2.

[viii] http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Evangelization/Evangelization_008.htm

[ix] http://time.com/4707899/victims-of-fgm-see-new-hope-in-life-changing-surgery/

[x] https://www.kakenyasdream.org/about/

[xi] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/17/jahas-promise-fgm-film-premieres-at-copenhagen-film-festival; https://www.theguardian.com/society/video/2017/mar/17/jaha-dukureh-promise-fgm-video

 

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Anni Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Sacraments Vocations

Working Toward Sainthood: 5 Steps to Enhancing Your Catholic Christian Marriage

 

Like many military couples, my husband and I were first married by the local Justice of the Peace. We already had our “church wedding” date set, so we chose the same month and day, only a year early, in order to make everything legal. In the year leading up to our Convalidation, we took part in the local diocese’s mandatory pre-marriage classes, meeting as a couple with another couple, a few times each month.

Looking back on it now, almost a decade later, I realize our learning and growth, both as individuals and as a couple, did not stop at either wedding. And, there is immense value, wisdom, and love in the teachings of the Catholic Church, as it pertains to Sacramental unions. From my years of study and lived experience, allow me to impart some wisdom to those just starting out, and perhaps remind those of us solidly entrenched in this sacrament.

1.) Pray for your spouse. Many couples, and the Church itself, advocates family prayer – the family is known as the Domestic Church, after all! But, just as important as praying together, is the act of praying individually for our spouses. A wiser Catholic wife shared once she has an alarm set, and I took her recommendation to do the same. My phone reminds me every day, usually set for a time my husband would be headed home (if he had a typical 9-5 job) to pray for him. Sometimes, the prayer is lengthy; other times, it is a brief, “Jesus, watch over my husband on his way home.”

2.) Familiarize yourself with the concept and beauty of the teaching of Theology of the Body. St. John Paul II wrote extensively on the beauty and dignity of women… and the Sacrament of Matrimony. He reassured Catholics that sex is a pleasurable act, to be saved until marriage so that we are able to join with God as co-creators of life – because at the moment we are giving ourself wholly to our spouse, God is with us. Realizing God is truly in that moment is a beautiful and powerful realization… which is also a difficult one to remember when we internalize our secular culture’s view on sex as being solely an act of pleasure. It is so much more than pleasure-based, which is part of the added beauty of the procreative act.

3.) Learn about love – from Catholic writers and speakers… and, the Catholic saints! Christopher West, renowned for his work on Theology of the Body explains how our marital love is but a foreshadow of the love we experience from God. So, what we give to, and receive from our spouse is just a taste of what we aim to receive in our life after death. St. Teresa of Calcutta, a woman who lived in the world, giving herself entirely and devotedly to the world, reminds us that, while “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love…” She also directs us to, “Wash the plate not because it is dirty, nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” St. Frances of Rome also shares wisdom with wives, reminding us, “It is most laudable in a married woman that she be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.” The saints wrote about love extensively – both God’s love for us, and ways in which we can better love our own spouses.

4.) Model God’s love and mercy for us, to our spouse. God doesn’t always like the choices we make. Sometimes, He wonders what we are thinking, and He shakes His head disapprovingly. But, He also recognizes our free will and has infinite love, and more importantly, mercy – if we are willing to seek it. Because we are called to sanctification through our vocation of marriage, we are challenged to be God’s tangible love and mercy to our spouse. This is not to say there aren’t consequences for our behavior or actions, but we are called to be loving and merciful to our spouse, even if we may not like their choices or actions. This advice also presupposes the Sacrament of Matrimony is healthy, and there is no physical, sexual, or emotional abuse – because abuse is never justifiable. The Church even acknowledges there is no room for abuse in a sacramental marriage.

5.) Manage your roles and expectations. Keep in mind, the roles and expectations you have at the outset of the marriage may shift. Every change during a marriage, i.e. change in employment, adding a family member, moving, etc., brings the necessity to manage the roles and expectations each person has in their marriage. Your roles and expectations may change over time. And, that is okay! Keeping an open dialogue, and being honest with yourself and your spouse, is a guaranteed way to meet the ebb and flow of marriage. Because you are a team, united with God, it is important to keep the avenues of communication open, and have the discussions of each others’ roles and expectations (for both yourself, and your spouse) together.

In our culture, it is easy to lose focus on the beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is easy to get stuck in noticing the imperfections of our spouse, while overlooking our own contribution to the state of our marriage. But, as Catholic Christians, we are striving to achieve sainthood.

As married couples, we are called to the path of sainthood through our vocation as wives or husbands. Furthermore, we are challenged, sometimes more than others, to help our spouse achieve sainthood with us. Yet, putting these five steps in the forefront of your mind may just help ease some of the work toward sainthood, and may in fact help enhance the journey!

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Current Events Faith Formation Ink Slingers Marriage Michelle Parenting Products Respect Life Reviews Same Sex Attraction Spiritual Growth Vocations

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.

Categories
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!)