Before I married my ex-husband we attended a group that studied the Theology of the Body. This is a teaching from Saint Pope John Paul II, which is a series of talks he gave, starting in 1979 and ending in 1984, to a general audience in St. Peter’s Square. One of the most well know dissections of this teaching comes from Christopher West, who has written multiple books on it, given many talks and developed it into a study program. The group we were apart of used this study program. We went through two of the courses Ruah Woods in Cincinnati; Introduction to Theology of the Body, 8 sessions, and Into the Heart, 16 sessions. Now that most of the bitterness connected to the relationship has passed away and I think back, I realize that this was one of my favorite times in our relationship. I had already been very interested in and intrigued by some of Christopher West’s talks on the subject, he has given the best explanation of the marriage relationship, the beauty of the sexual union in marriage and the relationship of males and females I have ever heard. It’s all based on the talks that the pope gave about it. And the beauty of life comes alive in it. I learned so much in these courses and we had really great talks on our drives home even though our relationship was a mess and we refused to confront this fact. It was a huge disappointment that I/we did not get to experience love in the way that God truly intended. Nonetheless, lessons were learned directly in the disappointment. One lesson I learned is that I put the idea of marriage and being married above God, I put it in the first place in my life, practically my entire adult life.
One of the truths I learn from Theology of the Body is that God did not intend the union of marriage to be the end all be all of human life. He intended it to be a great good, a Sacrament, that imparts grace and points us to God and leads ultimately to union with Him on Earth and in Heaven. It is a union between two persons that is free, total, faithful and fruitful. The course goes into the Catholic Church’s definition of these words and how they play out in marriage. And if any of these pieces are missing it is not considered a valid marriage. I struggled deeply when we were separated, and was so ashamed because I thought we were breaking this union. We put those words on our wedding invitation and had Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (All for the Glory of God) written on our wedding cake for crying out loud! I saw our separation as such a contradiction, I thought we were such hypocrites and so haughty, acting like we had the ultimate relationship and it was an EPIC FAIL. Thankfully I came to the realization that there were some of those pieces missing and that was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, especially when it was confirmed in an annulment granted by the Church. Anyway, done with rant, this is not what I wanted to write about.
I wanted to write about how I think the teachings of Theology of the Body will help people to come alive in this culture and live lives of fulfillment and help to answer questions of the meaning of life. I want to study it more deeply. But, what I am thankful for is that I have come to a point where I don’t need to think about it in the context of an upcoming marriage, but can think of it as a celibate person looking to know my ultimate identity in God. The Theology of the Body is for every human person and is rooted in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Our bodies were made and meant to glorify God. They were also made for union with Him, body and spirit, which are inseparable. We all come from a union of two people and whether they loved each other or not did not take away from us being unique individuals conceived by God. We were all conceptions in God’s mind before we were ever conceived and formed in the wombs of our mothers. This realization is something that would give me great comfort when I was younger. When I was in college, I would read Psalm 139 over and over and contemplate it for hours and it would always bring me to tears, it made me feel so close to God. This was the part that always hit me the most.
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
The marriage union is a reflection of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is beautiful when it is a valid marriage uniting two people who truly love each other. When I contemplate on the fact that I am the embodiment of my parent’s love I feel like I mean something, like I am worthy and like I was created for a purpose. When you have two parents who love each other it makes it so much easier to see your worth. Seeing your parents love is the greatest gift anyone can receive.
These days my mind is so distracted that it is hard for me to even sit down and write this post. My goal is to get back to simplicity and closeness to and greater knowledge of God. This is my attempt to bring the Theology of the Body back into my life and to bring it to life in my life. I want to write about this everyday for a month at least!