Saturday, December 21, 2013

What the Duck Dynasty guy doesn't know could hurt us all

Migrated over from Nunblog, with slight modifiations:

You might be surprised to hear this, but until all the brouhaha about cable network A&E and Duck Dynasty, I had no idea who Phil Robertson might be. Indeed, all I knew about Duck Dynasty was from seeing the spin-off merchandise in the novelty aisles at the local Walgreens. Now all of a sudden the bearded patriarch is being held up as a paragon of plain-speaking biblical wisdom.

Except I'm not buying it.  I have no doubt that Mr. Robertson is a sincere and virtuous man, butI am afraid that the more Robertson is defended in social media as an upholder of marriage, the more the cause of natural marriage will suffer in the long run. The articles I have read on the matter quote very little of Mr. Robertson, but what is there is incredibly coarse and unreflective. There is little "biblical" to it.

As much as Catholics all the way to Pope Francis believe that complementarity is essential to marriage as such, we really can't put an "Amen" to what the White's Ferry Road Church of Christ elder said about it. Yet the more Mr. Robertson's cause is pleaded, the more he becomes established in the cultural imagination as the mouthpiece and representative of all those who stand up for the integrity of natural marriage.

Is this what we are hoping for? A reduction of the spouses themselves to their reproductive organs?  A raw, physical (not personalist) caricature of complementarity, divorced from its essential, life-giving fruitfulness and the very nature of the family built on marriage as the primary cell of society? Heaven forbid!

Somebody, quick! Invite my fellow Louisianan Mr. Robertson to the Theology of the Body program!  As a Church elder, he should really appreciate the rich, nuanced, infinitely complex biblical vision of man and woman that Pope John Paul spent so many years developing. As the now de-facto media spokesperson for natural marriage, he really needs it.

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Here's a reflection from Audrey Assad on Phil Robertson and the Theology of the Body; Audrey offers  the same point as I (in a much more elegant and comprehensive way).

For a do-it-yourself overview of the Theology of the Body, watch Discover Theology of the Body.

Meditating on a Good Death in the season of Holy Birth

Susan Windley-Daoust offers an interested approach to Theology of the Body, drawing from Pope John Paul's principles in a reflection on what used to be called a "happy death." Even though our attention toward the end of Advent is drawn more to birth, for many bereaved families, this may very well be a season of dying. Windley-Daoust's post on "The Sign of the Dying Body" is timely for all of us, though.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review of "Fill These Hearts"

Theology professor Susan Windley-Daoust posted her review of Christopher West's "Fill These Hearts: God, Sex and the Universal Longing," which she uses in an anthropology course. Here's a sample of what she had to say:

This text electrified most of the class.  People really resonated with the treatment of desire, were open to the treatment of design, and were really thinking through consequences by the time we got to destiny.  As a professor, it struck me as an ideal first text before moving into more “academic theology” and primary sources.  Indeed, we went from this text to reading Augustine's Confessions, and they got it: Augustine wasn't an overly guilt-ridden sex addict who talks too much about his sinfulness.  He was a man with disordered desires who opened himself to a new way of seeing through grace.

What was intriguing to me was how they latched on to a piece that West has been criticized for in the past: West writing from the perspective that people have received a Christian upbringing that was cold, stoic, and rule-centered.  Some have criticized West that most Catholics after Vatican II simply have not had that upbringing: the stereotype is more “felt banner and singing about God’s love round the campfire” (which is not a fair stereotype, but moving on).

These students thought the cold stoic Church description was right on.  The Christianity they know, they say, is ALL about rules.  This “frame” (as West calls it) of desire, design, and destiny, wrapped in God’s lavish love, was seen as truly radical.

The thing is, that is not their experience—because a lot of them have no experience of being in a Christian church outside of major holidays.  The Church they “know” is a bizarre echo chamber of their parents’ apathy and fear, the culture of the mainstream press and movies, and a projection of their fears.  It doesn’t exist.  But for them, the echo chamber is keeping them from listening to the wisdom of the Christian faith.

One of the reasons West’s approach is effective is because he is talking to Christians, especially Catholics, who have fundamental misconceptions of what Catholic theology is about: and he addresses those misconceptions head on.  You shouldn’t end your reading of theology with West (does he ever argue that?  of course not), but this book whets the appetite for a faith seeking understanding that they do not know they have.  People on the inside forget that teaching theology in American culture neither builds on a solid catechetical foundation, nor a blank slate.  We unteachbefore we teach.  Christopher West’s popularity in many young adult circles—to the point of people saying things such as “the Theology of the Body changed my life!”—is attributable directly to West exposing the delusion of this echo chamber and presenting the revelation of Christianity in both the natural world of signs and the Church they clearly do not yet know.  He is a dazzling "unteacher," and this book makes space to truly explore what it means to be human.

It’s a potentially life-transformative book.

New Catholic Marriage Prep Program

After years of pilot programs involving hundreds of engaged couples, with input from the long-married, from the theologians, from the pastors, and from all those engaged couples, comes "Transformed in Love," a complete and solid program to help couples begin and live a sacramental marriage.

Listen to Kari Collela (Archdiocese of Boston Family Life office) and her husband Stephen as they talk about the program, its components, and its "success stories" over the years they spent putting it together.

Please share this information (and these links) far and wide!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Media Skills for Pro-Life Medical Professionals

Over at Catharsis, they are planning a two-day workshop on essential media skills for pro-life medical personnel. ("If a camera arrived at your door today [for statements on assisted reproduction, Obamacare, "death with dignity"], would you know how to dress, how to move, where to look, and what to say?")


Oct 22-23, Azusa Pacific University

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Post-Supreme Court reflections

Some fine, critically reflective pieces are appearing in a number of sources after yesterday's twofer from the Supreme Court. Here's one: Sex without Bodies (it's like a prequel to TOB from a Protestant perspective).

And another: "Marriage is a Mess and Homosexuals Didn't Do It"

The Diocese of Green Bay is hosting a FB conversation on a crucial question:
How can Catholics engage everyone, as we are called to do, including people with same-sex attraction, while maintaining the Church’s consistent, loving and whole teaching that sacramental marriage is the free, total, faithful and fruitful union of one man and one woman?


I was scheduled to host "The Winds of Change" radio show tomorrow at noon, but with the Blackhawks' Victory Parade (for bringing the Stanley Cup back to Chicago) I figured it would be next to impossible to get in and out of the city with the street closings and security measures... So I was on the air today instead.
Listen in!

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Books and music featured on today's show:

Monday, June 10, 2013

NFP Awareness Week: Video Contest!

The ladies over at (a woman to woman website on Natural Family Planning) have just announced a video contest for NFP Awareness Week (July 27). Check their website for the details, which aren't out yet.

This video was featured on their site; perhaps it inspired the contest:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Theology of the Body Overview: Now Online!

For the first three weekends of May, we had extra sisters on hand in Chicago as the Theology of the Body overview program unfolded, Saturday after Saturday. Sister Teresa and Sister Domenica came from the motherhouse video department, loaded down with cameras and lighting equipment. While I (Sister Anne) ran a single camera for the webstream, they were getting everything with two cameras. Now back at the motherhouse, they will be editing the footage into a more elegant presentation. When that's ready, we'll have (God willing) both a DVD program for use in parishes, and a higher quality set of archived classes for you online.

Each two-hour class looks at one "chapter" or subdivision of Pope John Paul's rather massive book. There are still a couple of "patches" where the stream broke off and I had to put the remainder of the class in a separate file. The patches are open to the public, so if you are not sure you are ready yet to commit to anything behind a paywall, you can get a sample of the content and the presenter's style from these. Those who joined us in Chicago were very enthusiastic over what they learned, and we hope to work again with Father Sprott in the future, though not on a TOB topic.

UPDATE (September 2017): The entire series is available online only (no DVD version) and with a downloadable study guide. The original sessions have been edited into a series of 30-50 minute videos. See Discover Theology of the Body on Vimeo.

Don't forget  that we also have an active  TOB "community" on Google+ with over 150 700 members. This is a place for sharing your more in-depth reflections and questions on issues related to the Theology of the Body. Please join today!

UPDATE (September 2017): Joining the Google+ group will position you for discount codes on the Discover TOB series mentioned above!

Body Image

Sara Hulse is a graduate student in the John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and the Family (in other words, a Vatican-established graduate school devoted entirely to the Theology of the Body). When our sisters went to Washington DC for the launch of the new translation of Love and Responsibility, they interviewed some of the students. (Look for more of these insights on future TOB Tuesdays!)


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Taking TOB further

Here's a blog of rich insights into life's dimensions that takes the Theology of the Body beyond its immediate and obvious applications in marriage. Well worth investigating!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

When the eyes and the mind are in conflict

Gender identity trumps every other right in Massachusetts high schools, giving new meaning to the story of the Emperor's New Clothes. Now, no matter how clearly the child in the story says what is before everyone's eyes, any glimmer of recognition will have to be suppressed. How long can that last?

When "the guidelines [imposed in Massachusetts] don't recognize that it is impossible to erase the differences between the sexes," you know there's a desperate need for Theology of the Body. And our TOB project here in Chicago is making real progress! A volunteer created the postcard design, and has just completed a trailer.

Here's the trailer; feel free to share it far and wide--we are counting on the grace of the Holy Spirit working through social media to invite people to take a real look at what the Catholic Church says about the human person, the human body and its "language." At this point, it is the only "alternate vision" available, no matter what our eyes may tell us.

For registration links (and lots more details) see our bookstore blog.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

TOB resources

We now have online registration open for the Chicago onsite program for May 4, 11 and 18. Please share this information widely! The "virtual" program for those of you who are hoping to join us via video stream is lined up (on our new Ustream channel, TOB-TV), but we are limited to a six-week registration window. That means that once mid-March hits, it will be important to let people know about the program and sign up for it.

Because we can't afford the "pro" version of anything, we had to divide the program into six distinct "events," each of which requires a separate registration. (On the plus side, registration gives one access to the archived video in case of scheduling conflicts.)

As I was preparing the new channel for the May overview program, I also found a helpful overview by Msgr. Hogan.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A bit of TOB history!

I found this talk from the "launch" of the Waldstein translation of "Man and Woman He Created Them." It is by Daughter of St Paul Sister Marianne Trouve' and details the publishing history of the Theology of the Body texts.

Christopher West on "Fill These Hearts"

I missed the webinar today (it was during our community Hour of Adoration), but Image Books is making it available for me and you. This is in conjunction with the launch of West's newest book, "Fill These Hearts." (I just got a review copy, and will be posting my response soon--God willing!)

Meanwhile, here is Mr. West on the theme of his book: desire.

Monday, February 4, 2013

TOB testimony

Every time I come across another of these young couples who come out of the NFP closet, I wonder what would happen if all of them "came out" at once.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kudos to the Cajuns!

The Ragin Cajun Catholics of Our Lady of Wisdom Catholic Student Center (University of Louisiana, Lafayette) have a lot going for them in the Theology of the Body department. It helps that their pastor, Father Bryce Sibley, studied TOB at the original "John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and the Family" at Rome's Lateran University.

Here are a few examples of their "New Evangelization" approach to TOB (remember, the "new" means "new in its ardor, new in its methods, new in its expression").

Monday, January 21, 2013

Spring program update!

  We have a few more details for our springtime Theology of the Body series with Father Robert Sprott, OFM:

The class will meet on May 4, 11 and 18 (Saturdays) from 9:30-3:30 (with a generous break for lunch). Two hours of teaching will be devoted to each "chapter" of Pope John Paul's masterpiece "Man and Woman He Created Them." (It took Pope John Paul five years to get through the whole Theology of the Body; we're going to do it in three days!)

 If you are not in the Chicago area, do not despair! These sessions will be streamed live and archived online for ready access. We suggest you get a group together and share the class with others. This can also be done at the parish level, using an ethernet connection (recommended over wireless), projector and speakers. Wouldn't it be fantastic to have a nationwide TOB program going on in homes and parishes (and convents), all linked in real time not to unpack the riches of Pope John Paul's insights into the most travailed topics of our day?

The fee for participation, whether online or in person, will be $20 per day. This will help us cover the expenses involved, and will allow us to provide a suitable stipend to the presenter, who is already hard at work preparing the material. The program will be, as the text is, intellectually stimulating. Father Sprott is not entertaining, but he is mesmerizing, so this program will be ideal for people who are looking for something that will engage them on all levels.

 Our sisters from the video department at the motherhouse are hoping to come to take care of the filming (onsite participants, there will be video releases posted at the entrance). (They are looking forward to a trip to Chicago!)

Now, what can you do in the meantime? Tell others, especially young adults and people involved in young adult or youth ministry, marriage prep teams, wavering Catholics, the searchers... Send them right here to this page, or to our Google+ community ("Theology of the Body").

More links coming as soon as each area (ticketing, streaming, etc) is finalized!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Are you ready? New TOB program coming soon!

We are in the planning stages of a 12-session video series on the Theology of the Body, to be led by Father Robert Sprott (best known here in Chicago for his annual series at the Newberry Library).

The six chapters of Pope John Paul's masterwork will be covered in two one-hour segments each, for a total of twelve classes. Filming begins in April, but that is about as far as we have gotten. (Father transferred to a new parish over the summer and was only able to confirm this week that he would be available.) Most likely we will film the series a chapter at a time (two hours per recording session).

Our Founder, the media apostle Blessed James Alberione, told us that our mission must always "start from Bethlehem"--in poverty. That about sums up the resources we have to bring this project about. We need sponsors to underwrite the costs of video (film crew, lighting and supplies) and a just stipend for Father. Do you know anyone who is especially interested in promoting a greater appreciation of the most misunderstood aspects of the Gospel message? Here's their chance!

We will also need an audience for each of the sessions! Check back soon for a calendar and sign-up.