Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In Memoriam, Fr. John Harvey

A TOB hero died this week.

Fr. John Harvey, OSFS was the founder of Courage, a spiritual support group for people with same sex attraction (SSA). He was faithful to the Gospel command to "love one another" and to the teachings of the Church about human love in an age when many people firmly believe the two to be incompatible.

Among the comments added to his online obituary (I'm copying some here because usually online obits don't enjoy eternal life) are these, which really are a message in themselves:

"...He has embodied the ministry that he has founded, his person characterized by that same word - COURAGE.

"He is one of the few priests who dared to love the person struggling with same-sex attractions with the unconditional love of Father God.  His ministry has raised hope for the homosexual person saying "nothing is impossible with God'.  We shall forever remember him as the champion of love...."

"Rest in Christ's peace Father Harvey.  Thank you for your inspiration and courage.  You truly were a living example of Christ and His love.  We shall miss you but celebrate your journey."

"Father Harvey was a holy man and a great priest.  He truly made the love of Christ visible.  I will be forever grateful for the kindness he showed me.  May he rest in peace."
"Dear Fr. Harvey,   thank you so much for showing me how to manage my SSA.  Because of you and your apostalate I now have many, many dear friends who are like family to me.  My life is so much happier!  Pleace continue to pray for me with Holy Mary and Good St. Joseph!"

"Thank you Jesus for the gift that Father H was to me and to all of us. he was a loving Father figure for those who needed healing in that way and a Christ like priest to all he met. thanks also to the Oblates for loaning him to Courage for so long. we are grateful for your support also."

"Father Harvey,   Thank you for your tireless service and for your willingness to serve Our Lord.  I remember when I first met you and how gentle you were.   You reflected Christ to me as I was trying to navigate my way through some very rough waters,  You listened and told me the truth in love in accordance with Scripture.  You were a light in my dark corner of the world and pointed me toward Christ. ..."

 "I cannot remember ever seen Fr. Harvey NOT smile. He displayed Christian joy no matter how troublesome the matter he and I or those we were with might have been talking about. That was a sign, I think, of his deep communion with God--a communion which now, I suspect, has been perfected for him."

"It was my honor to be at the same table for lunch at the San Diego Courage Conference some years ago.  I sensed I was in the presence of a saint.  His cheerful example to me and others instilled hope in the hearts of us whose family members were either struggling with or had given into SSA.  God bless his soul for answering the call to establish the Courage/Encourage apostolate, which helped me to get through many years of suffering that seemed impossible to me at the time.'

"Thank you Father for all your love, support and your truly christian teachings. I never met you in person but I knew your great labor, 'cause I have SSA and your love came to me through Courage Latino Mexico. I'm so sad and at same time so happy because you already are with God. No doubt about it."


Saturday, December 18, 2010

More on Women, Sex and the Church

From the pen of George Weigel:
I am a suspect witness in the case of Erika Bachiochi, who as Erika Schubert was my student in Cracow in the late 1990s. Armed with a law degree, a theology degree, a husband and five small children, Erika has become one of the intellectual leaders of the new Catholic feminism in the United States. Her edited volume, “Women, Sex, and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching” (Pauline Books and Media), includes 10 stimulating essays on just about every hot-button issue at the intersection of women’s lives and the Catholic moral imagination. But as Boston College’s Father Paul McNellis puts it, Erika’s book is not-for-women-only: “It should be required reading for every son, brother, fiancĂ©, husband, father, seminarian and priest,” because the women who think out loud here “know something about life, and in listening to them you come away wanting to be a better man.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New resource for couples

Just learned about the work of Tim and Traci Boh, pioneering a fertility charting program with algorithms that modify according to the individual woman's cycle, from onset of menses through menopause. Their program also offers a way to create a pdf chart to give to your doctor. Find out more at You can also follow Traci on Twitter.

Notes from Saturday

Sr Helena faced repeated technical problems in Saturday's web stream. (We really do need to get a new ethernet cable for the conference room!) But she managed to take notes when she wasn't re-establishing the lost connection. You can find the notes on her blog:

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 11 TOB class

It's already the 2nd week of Advent--and tomorrow is the 2nd Saturday of December: time for our ongoing study of Karol Wojtyla's "Love and Responsibility."
Join us and Fr. Thomas Loya at the Chicago bookstore or online at 10:30 a.m. CST (that's 4:30 p.m. GMT).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Continuing TOB

Our TOB class meets online this Saturday (same time, same station). We'll pick up where we left off with Pope John Paul's "Love and Responsibility."
Join us!
11:30 a.m. EST
4:30 p.m. GMT

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Next Class, Oct 9

We're continuing the study of Pope John Paul's "Love and Responsibility" with Fr. Thomas Loya this Saturday at 10:30 Central Time. Join us here ("in the body"!) or online.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Continuing the conversation with Dawn Eden

This time, it's Professor Janet Smith. The most serious "charge" Eden makes in  her well-publicized thesis--it seems to be the one thing that unsettles the largest number of more conservative thinkers--is that, according to West, the Theology of the Body is so "revolutionary" that it marks a real break with the past, with tradition. In more formal terms, it violates the hermeneutic of continuity. (Them's fighting words if you're an orthodox theologian!)
In her very lengthy critique of the thesis (as a Professor, Dr. Smith has had to wade through many a Master's thesis, so she critiques this one as if it were another work coming across her desk), Smith zeroes in on this most weighty point. That passage (from the middle of Smith's response) will follow here; please go to Catholic Exchange for her Part 1 and for the rest of the critique.

[Eden] states the theme in this way: “The Theology of the Body is an all-encompassing theology that requires theologians and religious educators to recontextualize ‘everything’ about Christian faith and life” (ET, 11). She explains further by stating, “It isn’t just about sex and marriage;” it is a “revolution” that “will lead to a dramatic development of thinking about the Creed.”  (Eden notes that this quotation came from George Weigel’s Witness to Hope, 343). There is a striking set of words linked here: “all-encompassing,” “recontextualize,” “everything,” “revolution,” and “dramatic development.” Eden bombards her readers with words that she seems to believe will shock them.  Surely, there can be no hermeneutic of continuity if such radical claims are being made.
But does West say such things and, if so, where, and what does he mean?  The merit of Eden’s thesis over against some of the other pieces against him is that it provides readers with sources where they can go to verify her charges.  Unfortunately, as I have stated, when one goes to the sources or even reads carefully what Eden has stated, one rarely draws the same conclusions that she does. I was hoping to find where West says what she states the first theme to be.  Eden doesn’t lead us to any passages that state that the Theology of the Body is an “all-encompassing” theology; she only notes that West said it “isn’t just about sex and marriage.” (ET, 11) I would have thought Eden would be pleased that West says the Theology of the Body “isn’t just about sex and marriage,” because elsewhere she accuses him of presenting the Theology of the Body as though it were only about sex and marriage. He can’t win!
Recontextualizing Everything
Eden does acknowledge that the word “recontextualize” is hers, but she does not acknowledge that none of the words in her first theme belong to West.  (ET, 11, footnote, 25)  That is, he does not say that “theologians and religious educators” must do anything in respect to “everything about Christian faith and life.” In reference to the word “everything,” she refers us to an essay by West, entitled “What is the Theology of the Body and Why is it Changing So Many Lives?” The word “everything” does not appear in that essay.  I did find some interesting material there, however.  West quotes John Paul II as saying that “Since our creation as male and female is the ‘fundamental fact of human existence’ (Feb. 13, 1980), the theology of the body affords ‘the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life’ (Oct. 29, 1980).” This certainly is a sweeping claim, but it is John Paul II’s claim, not West’s.  West follows John Paul II in understanding that the Theology of the Body will allow us to “rediscover” the meaning of existence and life.  This rediscovery is a kind of revolution but it is in no way a revolution that involves any change in doctrine.  It is a reappropriation of the deepest roots of the faith.  There is no discontinuity here.
When Sister Marianne Lorraine TrouvĂ© (who is providing an excellent critical commentary of Eden’s thesis on her blog) also pointed out Eden’s error regarding the “everything to change” assertion, Eden thanks her for pointing out the error and notes: “The source should have been listed as West’s article ‘The Pope’s Theology of the Body.’ (Catholic Education Resource Center; [accessed February 5, 2010]).”  I invite others to read that piece and see if West is claiming that “everything about Christian faith and life” must be “recontextualized.”  Again, I think those who go to the source will find a wonderful article disclosing the treasures of the Theology of the Body.
A search for “everything” in the source that Eden provides, leads us to these paragraphs:
According to John Paul, by reflecting on these three levels [Original Man, Historical Man, Eschatological Man] of “experiencing” the body, sexuality, and marriage, we discover the very structure and deepest reality of human identity – we find our place in the cosmos and even penetrate the mystery of the Trinitarian God. How is this so through contemplating the body, sex, and marriage? As John Paul shows us, the question of sexuality and marriage is not a peripheral issue. In fact, he says the call to “nuptial love” inscribed in our bodies is “the fundamental element of human existence in the world” (General Audience 1/16/80). In light of Ephesians 5, he even says that the ultimate truth about the “great mystery” of marriage “is in a certain sense the central theme of the whole of revelation, its central reality” (General Audience 9/8/82).
This is to say that everything God wants to tell us on earth about who he is, the meaning of life, the reason he created us, how we are to live, as well as our ultimate destiny, is contained somehow in the meaning of the human body and the call of male and female to become “one body” in marriage. How? Pointing always to the Scriptures, the Holy Father reminds us that the Christian mystery itself is a mystery about marriage – the marriage between Christ and the Church. Yes, God’s plan from all eternity is to draw us into the closest communion with himself – to “marry” us! Jesus took on a body so we could become “one body” with him (which we do in the Eucharist)  (my emphasis). [i]
West is hardly giving instructions to theologians and educators to “recontextualize everything.”  Rather, he is simply pointing out that the Holy Father is directing us to contemplate the mystery of the body, of marriage, and the relationship of Christ and his Church.  We see no “revolution” here, no calls for “doctrinal development.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reporting from the Book Launch

Sr Lorraine writes about the Book Launch:

Last evening we had a book launch at Boston College for Women, Sex, and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching.

This project brought together a group of talented women who are experts in their field. Most of them have written books on the subject matter of their respective chapters. They know what they’re talking about.

They cover the material in a unique way, from a pro-woman perspective rooted in Catholic teaching. They show that these teachings of the Church, which are so controversial today, are in fact pro-woman. To this end they not only discuss doctrine and moral teachings, but do so in a way that takes into account solid data from sociology and other fields. The book, then, is not just theoretical, but it shows what happens in a society when sexual morality breaks down on a massive scale. The end result hurts people.

This book complements other titles that Pauline Books & Media has published in this area, especially those concerning the theology of the body. Pope John Paul often spoke of the spousal meaning of the body, a meaning which he defined as “the power to express love: precisely that love in which the human person becomes a gift and—through this gift—fulfills the very meaning of his or her being and existence.” And quoting the text from Gaudium et Spes that he used so often, human persons cannot fully find themselves except through a sincere gift of self.” (TOB 15:1; p. 185).

The book also includes a chapter explaining Catholic doctrine concerning the ordination of only men to the priesthood. That chapter is written by Sr Sara Butler, one of the foremost experts in the field who explains this teaching lucidly and succinctly.

Snoring Scholar reviews "The Human Person"

Thanks, Sarah!

Recently, I dubbed The Human Person According to John Paul II, by J. Brian Bransfield, “one of the best books I’ve read in a lonnnng time (maybe ever).” It’s time to support that statement with a few reasons why you should not only pick it up and read it, but also buy it for your parish library and your best friend.
This book is approachable. The most compelling reason I have for wanting to stand from my rooftop and trumpet to everyone I know that they should read this book is that it’s approachable AND that it makes the whole idea behind Theology of the Body (republished in an expanded form recently as Man and Woman He Created Them), John Paul II’s great masterpiece (which is also online), approachable.
TOB is a HUGE undertaking to read and an even bigger undertaking to understand and unpack. I’ve read a host of other authors who have tried it, and who have done well. But this is the first book that I felt like I could hand to my friends, my husband, and my pastor with absolutely no compunction. It’s one of the only books I have purchased after receiving a review copy, and one of an even smaller number that I know I’ll be buying again.
There’s heavy, deep stuff in this book, because that’s the topic, but it’s written in a way that makes you comfortable. My husband thought, for the first two-thirds of the book, that I was reading a novel, and his eyebrows were lost in his hairline for a day or two when he found out it was nonfiction.

Read the rest here

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weigel Interview: TOB?

The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II -- The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the LegacyGeorge Weigel just released a new book that is a sequel to Witness to Hope, his biography of John Paul. There’s an interview here:
From the interview:
"[John Paul's TOB writings] have changed the discussion of sexual morality in the Catholic Church, and they’re beginning to do so in the world. Believe it or not, a group of Columbia students self-organized an outdoor discussion of John Paul’s books on sexual ethics at Rockefeller Center recently. No one could have imagined any such thing happening in, say, 1978, when he was elected."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Where does TOB belong?

Applying theology of the body to societal problems

A deeper understanding of our bodies' physical and spiritual dimensions can shed light on the harmful, distorted views of society

By Emily Stimpson - Our Sunday Visitor, 9/26/2010

The theology of the body is not just a theology for Marriage Encounter weekends, Pre-Cana classes or high school classrooms. It’s also a theology for the public square.
Of course, Pope John Paul II’s collection of teachings has a lot to say about sex and sexuality. When it comes to communicating the Church’s understanding of marital love and intimacy to contemporary culture, the theology of the body has been a game-changer, helping countless people grasp for the first time the sacredness and power of giving one’s body to another.
But it’s not called the theology of the body (as opposed to the “theology of sex”) for nothing. Pope John Paul II’s teachings are, at their heart, not a sex-ed curriculum, but rather an anthropology of what it means to be a human person. They are a prism through which Catholics can view themselves and the world rightly.
That’s why the theology of the body has something to say about what happens outside, as well as inside, couples’ bedrooms. It is, at its most basic, not just a guide for how we are to love, but also for how we are to live.
And, when properly understood, it sheds light on the root causes of some of our culture’s most pressing social concerns: the spread of pornography, the rise in out-of-wedlock births, the culture of divorce, support for abortion and embryo-destructive procedures, and the push for same-sex marriage.

Read the rest:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

TOB critique

Sr. Lorraine is one of the Theology of the Body specialists in the Pauline editorial department, so she was quite interested when author and convert-blogger Dawn Eden made her Master's Thesis on Christopher West's ten key themes available. That thesis has gotten a lot of publicity, and has also contributed to some less-than-charitable characterizations of West and his work.
Is Eden on the right track? Is Christopher West promoting his own (off-base) understanding of the Theology of the Body more than offering a reasonably popularized version of Pope John Paul's teaching?
Sister Lorraine offers a point by point critique. Given her vast experience working with West (especially on his revised "Theology of the Body Explained") and Dr. Waldstein (in the critical translation of the Pope's texts), Sister Lorraine should be given a hearing.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Review: The Human Person in the Thought of John Paul II

Book Explores What It Means to be Human in Light of 
Theology of the Body

WASHINGTON—“What does it mean to be human?” A new book by the priest who spearheads the evangelization and catechetical efforts of the U.S. bishops explores this question by drawing on the teachings of Pope John Paul II in his theology of the body. In The Human Person: According to John Paul II, published by Pauline Books and Media, Father J. Brian Bransfield examines the vision of humanity expressed by Pope John Paul II and uses it as the basis for a moral theology that offers practical guidance and support in living the Christian life.

Father Bransfield writes about the challenges raised by three social revolutions of the 20th Century – the industrial, sexual and technological revolutions – and how Pope John Paul’s theology of the body responded to the resulting societal shifts. These shifts, Father Bransfield observes, have led to a disregard for women, the spread of cohabitation, the rise in divorce and the growing trend of fatherlessness. John Paul II challenged all of these trends. Father Bransfield shows how Christians today can overcome the negative consequences of these shifts through living the teaching of the theology of the body as an essential element of the new evangelization proclaimed by Pope John Paul II.

Father J. Brian Bransfield is a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He currently serves as the Assistant General Secretary and Executive Director of the Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Father Bransfield holds a doctorate in moral theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington.
This review dated June 10, 2010;

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Answering the tough TOB questions

What does the Church have against women? That's what many in our culture seem to wonder, deep down. And the new "Women, Sex and the Church" can help. Editor Erica Bachiochi "argues that her previous status as a feminist who viewed the Church as almost evil should lend even more credibility to the work. After all, it is far more convincing for some to hear from someone who ‘saw the light’ than it is coming from someone who never thought otherwise."

Read the rest of the review here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New online study starting soon!

Love and ResponsibilityOur Theology of the Body class will resume on the 2nd Saturday of the month, beginning in just 10 days. Instead of going through the tome of John Paul's Wednesday talks ("the" source of the Theology of the Body),  we will be studying Karol Wojtyla's earlier work, "Love and Responsibility." People who think that the Theology of the Body was just the Pope's after-the-fact attempt to justify the Church's teachings in the widely-scorned encyclical "Humanae Vitae" will be surprised to see that "Love and Responsiblity," first published in Polish in 1960, is the real precursor to the Theology of the Body. Wojtyla had a new book ready for the publisher when he was elected Pope; circumstances being what they were, he had to adapt his manuscript to a new format of Wednesday talks.
The new year-long study can offer you a better sense of where the Pope is coming from in the Theology of the Body, which may be his most enduring charismatic gift to the Church.

Basic class info:
Meet here* at the bookstore or online every 2nd Saturday of the month, 10:30 US Central Time (GMT-6).
Text: Love and Responsibility

Spread the Word!

*172 N Michigan Avenue, Chicago (one block north of Millennium Park--make it a downtown day!).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sr Lorraine on Dawn Eden, Part 2

Guest post #2 as promised, from Sr Lorraine of "Open wide the doors to Christ." Be sure to visit her site to join in the comments.

In her thesis, Dawn lists ten themes that she says are the major themes in Christopher West's work. She also listed them in the talk she gave at her defense (near the bottom of that page).

Her listing of these themes raises the question: how did she determine that these themes are in fact the major ones of West's work? She doesn't explain her criteria for selecting them. 
This leads to the further question: do these ten themes in fact represent the distillation of West's work? If West himself were to summarize his work in ten themes, would he choose these or something else? Do these themes really capture the essence of his work? Are there others that could have been included? West is basing his themes on John Paul, and several other important themes could be noted, such as the communion of persons, spousal meaning of the body, shame, receptivity, celibacy for the sake of the kingdom, the new evangelization and the culture of death, and most importantly, the theme of self-gift.

If Dawn wants to critique all of West's work, she needs to be absolutely sure that she is presenting his work accurately. Her synthesis is certainly open to debate. My personal opinion is that she's selecting themes that better suit her criticisms of West, and omitting others that are more fundamental but not so open to criticism. This leaves Dawn's thesis vulnerable, since her critique assumes her reading of West corresponds to what he is actually saying, but it may not. Again, this relates to the difficulty I mentioned in my first post, that Dawn has taken on a project that's so broad she can't do it justice.

Guest Post: Sr Lorraine on Dawn Eden

Bi-locating from Sr Lorraine's own blog, Open Wide the Doors to Christ (where you can follow the conversation that has already begun). Be back here (or there) for more, which Sr Lorraine promises; it should be very stimulating.

Dawn Eden has written her master's thesis critiquing the work of Christopher West. She was kind enough to send me a free copy and I read through it carefully. I admire Dawn and thank God for the grace of her conversion to the Catholic faith and the wonderful work she has been doing to promote chastity.

I sent her some lengthy feedback that was more critical than favorable. Since discussion of this is going on in the Catholic blogosphere, I'd like to say something about it without revealing details of her thesis, which she is selling to get some funds for her further studies. So I'll probably do this in a few posts. Here's some intro:

My background in this area is as follows: For the past 16 years, I've been working in our apostolate as a developmental editor. I edited Christopher West's book Theology of the Body Explained (Pauline Books & Media). I also collaborated with Dr Michael Waldstein when we published his translation of the Pope's TOB talks. It was a privilege for me to have carried out this work. Both West and Waldstein are outstanding, dedicated Catholics who are working tirelessly to promote Catholic teaching.

My general impression of Dawn's thesis is that she took on a large project in giving “a comprehensive overview of West’s presentation of TOB.” Since much of West’s work has been in his speaking presentations, to fairly evaluate it would require her to follow the development of his teaching as it has unfolded over the past decade. That’s quite a project. It's so broad that I don't think it's even possible to do it in a master's thesis. To be fair to West, she would need to also contextualize his teachings so as to present them objectively without any distortion. In my opinion, the thesis does not accomplish this objective.

Since West is actively engaged in developing his work continually, her thesis may become dated quite quickly. This point also touches on the question of how West has responded to criticisms. I believe that he has made changes to his presentations in response to various types of feedback. In my personal work with him on his book, he was very open to constructive suggestions and willing to make edits when needed. I mention this because Dawn does not document how West has in fact made changes to his presentations after getting constructive criticism. If her goal is to give a comprehensive overview of West's presentations of TOB, that's a necessary part of the picture.

More to follow...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Women, Sex and the Church

It's the title of an upcoming release from Pauline, and got the attention of Publisher's Weekly. I saw an advance copy of it yesterday and it is fantastic. I think it will especially be helpful to people who struggle with Church teaching. Anyway, here's what Publisher's Weekly had to say in their religion book feature:

Women, Sex, and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching
Edited by Erika Bachiochi. Pauline Books and Media, $19.95 paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-8198-8320-9
In this thoughtful and wide-ranging collection of essays, eight women and one man set out to explain and defend the Catholic Church’s teaching on sex, reproduction, priestly ordination, and family. Bachiochi, a lawyer and theologian who edited and contributed to the compilation, opens by calling herself an unlikely candidate for the project because she once “identified with a radical feminist contingent and was adamantly anti-Catholic.” As she learned more about Catholicism’s teachings, she writes, she decided that the church needed a way to explain them as “pro-woman.” The essays she assembled seek to show that the church’s teachings free rather than oppress women. Other contributors to the volume include Sister Sara Butler, a theologian and former proponent of women’s ordination, who wrote the essay on the priesthood, and economist Jennifer Roback Morse, whose essay looks at marriage. Given that this book challenges a popular view of Catholicism as antiwoman, it will be welcomed by those who support the church’s teaching; readers who disagree might still find its perspective provocative.(Aug.)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

TOB Congress

This week's Theology of the Body Congress, the first ever, brought in a capacity crowd; once the registration was maxed out, the Theology of the Body Institute offered participation by web streaming, and several dioceses set up satellite congresses so more people could join in. Our own Sr. Helena was a panelist, along with our usual TOB presenter, Fr. Loya, and numerous Pauline authors were speakers or participants.
The Institute also gave special recognition to TOB "pioneers." Among them, Anastasia Northrup and...the Daughters of St. Paul!
Father Brian Bransfield's opening talk was a big hit; he was the first of the Pauline authors for the Congress!

Catch up with these articles:

And with the live tweets from the Congress itself:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Women priests?

The great 20th century theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote an essay about the  place an all-male priesthood has in this post-patriarchal world. (Much of von Balthasar's thought can be read in a Theology of the Body key.) Not easy reading, but important!
Women priests? A Marian Church in a fatherless and motherless culture

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Some provocative articles and posts on the 50th anniversary of "the Pill":
by Dr. Janet Smith ("For my part, I believe all those who use natural family planning should get a tax credit for environmentally responsible behavior.")
by Leslie Eastman (with commentary by Elizabeth Scalia) ("Fifty years of birth control cannot get around three-million-years of biochemistry.")

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

TOB Magnets

Sr Helena designed some Theology of the Body magnets with wry slogans on them to provoke questions (ordering info at the bottom of the post).
The magnets have also begun to provoke some controversy. 
Are they too flippant? Do the slogans about pornography make light of a painful addiction, or could they be just the approach that someone needs to recognize how pitiful their situation has become?
Could these little magnets provide an opening for someone to investigate the Theology of the Body?

(magnets are 3.43" x 1.93"--flat vinyl)

--Indicate which magnet(s) you are ordering by the # and how many of each.
--$1.00 per magnet. 1-9 magnets: $1.00 postage. 10+ magnets: $3.00 postage.
--Cash, check ("Daughters of St. Paul"), VISA/MC (with exp. date).
--Your full name, address, phone # and email.
Sr. Helena Burns, fsp
Pauline Books & Media
172 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60601
cell: 617.850.5584


Thursday, May 13, 2010

TOB as the new Good News

This is a reflection prepared by our community in answer to a congregational question; does it match your understanding of the Theology of the Body?

What is the Gospel? It is the unexpected, unanticipated, unimagined revelation of God's saving nearness, surpassing all we could have dreamed of (our minds and expectations having been trained and fixed firmly within the limits of the surrounding culture). This new and surprising revelation convinces by its beauty and raises up new and enthusiastic witnesses who are amazed that they could find such real fulfillment in what, all their life, they had looked on as a stumbling block or absurdity.

What message do we have in our hands that distills the Gospel in a way that has this impact for people today? The Theology of the Body! It is a new reading of the whole Bible, addressed to people's experience of life and their hopes for love and meaning. It is the Good News of the depth of divine revelation and holiness present to us; it hints at what Christian life and family life itself can be: the “sincere gift of self.” It is a profoundly theological and Christian vision of the human person (intelligence, will, heart, relationships...) that simultaneously and paradoxically demonstrates the centrality of the doctrine of the Trinity. Like the Gospel itself, the Theology of the Body can be presented even to children, but is deep enough never to be exhausted. It is accessible to everyone because it does not rely on philosophical or theological background: it starts from common human experience, lived in the body. People who discover it are blown away by its breadth and meaning, and become convincing apostles of its message. Their lives are transformed.

Because it is so counter-cultural and available from no other voice than the Catholic Church's, the Theology of the Body is a message that really needs to be shouted from the rooftops. It is a universal message with a universal audience, a condensed presentation of the Gospel that corresponds to the signs of the times and the needs of society.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A fitting reminder from the Archbishop of Dublin:
Within the Church and outside of it discussion focuses around challenges in the area of sexual morality where the Church’s teaching is either not understood or is simply rejected as out of tune with contemporary culture. There is on the other hand very little critical examination of some of the roots of that contemporary culture and its compatibility with the teaching of Jesus. The moral teaching of the Church cannot simply be a blessing for, a toleration of, or an adaptation to the cultural climate of the day. The manner in which the moral teaching of the Church is presented to believers is far too often not adequately situated within the overall context of the teaching of Jesus, which is both compassionate and demanding. Christian moral rules and norms belong within a broader vision of the teaching of Jesus Christ.

In our May session, Father Loya spoke of the priesthood in the light of the Theology of the Body. He brought out the little-known connection between priestly celibacy and the Mass, and how this is observed in Eastern churches with married priests.

New Books!

Just this morning I was reading a magazine put out by an association of the universities run by a certain very distinguished Catholic Order. The issue dealt with young adults and their experiences and convictions in the realm of sexuality, and even included an article on how to engage young adult Catholics in a Catholic university setting in a conversation about contraception. Sadly, the presentation of the Church's teaching was limited to the 1968 document Humanae Vitae and, after a nod to its relevance, developing a conversation about how it needs to be updated. In another article, an interview with an author who did an extensive study of the "hook-up" culture in the university today, quoted that expert as dismissing "the usual suspects (Humane Vitae, Theology of the Body) of moral theology." Never mind that Theology of the Body is only now beginning to enter into the Church's consciousness, or that it, like the Christian ideal generally, according to Chesterton, "has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried."
Neither the university professor nor the author seems to have any real sense of what Theology of the Body is. The professor didn't even acknowledge it, while the author pegged it as "moral theology." I wonder if either of those two eminences has ever honestly taken the text in hand and allowed the Theology of the Body to speak to them directly. They would find out that it is not a rule book (consisting of one word: "Don't!"), or a text of moral theology, but a vision of the human person, male and female, and what it means to be the image of God.
Two new books may be just the thing--if not for the above-mentioned persons, for people who honestly want a fuller understanding of what the Church teaches about the human person. Both are addressed to the serious reader, not the casual inquirer.
Theology of the Body in Context: Genesis and Growth, by William May, is a summary presentation, ideal for getting a sense of the whole before you actually plunge into John Paul II's tome. The website allows you to read a few sample pages.

And yesterday we got our sneak peak copy of a book so new it's not even on the website yet. So you can't order it. Yet.
In "The Human Person According to John Paul II," Father J. Brian Bransfield starts with culture and the three revolutions at the center of the "Perfect Storm" of the 20th Century: The Industrial Revolution, the Sexual Revolution (with its effects on women, living together, divorce and the phenomenon of fatherlessness), and the Technological Revolution. These revolutions have all had a profound effect on how we understand what it means to be human, and on the key relationships in human life. From this cultural background, Bransfield brings in John Paul's teachings on the person and the Theology of the Body as "life according to the Spirit." How's that for a different take on what some academics blithely dismiss as torpid moral theology?

Author Fr. J. Brian Bransfield will be one of the speakers at this summer's Theology of the Body Conference, along with this TOB group's very own Sister Helena Burns and Father Thomas Loya. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Artists respond to the Theology of the Body

TOB and Art conference by sculptor Dony MacManus.  
Thank you to art student and TOB blogger Shana for embedding the full set of these videos on her blog.
Here's part 1 of 5:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Full-body scanning and the Theology Thereof

The Chicago Tribune posted my reflection on airport security scanners. Please visit the site and add your comments!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

TOB: Yiddish Style

An interesting article in the "Houses of Worship" column of the Wall Street Journal presents Orthodox Jewish perspectives on marriage. Not surprisingly, it sounds very much like the Theology of the Body (though without the Trinitarian dimension).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

TOB and Lenten Discipline

It has been in the news lately that Pope John Paul II practiced personal austerities that were once very common among the devout, but now pretty much unheard of. Father Loya took this news as an occasion to look at how the practice of asceticism, typical of Lent, is a Theology of the Body message about the goodness of the body.

We meet again mid-Lent, March 13.

Love and Responsibility

Pope John Paul's early book is the subject of an entire series of Friday night meetings in Corpus Christi, organized by Fr. Samuel Medley, S.O.L.T. Last night's presentation was broadcast from here in Chicago (Fr. Loya was the speaker), and the folks in Texas watched it on a big screen.

You can access the earlier talks, and those to come, on the program's blog:
A question also came up about same-sex attraction, something Father could not address in an adequately nuanced way in a few seconds. He recommended as a first step in a conversation on that very delicate issue: this article by Dr. Jeffrey Satinover.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thinking about Freedom (of Choice or of Conscience?)

"It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law—such persons claiming these “rights” are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife."
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Food for Thought

"The last thing we can afford to do is to re-define marriage in such a way as to embody in our laws a false proclamation about what marriage is."
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Found a link on Facebook to this wonderful video for Catholic men; it seems a perfect match for what we're doing here.
Guys, are you familiar with "Catholic Mountain"? Described as "A ministry to help Catholic men grow in Christ, but a resource for all who want to learn about and grow in their faith." It looks like Facebook for Catholic men.

More Food for Thought!

"The truth is that marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and influential."
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Food for Thought

"The body is no mere extrinsic instrument of the human person, but truly part of the personal reality of the human being. Human beings are not merely centers of consciousness or emotion, or minds, or spirits, inhabiting non-personal bodies. The human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit."
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Food for Thought

"Marriage is made possible by the sexual complementarity of man and woman."
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Food for Thought

Redefining marriage "would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life. In spousal communion and the rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents’ marital love), we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant."
From the
Manhattan Declaration.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Food for Thought

"The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law."
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Food for Thought

"...marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all persons in a society. Where marriage is honored, and where there is a flourishing marriage culture, everyone benefits—the spouses themselves, their children, the communities and societies in which they live. Where the marriage culture begins to erode, social pathologies of every sort quickly manifest themselves."
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Food for Thought

"Marriage then, is the first institution of human society—indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation."
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Food for Thought

"We must be willing to defend, even at risk and cost to ourselves and our institutions, the lives of our brothers and sisters at every stage of development and in every condition."
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Food for Thought (and action)

"We will work, as we have always worked, to bring assistance, comfort, and care to pregnant women in need and to those who have been victimized by abortion, even as we stand resolutely against the corrupt and degrading notion that it can somehow be in the best interests of women to submit to the deliberate killing of their unborn children. Our message is, and ever shall be, that the just, humane, and truly Christian answer to problem pregnancies is for all of us to love and care for mother and child alike."
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Keep thinking!

"Eugenic notions .... buried in ignominy after the horrors of the mid-20th century, ... have returned from the grave. The only difference is that now the doctrines of the eugenicists are dressed up in the language of “liberty,” “autonomy,” and “choice.”
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Food for Thought (and action)

"A culture of death inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable."
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

TOB and teens

Today we had our usual session, but only two Chicagoans came (besides the presenter), and half as many online participants as usual (representing three or four countries!). Too bad, because the class was terrific. If you missed it (which is more than likely!), you really missed out. How to present Theology of the Body to young people. By a high school teacher who is a real TOB man (and an excellent teacher, besides!). He covered things like the foundations kids need so they can grasp what the Church teaches; how this message needs to be taught not only by parents, but by at least two other "reinforcing" sources, like the pastor and school; how to talk about virginity in a culture where kids are ashamed of theirs.
Pat Reidy has done some recording with Tabor Life Institute, and (best of all!) he speaks fluent Spanish, so he can also share TOB with the Hispanic community (the future of the American Church).
Here is today's presentation. Maybe you can join us in real time for February (2nd Saturday), when we'll have Fr. Loya back.

Food for Thought

"We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty."
From the Manhattan Declaration.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Just a thought

"Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense."
From the Manhattan Declaration

Love and Responsibility study group

A priest in Corpus Christi is starting a study of "Love and Responsibility" on what a great foundation for a deeper grasp of the Theology of the Body! First session, Jan. 22; continues for 10 weeks.

Here's the link; meet the group on Fridays (each and every Friday for 10 weeks!) 7-8 pm.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Full-body scanning and the Theology Thereof

Sr Anne posted this yesterday on "Nunblog"; since it is a Theology of the Body perspective, it is bi-locating here as well.
More talk about activating full body security scanning at O'Hare. Despite all the assurances that the persons monitoring the scans will not be in proximity to the victims, I mean, passengers; that data will not be kept; that it's all really important for public safety, I am not okay with this.
Am I being overly prudish? Hung up? Neurotic?
Isn't thwarting a potentially catastrophic act of terror worth a virtual strip search every time I travel?
What is it that really bothers me, deep down, about this "public safety measure"?
Is it that it is disproportionate, sifting through millions of travelers each week (or day, if you combine US airports that plan to install the equipment) to find one possible evil-doer (who would, of course, have chosen an alternate form of terror by that time)?
No, it's not that.
I'm beginning to realize that it's a theology of the body thing.
I object to full body scanning because I believe that, with the level of detail it offers (even if in silhouette), it violates what Pope John Paul called the spousal meaning of the body. The body's design itself makes it clear that we are meant for an "other", and we generally choose that "other" with care. We are vulnerable in revealing ourselves. Even at the doctor's office, we don't go full frontal unless that is precisely where our health is threatened. (That's why they give you that crazy paper outfit.) Self-revelation in the body is a lovely (in the full sense of the word), intimate gift. Because the body is meant for communion. Always.
It is not true that our body is just a sort of envelope for a sexlessly generic soul, or that it is a strange animal-like appendage to the "important," spiritual part, but that really doesn't matter in itself (although plenty of people in our culture seem to think this). Especially in this Christmas season, on this 12th day of Christmas, we ought to be alert to the tremendous significance of being "bodied persons": God became incarnate so he could relate to us in this very human way! (And, of course, Jesus is the true Spouse who seeks communion with us.)
So there's something really not right, in my book, with a "revelation" that takes place anonymously, apart from personal communion, in which I am being revealed to someone I cannot see or know; whose reaction I cannot guage; whose trustworthiness with the sacredness of my body's image I am asked to take on the good faith of the United States' Transportation Security Administration.
What is your take on this issue? Would full-body scanning make you think twice about buying a plane ticket through O'Hare?

The Manhattan Declaration

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.
That's an excerpt from the "Manhattan Declaration," a statement crafted in September by an ecumenical group, trying to help Christians speak in one voice about these pivotal social issues. Chicago's Cardinal Francis George said that he intends to sign the Declaration (in effect, a "Declaration of Independence" in which signers place their "lives, fortunes and sacred honor" on the line for the values that are at stake). The Washington Times calls it "A Christian Call to Arms," and last month the New York Times Magazine did a story on its principal author, Princeton Prof Robert George.

It's well worth taking time to read through the Declaration, as well as the FAQs and testimonials. You might also consider staking your life, fortune and sacred honor on the principals it upholds.