Wednesday, December 30, 2009

TOB Intro

Here's Theology of the Body in a nutshell, from Katrina Zeno, courtesy of the Catholic New World (Chicago Archdiocesan newspaper).
Zeno's newest book will be here soon, too!
And don't forget to join us the 2nd Saturday of every month for our ongoing TOB video stream!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

From Sr Anne:
I have just had my first appearance as a member of the "guest blogging team" for the Chicago Tribune's religion blog. My post is a response to a Tribune cover story on the predicament of couples who resort to IVF to resolve their infertility problems, and then face questions about the embryos that may never be born.
If y'all could visit the site, comment on it and let others know about it, that could confirm the Tribune in its willingness to support religious dialogue like this. It would also ramp up my credibility(!), and--most importantly--allow the conversation to go deeper.
I am especially concerned that comments from Catholics show pastoral concern for couples who are in this predicament, since all I did, really, was look at the predicament from an objective sort of stance. That's never enough when you're talking about people's actual lives.

Here's the link:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Worth reading

Found this terrific conversation with Jennifer of Conversion Diary by following a chain of links... (Be sure to read the whole page!) But it would be a disservice not to cite at least this much:
I come from a background of lifelong secular atheism, so I know how crazy the Church’s stance on contraception sounds. Up until a few years ago, I didn’t know that anyone was even opposed to contraception anymore; I’d heard something about the Catholic Church being against it, but I thought it was an urban legend.

When I began to look into Christianity and was researching the Catholic Church, however, what I found when I read up on its views of human life and sexuality was nothing short of breathtaking. The wisdom I found in reading things like the Theology of the Body or Humanae Vitae was so counter-cultural, so unexpected, and yet resonated so deeply as being true, that for the first time I started to think that this Church might be telling the truth when it says it’s guided by Something more than just the opinions of men. John Paul II once said, "the difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the much wider and deeper than is usually thought, one which involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality." I have found this to be true.

I don’t have a big interest in anyone telling me how I should run my family, especially if they can’t relate to my situation. However, if the teachings of the Catholic Church are founded on the opinions of celibate dudes in Rome who have a bad habit of not listening to the opinions of the faithful, then we as Catholics have a lot more to worry about than just the issue of contraception. If, however, this is the Church that Christ founded, and if the Holy Spirit works through the fallible humans in this Church to reveal God’s will for humanity, then even the most difficult -- sometimes agonizingly difficult -- teachings are sure to lead us through the narrow gate that we seek to enter.

Friday, September 25, 2009

October assignment

Get ready now for October's TOB class by continuing to read "Love & Responsibility" and sections 114-117 in "Man and Woman He Created Them" (pages 592-615).
See you!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sept. 12 session

We are still working on the tape of the August session--audio problems need to be addressed. For some reason, we always have audio you will also notice on this recording. Sorry!

Chat transcript will be linked some time next week.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Books!

Pauline Books & Media just released two new Theology of the Body books, both by Karen Doyle.
Karen holds an Bachelor's Degree in Nursing and is also completing post-graduate, Masters level study in Marriage and Family Studies. She's not speaking from an ivory tower, having run a large student health clinic catering to the needs of male, female and indigenous students in Australia. Doyle recently served on the Executive Council for Natural Family Planning and is a fully accredited Family Life Educator.

TOB this week!

Saturday we'll be streaming live Theology of the Body study group, starting at 10:30 Chicago time, 11:30 for those of you on the East Coast (Chicago is GMT-5:00 for the rest of you). Please get the word out!

Monday, August 17, 2009

TOB intensive series in Chicago!

"Theology Uncorked" is a great series of dinner lectures in the heart of Chicago sponsored by the Holy Name Cathedral Young Adult Board and Free parking at Holy Name Cathedral. Pittance of a fee for the talk ($7?!); separate tabs for dinner.

SEPTEMBER 1--Love, Peace and the Scars of the 60's Hidden Wounds Vicky Thorn
SEPTEMBER 8--Closer to Nature, Closer to God--Common NFP Myths Debunked Kelly Florek, RN
SEPTEMBER 14--Catholic Sexuality: You've Never Had it so Good! Fr. Thomas Loya

5:15--5:45 Mass at Holy Name Cathedral
6:00-7:00 LaSalle Power Co. Restaurant (500 N. LaSalle) fellowship, free appetizers, cash bar, additional food by separate checks
7:00-8:00 Speaker ($7 suggested donation)
8:00 Social time

Spread the word!
We can't ustream this because we aren't putting it on. Hope you can make it!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Christopher West follow-up

The "Nightline" piece aired this month stirred up quite a controversy--among advocates of the Theology of the Body, of all people! Some very noteworthy persons spoke none to favorably of West's presentations, approach and style. Some of these persons even made those declarations simply on the basis of hearsay; others after having heard West's earliest efforts. More recently, two of the world's top TOB scholars defended West's work for its orthodoxy, addressing other criticisms as well.
If you have spent any time whatever worrying about the matter, please be sure to read Dr. Janet Smith and Dr. Michael Waldstein (translator of the Pope's work) as they weigh in on West.
This group is not advocating one approach or style over another: "Whoever is not against us is with us" was good enough for the Lord. We will applaud all efforts to bring the life-changing truth of the Theology of the Body to our culture.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Christopher West on Nightline

What started out as a call to Sr. Helena from an ABC writer who follows the "HellBurns" blog led to an eight hour interview with Christopher West and a spot on the May 7, 2009 edition of Nightline. Please add your comments about how Theology of the Body has changed your life!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Theology of the Body study group

Our study group will go on hiatus for the summer--starting early because we've just finished the book. We'll restart the group (and the book) in August, but with a change of day/time: from August-June, the group will meet here and online on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m.

Monday, April 13, 2009

International Symposium

Do you need a vital, theologically enriching excuse for a trip to Ireland? It's the 2nd International TOB Symposium!

The 1st International Theology of the Body Symposium, held in Gaming, Austria, in 2007, brought together scholars and popular presenters and invited them to engage in a fruitful dialogue on the many approaches to this broad topic. This 2nd Symposium will present the Theology of the Body itself as a unified whole, approaching it from spiritual, theological, philosophical, anthropological, and ethical perspectives. The Speakers are invited to present individual sections of the work each according to their own expertise. These core talks are complemented by talks placing the Theology of the Body in its historical-cultural, political and medical context. Considering that the Theology of the Body is a pedagogy of the body, all the Speakers will seek to ground the more theological and philosophical reflections in experience, and will touch upon practical ways of teaching the Theology of the Body. The talks will be given in a language that is broadly accessible,that is, not accessible to scholars alone.

(Wish I could go! How about you?)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

April 15: Humanae Vitae

On April 15, the TOB online study will address the prophetic encyclical "Humanae Vitae" (Of Human Life) issued by Pope Paul VI. Alone in the world, the Pope insisted that the Church could not change its teaching on what was then quaintly called "the regulation of births."
Feel free to put your questions in the comment box for Father Loya to address during this important session!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

TOB Scriptwriting Contest

Family Theater Production announces:

Theology of the Body Script Contest

Choose one or more of the following major lessons from Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”, write a short film script 5 to 10 pages long that helps illustrate that point (or points) and submit it to us at by April 1st, 2009.

The winner will receive $100... and fantastic food*. Runner ups and other finalists will receive cool prizes as well. Here are the major points...

1. The family is the fundamental building block of society. Hence, the way we treat marriage and procreation has a direct effect upon society (positive and negative). See October 22, 1980 audience and January 16th 1980 audience (section 5).

2. Earthly marriage and the conjugal union between a husband and a wife is meant to mirror the relationship between Christ and the Church. Hence it is a sign pointing us to heaven (i.e. God). Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the Church: selflessly. However, it is dangerous for us to get caught up in the sign (conjugal union in marriage) while not paying enough attention to where it is leading us (heaven). See August 11, 1982 audience

3. Christ not only calls us to avoid being lustful but to allow Him to change our ethos, or the inner desires of our heart in regards to lust. He wants us to follow his teachings out of love, not obligation or guilt. He wants us to find lustfulness unattractive. He wants us to attain the freedom that allows us to be in a relationship with God and away from the emptiness of sin. See September 10, 1980 audience.

4. Christ calls us to affirm the value of the person in "every" situation by never treating another human being as an object for our own selfish pleasure. We are called to always think of the dignity and welfare of others, before our own desires. See January 7, 1981 and January 14, 1981 audience.

5. The use of contraception is directly opposed to the free, total, faithful and fruitful love Christ calls us to in marriage. See August 22, 1984 audience.

6. The body has a "language" that is meant to proclaim the truth of God's love. However, if we are able to speak the truth with our bodies we are also capable of speaking lies. See August 22, 1984 audience (section 4 specifically).

Here are a couple good examples from movies...

Vanilla Sky: In the scene right before the car crash Cameron Diaz tells Tom Cruise "Your body makes a promise whether you say something or not!" The language of our bodies can speak the truth or it can speak lies.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days: After using each other for selfish purposes Matt McConaughey and Kate Hudson's characters begin to openly insult each other during the diamond gala scene near the end of the film. The use of others (as opposed to selfless love) is empty and ultimately hurtful.

FINAL NOTE: Any genre is welcomed...Avoid being preachy, lean towards subtleness and most importantly be like Jesus...really, really cool.

Email your script to by April 1st, 2009

Also check out and join our Facebook Group at this link...

* presumably, you have to pay your own way to L.A. to take them up on the food part.

Friday, January 30, 2009

My discovery of TOB

Here is a post that dates to 2005 and the days after Pope John Paul's death, when I was reflecting on the amazing contribution he made to the Church with the Theology of the Body:

I think that one of John Paul's greatest "legacies" will be his Theology of the Body. This was no ivory-tower theology worked out in the chaste mind of a celibate loner. Karol Wojtyla had a wide network of friends and students. Most of these were married (Wojtyla had celebrated the Wedding Masses for them!), and their priest-friend became their confidant. The Pope's Theology of the Body came from those conversations and from Wojtyla's pastoral assistance to these very real, normal, 20th century families.
I first encountered Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body when it was presented to the world in his general audience talks, beginning in 1979. I was a brand-new sister, just one year in vows, when these talks began. At the time, we had a few minutes of Church news (with reading of Church documents) every day after breakfast, and the Pope's talks pretty much filled the slot for years. I was struck from the outset, somewhat as the people in Jesus' day were: "Here is a completely new teaching, in a spirit of authority!" It was new, even though rooted strongly in the tradition of the Church. No one before John Paul had ever made the connections he made between the Creation accounts in Genesis, Trinitarian theology, and the "nuptial meaning of the body," made to be gift. That to be a person is not simply being self-aware (a dangerously limiting definition that many take for granted), or capable of relating to others: to be a person means to be a GIFT; to be in mutual gift is to love. Talk about the meaning of life! And since the Pope identifies the Holy Spirit as the "Person-Gift" in the Trinity, then you have the highest affirmation of our human bodied condition.
As a woman, I found it extremely affirming. Remember, this was still a time when women's liberation seemed to assume that women had to "match" men in every possible way. But now there was a strong, affirming, positive and utterly beautiful teaching that put the discussion into entirely different terms. The Church's "instinctive" rejection of artificial contraception made perfect sense in this context (not that the wisdom of Church teaching in this area hasn't been proven again and again even by the direction society has taken in the last almost 40 years since Humanae Vitae, the document which awkwardly, but rightly, affirmed the Church's stance).
So the Theology of the Body has pretty formed my interpretive key for things related to women's issues, marriage and celibacy. And I am always mystified by Catholics (and here I mean the well-informed ones) who do not even bother to take the Pope's message seriously. What's with them? Do they not want to believe that the wider culture needs to be evangelized? Do they not want to hear an alternative voice in these areas so linked to our human experience of happiness and fulfillment? Once I went to a catechetical conference at which one of the workshops was devoted to moral issues. The speaker, a priest, could have been on Planned Parenthood's payroll. Isn't it enough for Planned Parenthood to be using its multi-million dollar (if not billion dollar) budget to spread that message? Doesn't the world--heck, don't our catechists--deserve to hear something else, something that just may be inspired by the Gospel?
Theology of the Body is perhaps the first theological approach to making the Trinity more than an abstract, if holy, doctrine. In the Theology of the Body, the Trinity becomes the full vision of our vocation as persons. We are called to live Trinitarian life in a human key. And for the first time in theology, our bodies have something very essential to do with our human imaging of the Trinity.
Somebody tell the world: this is remarkable!

Notes from May 2006

I was really disappointed with the article in America about the "V-monologues" (you know what I mean, but this is a generally family-friendly blog). The author, professor of law and of theology at Notre Dame, wanted to make a case for accepting the play as an opportunity for women's voices to be heard, for women's issues to be brought to the fore, and for a dialogue between the play's admittedly unbalanced presentation and the perspectives Christian faith brings to the same issues.
There is nothing wrong with that.
What I take issue with, and wish most ardently to protest, is the way the author repeatedly mischaracterized the Theology of the Body and those who have found it intensely life-giving and woman-affirming. I seriously wonder if the author has ever spent any time with the actual texts of John Paul II. She was so condescending of the naive souls who accept its "rosy" view, and who conform to "Humane Vitae." Evidently, the author seems to think that TOB is nothing but a justification of the 1968 encyclical, and not a complete and hearty presentation of the human person in relationship. To identify TOB as a mere confirmation of Humanae Vitae is like mistaking a book-length study of human health with a prescription! Frankly, it seems to me that Catholic scholars of a certain generation have never gotten over Humanae Vitae. Anything that touches on sexuality seems to push their Humanae Vitae buttons and raise the alarm so loud that nothing new can get in.
That's not all.
The author assumed that parties who are in line with the thought of the Theology of the Body also make a strict identification of "culture of death" with "secular society" and "culture of life" with the Church itself! I have never heard anyone at all operate from this assumption (I may just be living in a bubble). Is the author creating a Catholic straw man so that her argument in favor of a V-Monologue Dialogue is highlighted as the only reasonable position for a Catholic with a brain? Sadly, I suspect so.
But the saddest thing is finding the mischaracterizing of TOB in America. Oddly, I think this is a result of changing the editorial practice in which two sides of an issue faced off. We would have been better served if someone well versed in the Theology of the Body had written a partner article. Because, unbeknownst to the author of the article, she was making a very good case for the core message of the Theology of the Body. According to JP2, the problem with, for example, pornography is not that it depicts the naked body as a whole, but that it depicts only body parts, separating them from the person who inhabits the whole body. And what does the V-Monologues do? Puts the entire focus on one body part. The original concern may well have been to highlight women's experiences and needs and sufferings, but by reducing women to one body part, it lost the person herself. So on the university campus, instead of reproducing the original work, why couldn't student groups be challenged with a full and honest presentation of the Theology of the Body (which, contrary to the America article's author, is not focused only on motherhood--if it was, why am I so intensely interested in it?). Then the groups could come together to create and original--and Christian--work of theater art.

Retrieving the past

I'm editing some blog posts from the past, and found a few with insights on the Theology of the Body, so I'll post them here for sharing. Please feel free to add comments!
Sr Anne

Monday, January 26, 2009

January notes

At least Sr. Helena took notes from the January session!

Technical Difficulties

In our Daughters of St. Paul communities, we have a little tradition of interpreting problems, especially technical problems, as a sign that a particular project is destined to do immense good--and that naturally attracts the interference of the denizens of darkness.
Even without that tradition, there's little doubt that the Theology of the Body online study is meant to do great good. (What better, more beautiful and transforming message is there for our society?) At any rate, our past several attempts to offer streaming video have suffered more than the usual glitches. For that reason, we can't offer archived video from the December and January sessions, which were (you knew this) fabulous.
Pray that through the grace of God we overcome any remaining technical hurdles in February!