Thursday, December 16, 2010

Early morning run: it's really good!

By David Dack

> Your schedule is typically clear in the early morning-you don't have much errands to run or commitments to keep up at 5AM! Therefore, you can keep your running schedule consistent and uninterrupted.

> You can breathe in the clear and soothing air of the early morning. You can also enjoy the scenery and take in the beauty and the magnificence of the morning glory.

> You can boost your productivity and mental function by training in the morning. Many mental performances recommend doing some aerobic exercise first thing in the morning. Anthony Robbins calls it "the power hour".

> According to Tony Schwartz, the author of the book The Power of Full Engagement, the best form of emotional renewal is rising up your heart rate for a sustained amount of time. No wonder many runners enjoy a happy life with less emotional issues.

> You could also boost your metabolism levels by working out in the early morning. This means that you will be burning up calories at higher rates, leading to more weight loss and overall sense of confidence and accomplishment.


10 Benefits of Rising Early, and How to Do It

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” – Ben Franklin, famously

“Put no trust in the benefits to accrue from early rising, as set forth by the infatuated Franklin …” – Mark Twain

Recently, reader Rob asked me about my habit of waking at 4:30 a.m. each day, and asked me to write about the health benefits of rising early, which I thought was an excellent question. Unfortunately, there are none, that I know of.

However, there are a ton of other great benefits.

Now, let me first say that if you are a night owl, and that works for you, I think that’s great. There’s no reason to change, especially if you’re happy with it. But for me, switching from being a night owl to an early riser (and yes, it is possible) has been a godsend. It has helped me in so many ways that I’d never go back. Here are just a few:

1. Greet the day. I love being able to get up, and greet a wonderful new day. I suggest creating a morning ritual that includes saying thanks for your blessings. I’m inspired by the Dalai Lama, who said, ” Everyday, think as you wake up, ‘today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.’ “

2. Amazing start. I used to start my day by jumping out of bed, late as usual, and rushing to get myself and the kids ready, and rushing to drop them to school and come in to work late. I would walk into work, looking rumpled and barely awake, grumpy and behind everyone else. Not a great start to your day. Now, I have a renewing morning ritual, I’ve gotten so much done before 8 a.m., my kids are early and so am I, and by the time everyone else gets in to work, I’ve already gotten a head start. There is no better way to start off your day than to wake early, in my experience.

3. Quietude. No kids yelling, no babies crying, no soccer balls, no cars, no television noise. The early morning hours are so peaceful, so quiet. It’s my favorite time of day. I truly enjoy that time of peace, that time to myself, when I can think, when I can read, when I can breathe.

4. Sunrise. People who wake late miss one of the greatest feats of nature, repeated in full stereovision each and every day — the rise of the sun. I love how the day slowly gets brighter, when the midnight blue turns to lighter blue, when the brilliant colors start to seep into the sky, when nature is painted in incredible colors. I like doing my early morning run during this time, and I look up at the sky as I run and say to the world, “What a glorious day!” Really. I really do that. Corny, I know.

5. Breakfast. Rise early and you actually have time for breakfast. I’m told it’s one of the most important meals of the day. Without breakfast, your body is running on fumes until you are so hungry at lunchtime that you eat whatever unhealthy thing you can find. The fattier and sugarier, the betterier. But eat breakfast, and you are sated until later. Plus, eating breakfast while reading my book and drinking my coffee in the quiet of the morning is eminently more enjoyable than scarfing something down on the way to work, or at your desk.

6. Exercise. There are other times to exercise besides the early morning, of course, but I’ve found that while exercising right after work is also very enjoyable, it’s also liable to be canceled because of other things that come up. Morning exercise is virtually never canceled.

7. Productivity. Mornings, for me at least, are the most productive time of day. I like to do some writing in the morning, when there are no distractions, before I check my email or blog stats. I get so much more done by starting on my work in the morning. Then, when evening rolls around, I have no work that I need to do, and I can spend it with family.

8. Goal time. Got goals? Well, you should. And there’s no better time to review them and plan for them and do your goal tasks than first thing. You should have one goal that you want to accomplish this week. And every morning, you should decide what one thing you can do today to move yourself further towards that goal. And then, if possible, do that first thing in the morning.

9. Commute. No one likes rush-hour traffic, except for Big Oil. Commute early, and the traffic is much lighter, and you get to work faster, and thus save yourself more time. Or better yet, commute by bike. (Or even better yet, work from home.)

10. Appointments. It’s much easier to make those early appointments on time if you get up early. Showing up late for those appointments is a bad signal to the person you’re meeting. Showing up early will impress them. Plus, you get time to prepare.

How to Become an Early Riser

* Don’t make drastic changes. Start slowly, by waking just 15-30 minutes earlier than usual. Get used to this for a few days. Then cut back another 15 minutes. Do this gradually until you get to your goal time.

* Allow yourself to sleep earlier. You might be used to staying up late, perhaps watching TV or surfing the Internet. But if you continue this habit, while trying to get up earlier, sooner or later one is going to give. And if it is the early rising that gives, then you will crash and sleep late and have to start over. I suggest going to bed earlier, even if you don’t think you’ll sleep, and read while in bed. If you’re really tired, you just might fall asleep much sooner than you think.

* Put your alarm clock far from you bed. If it’s right next to your bed, you’ll shut it off or hit snooze. Never hit snooze. If it’s far from your bed, you have to get up out of bed to shut it off. By then, you’re up. Now you just have to stay up.

* Go out of the bedroom as soon as you shut off the alarm. Don’t allow yourself to rationalize going back to bed. Just force yourself to go out of the room. My habit is to stumble into the bathroom and go pee. By the time I’ve done that, and flushed the toilet and washed my hands and looked at my ugly mug in the mirror, I’m awake enough to face the day.

* Do not rationalize. If you allow your brain to talk you out of getting up early, you’ll never do it. Don’t make getting back in bed an option.

* Have a good reason. Set something to do early in the morning that’s important. This reason will motivate you to get up. I like to write in the morning, so that’s my reason. Also, when I’m done with that, I like to read all of your comments!

* Make waking up early a reward. Yes, it might seem at first that you’re forcing yourself to do something hard, but if you make it pleasurable, soon you will look forward to waking up early. A good reward is to make a hot cup of coffee or tea and read a book. Other rewards might be a tasty treat for breakfast (smoothies! yum!) or watching the sunrise, or meditating. Find something that’s pleasurable for you, and allow yourself to do it as part of your morning routine.

* Take advantage of all that extra time. Don’t wake up an hour or two early just to read your blogs, unless that’s a major goal of yours. Don’t wake up early and waste that extra time. Get a jump start on your day! I like to use that time to get a head start on preparing my kids’ lunches, on planning for the rest of the day (when I set my MITs), on exercising or meditating, and on reading. By the time 6:30 rolls around, I’ve done more than many people do the entire day.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Constitutional Commission: Conception = Fertilization

Records of the Constitutional Commission

Thanks to Senator Joey Lina and son for copying the original text and sending it to the prolife coalition.

R.C.C. No. 85

...MR. AZCUNA: Commissioner Villegas is not in the hall at the moment, but the committee will be willing to answer.
MR. GASCON: Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.
As I mentioned in my speech on the U.S. bases, I am definitely pro-life, to the point that I would like not only to protect the life of the unborn, but also the lives of the millions of people in the world by fighting for a nuclear-free world. I would just like to be assured of the legal and pragmatic implications of the term "protection of the life of the unborn from the moment of conception." I raised some of these implications this afternoon when I interjected in the interpellation of Commissioner Regalado. I would like to ask that question again for a categorical answer.
I mentioned that if we institutionalize the term "the life of the unborn from the moment of conception," we are also actually saying "no," not "maybe," to certain contraceptives which are already being encouraged at this point in time. Is that the sense of the committee or does it disagree with me?
MR. AZCUNA: No, Mr. Presiding Officer, because contraceptives would be preventive. There is no unborn yet. That is yet unshaped.
MR. GASCON: Yes, Mr. Presiding Officer, but I was speaking more about some contraceptives, such as the intra-uterine device which actually stops the egg which has already been fertilized from taking route to the uterus. So, if we say "from the moment of conception," what really occurs is that some of these contraceptives will have to be unconstitutionalized.
MR. AZCUNA: Yes, to the extent that it is after the fertilization, Mr. Presiding Officer.
MR. GASCON: Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.
My second question is with regard to the population program. How would this provision affect the existing population program being implemented by the Population Commission? Second, if there is an approval of this provision here, because Commissioner Villegas said that he shall make a motion for deletion of that provision on population at the proper time, does it necessarily mean that the provision in the General Provisions Article on population will have to be deleted?
MR. NOLLEDO: Mr. Presiding Officer, not necessarily because family planning is consistent with the provision in Section 9 that there should be protection to the unborn. Before this proposed provision was formulated, taking into account the pertinent provision of the 1973 Constitution, family planning would include preventive pregnancy and even killing the fertilized ovum. But now, if we adopt the second sentence of Section 9, family planning would refer respectively only to preventive pregnancy as stated by Commissioner Azcuna. LLphil
MS. ROSARIO BRAID: Also, at the proper time, in the General Provisions we will discuss the population policy. The Commissioner will note it is no longer population control but population policy, which means that there are other ways of limiting population such as economic development, improving the education of women which is an indirect means of population control; or as in the case of Singapore, at one time it had a 1-2 child policy, but today they realize that they need to increase their population. And so, their population policy now is to have more children, whereas, 10 years ago they were limiting; they are now increasing. So, population policy would, therefore, mean that at a certain time when our population shall have stabilized, we can even have a policy towards increasing population. We will discuss this at the appropriate time in the General Provisions.
MR. GASCON: So, Mr. Presiding Officer, what this provision merely implies is that there will be certain programs as they are being implemented now which will have to be stopped, but not the whole program itself.
I have one last point on the issue of abortion, Mr. Presiding Officer. Have there been studies made with regard to the issue of the legalization of abortion being directly proportional to the population rate of other countries? I notice that in the past, about five or ten years ago, the trend was towards world population control program in industrialized countries; but now because they have succeeded, in one way or another, through population control programs or through legalization of abortion, they have a problem of a lull in their birth rate to the point that they are, as mentioned already, encouraging more births than discouraging births.
MR. AZCUNA: Yes, Mr. Presiding Officer, with respect to population policy, the studies have been made but the correlation coefficient is not conclusive. Suffice it to say that what is known as ZPG, zero population growth, is somewhere at 2.2 percent, the .2 percent being what is required to replace in addition to the father and the mother who do not reproduce, like the celibates. At 2.2 percent, population is maintained at its present level regardless of natural attrition. So, if a country falls below 2.2 percent in population growth, then it is actually decreasing in number. It is below zero population growth. Also, what is important in demography is what is known as the net reproduction growth rate; that is, the number of girls who will be born and who will bear children. That is very important. Is the net reproduction growth rate — the number of girls that are born and will bear children.
MR. GASCON: So, abortion does not have any direct relation to population growth.
MR. AZCUNA: As I said, the studies are not conclusive on the correlation coefficient.
MR. GASCON: Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer...

R.C.C. No. 86

MR. OPLE: The answer is satisfactory. I would like to proceed to the next sentence closer to the heart of Commissioners Bacani and Villegas which reads:
The State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from the moment of conception.
Yesterday, I had the good fortune to listen to some of the interpellations precisely on this sentence. Commissioner Villegas on behalf of the committee then said, "This could be related to some statements in the general provisions on family planning." Does this mean that, in providing for the protection of the life of the unborn from the moment of conception, this is going to be taken as a signal to dismiss the relevance and validity of all family planning programs in the Philippines? Is that how the committee views this?
MR. VILLEGAS: No. As we made it very clear yesterday, any contraceptive that is not abortifacient can still be legal, according to this specific provision.
MR. OPLE: I will vote for this provision, Madam President. I think that in writing a constitution, we write not only provisions of a fundamental law. We set the tone whether we like it, or the tone of a whole civilization, and that is why I also voted for the elimination of the death penalty under certain conditions, subject to certain powers of Congress to provide for exceptions in the case of heinous crimes. Overall, we should raise the tone of our public and social morality through a constitution; and the reverence for life, that time and life is, of course, being rendered cheap by all the threats to our safety in a very disorderly environment. Still a commitment to the protection of life, even in its incipient stage, is a declaration of a commitment to a higher tone of our civilization. But at the same time, I would be very concerned if the committee now taking off from its forthcoming victory on this Section 9 will start considering this as a mandate to discredit, to actually dismiss family planning programs in this country. I heard Commissioner Villegas say that purposeful programs to limit the size of families have failed everywhere. He quoted President Reagan, whose wisdom might lie in other fields than in family planning, as having said that social and economic development is the only key to the reduction of human populations. He referred to the new U.S. policy, which is driving Mr. Salas and his UNFPA to a new lookout. He has applied to be transferred to Tokyo because of this new restrictive atmosphere on family planning in the United States.
But, of course, may I say that family planning is not a rigid idea. May I tell the body that in the Soviet Union, which I know a little bit since I have traveled there no fewer than seven times, even within that vast country, there are two kinds of population crises. In the European part, it is the crisis of a steadily diminishing population; and, therefore, the State holds up medals of heroism for heroic mothers who would give birth to more than eight children. But in the Asian part of the Soviet Union, there is a reverse problem. They are reproducing at a faster rate. This possesses momentous political and economic implications for the Soviet Union after the year 2000, when the Asiatic population begins to match the European population. And what will we have — crisis of leadership about distribution of leadership and power, especially in the higher strata of the Soviet policy and bureaucracy. But India is different. Japan is different. The Philippines is different. We are a developing country. If my data are still current — I used to sit in the Population Commission — about 10 years ago, our population growth rate was 3.5 percent according to the University of the Philippines. Then it declined over 10 years to only about 2.6 percent. The NEDA now says it is 2.4 percent if I am not mistaken. And yet, these were years of stagnation in manufacturing. As a matter of fact, Philippine manufacturing has never exceeded 14 percent of the total employed force of this country since 20 years ago. Commissioner Villegas is an authority on that. He uses this argument very fiercely in the debates on protectionism.
Since we did not really grow spectacularly in those 10 years, still the rate of growth of the population dropped precipitously from 3.5 to only 2.4 percent at this time. Will we not give the population policy of the government and of the nongovernmental organizations some credit for having accomplished this small miracle in population control?
MR. VILLEGAS: That is one of the most statistically debatable issues. Although this is a completely separate question which is not related to Section 9 of the Article on the Declaration of Principles, still my position is that it is subject to the flux and the changes in economic policy, in urbanization and in industrialization. It should be something that should not be found in a constitution, but should be subject to legislation. If family planning is found necessary, let it be in the legislative process. However, as I said, that is a completely separate question. LLphil
MR. OPLE: This is a slight revision of the views which the Commissioner gave yesterday, but I hope this is the official one.
MR. VILLEGAS: What I stressed yesterday was to support in the separate discussion on the Article on the General Provisions the idea of deleting any reference to population policy precisely because today it may be that we want to limit population. Tomorrow it may be that we want to increase population.
MR. OPLE: Thank you very much for that clarification.
I want to ask now: Does this belong to the province of Commissioner Villegas or Commissioner Bacani? We say, "Protect the life of the unborn from the moment of conception." Is there in jurisprudence anything now that will help us visualize the precise moment, the approximate moment when conception begins and, therefore, the life of this new human personality entitled to all the protection of the laws in the Constitution begins? Is there any standard legislature or jurisprudence that will support an interpretation of the moment of conception?
MR. VILLEGAS: Jurisprudence? None. Precisely, this is one thing that we have to obtain from the declaration of natural scientists. In this regard, I would like to read this specific statement by natural scientists about when human life begins. This is taken from the Handbook on Abortion by Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Wilke. The most distinguished scientific meeting of recent years that considered this question of when human life begins was the First International Conference on Abortion held in Washington D.C. in October 1967. It brought together authorities from around the world in the fields of medicine, law, ethics and the social sciences. They met together in a think tank for several days. The first major question considered by the medical group was: When does human life begin? The medical group was composed of biochemists, professors of obstetrics and gynecology, geneticists and so forth, and was represented proportionately as to academic discipline raised in religion. For example, only 20 percent were Catholics. Their almost unanimous conclusion, 19 to 1, was as follows:
The majority of our group could find no point in time between the union of sperm and egg which is the fertilization or, at least, the blastocyst stage and the birth of the infant at which point we could say that this was not a human life.
Parenthetically, the blastocyst stage is shortly after fertilization and would account for twinning. They continued:
The changes occurring between implantation, a six-week embryo, a six-month fetus, a one-week-old child or a mature adult, are merely stages of development and maturation.
There has not been before a more important or a more qualified body of natural scientists who, as a group, has thoroughly discussed and come to conclusion on this subject until such time as some other groups of equal scientific importance might possibly come to a different conclusion. We believe that the abortion debate from a scientific standpoint must proceed on the assumption that this is human life. So, human life begins at fertilization of the ovum.

MR. OPLE: But we would leave to Congress the power, the mandate to determine.
MR. VILLEGAS: Exactly, on the basis of facts and figures they would obtain from experts.
MR. OPLE: Yes, to legislate a kind of standard so that everyone will know what moment of conception will mean in terms of legal rights and obligations...

R.C.C. No. 95

...MR. RAMA: Madam President, may I call on Commissioner Uka to present an amendment.
THE PRESIDENT: Commissioner Uka is recognized.
MR. UKA: Madam President, Commissioner TreƱas and I are cosponsors of this motion to delete Section 13.
There are valid and strong arguments against inserting the provisions of Section 13 of Proposed Resolution No. 531 in the new Constitution, the most cogent among which are the following:
(1) There is a wealth of statistical evidence that proves that population growth has been a major stimulus for economic development and progress in countries that are now industrialized.
(2) The major determinants of a country's economic development are economic policies and political system. Very densely populated countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Hongkong and Singapore reached heights of economic progress much before any organized population programs.

(3) It is very dangerous to give the State a constitutional mandate to determine what is an optimum population. This can lead to a gross violation of human rights like in the case of some Asian countries that implemented forced sterilization programs, such as the more recent attempt of an Asian leader to limit childbearing only to the educated women, making the extremely objectionable assumption that poor women give birth to less intelligent babies.
(4) In the Philippines, population control programs have been an unmitigated disaster. Hundreds of millions, as a matter of fact, close to P340 million, have been spent for these population control programs from 1981 to 1986. And, of course, hundreds of millions of pesos have gone down the drain without any real impact on alleviating mass poverty.
As the current Minister of Social Services, Mita Pardo de Tavera has recently declared, funds for population control are better utilized in providing social services to the existing population. Population policies should be exclusively population welfare policies. It has been proved beyond statistical doubt that economic development and social justice will automatically lead to the slowing down of population growth as increased urbanization and industrialization are achieved. There is no need for the State to take an active role in determining the optimum level of population. Once the State is wrongly given the mandate to interfere in the basic rights of parents to determine the number of children they will have, all the qualifying limitations about respecting individual consciences are often more honored in their breach as can be gleaned from the experience of developing countries in Asia.

The 1935 Constitution did not include any provisions on population. The only reason why a population policy was included in the 1973 Constitution was that there was a strong lobby supported by the USAID, which at that time was aggressively committed to population control. Since that time under the new policy of President Reagan, American aid programs have been focused on such positive solution as food productivity and the development of small-and medium-scale industries.
Very recently, America stopped all financial support to the U.N. Fund for Population Activities because of the latter's involvement in China's population program, which the United States has reason to suspect, contains the widespread use of compulsory abortion.
The new Reagan doctrine on population was first announced in the 1984 Population Meet in Mexico. It states that the most effective solution to the population problem is economic development and social justice.
Given appropriate policies in economic development and social justice which have been our concern in this Constitution, the Philippines today can comfortably accommodate as many as 100 million Filipinos given the present technology. The Philippines is far from being overpopulated. Existing mass poverty in the Philippines can be attributed to an unenlightened economic policies and the wrong political leadership in the past. CDTInc-
THE PRESIDENT: Commissioner Uka, I am sorry I have to interrupt you because your three-minute time has expired.
MR. UKA: One minute more, Madam President. What is one minute among friends.
THE PRESIDENT: The Commissioner is granted a one-minute extension.
MR. UKA: Thank you, Madam President.
Today, every major nation is both modern and free; it is also on a fertility trap, which will lead to a substantial loss in population. Why should we target our CPG when other nations want to have more babies? In fact, President Francois Miterrand of France recently argued that the decline in birth rate constitutes a grave menace to the West.
So we can see that the modern nations in Europe are even having a problem of decline in population. And some of them are even sending their people here to adopt Filipino children. What does this mean? If Rizal said that the youth, the conceived child in the womb included, is the fair hope of the Fatherland, then the Western contraceptive is already preventing that to happen in our country. There will be no more hope — children or youth — for our Fatherland.
I cannot resist the temptation to quote Jesus on this subject when he said:
Suffer little children and forbid them not to come unto me for such is the Kingdom of Heaven.
We should welcome children, not kill them...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wikipedia on the Reproductive Health Bill

Take a look at this link:

It shows many of the arguments pros and cons. It is neutral. It does not take a stand. It contains a lot of readings that can guide people to make the right choice.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Miracle of Our Lady of La Naval: Grand procession on October 10

If you have not yet gone on Pilgrimage to La Naval, in Santo Domingo Church, on the day of the big yearly procession, I encourage you to go there this Sunday, Oct 10. The procession starts at 4pm. We went there by sheer coincidence last year and were pleasantly surprised to find the fervor of thousands of people. They expect 7k to 10k this Sunday. The procession is not rowdy, it is in fact very orderly and well organized. And its highly inspiring to sense the gratitude and the devotion of our country men.

We owe our continued Catholicism to the miracle of La Naval in 1646, and this great procession has been going on for more than 3 centuries! The event --victory of 4 Spanish ships vs 18 Dutch ships; Catholic vs Protestant warriors-- was officially adjudged a miracle by an Ecclesiastical Council on the same year.

The best route is to pass through the back streets leading to Santo Domingo. It's your option to join the procession or just go there to visit and pray.

See story below:

In the Philippines of 1646, there were not only hostile Muslims in the South, but also Dutch and English privateers who wanted the riches of the archipelago and who wanted to replace Catholicism with Dutch Protestant Calvinism. During this year, there were five bloody naval battles between the greatly outnumbered Spanish - Catholic - Phillipine forces and the Dutch marauders. Only fifteen of the defenders of Manilla were lost in all of the battles. The Dutch, then political enemies of the Spanish, retreated, and never again threatened to destroy the integrity of the islands by annexing them to the Dutch East Indies.

Before each of the battles, the intercession of Our Lady was fervently sought. Crew members -- Spanish soldiers, religious, and Filipinos -- vowed special homage to Our Lady for a victorious battle. True to their Latin heritage and Catholic pride, the victorious defenders petitioned official church recognition and declaration of the naval victories of 1646 as miracles worked by the Mother of God. The Ecclesiastical Council in Cavite, with the help of doctors of theology, canonical experts, and prominent religious, deliberated and examined written and oral testimonies from all eye-witnesses. Finally, on April 9, 1662, the Council ordered that the five naval victories of 1646 be declared as miraculous, "granted by the Sovereign Lord through the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin and devotion to her Rosary, that the miracles be celebrated, preached and held in festivities and to be recounted among the miracles wrought by the Lady of the Rosary for the greater devotion of the faithful to Our Most Blessed Virgin Mary and Her Holy Rosary." This decree was signed by all eight members of the Church Council.

As ordered, these miracles have been preached and celebrated in solemn festivities for over three centuries. Through the centuries, there have been a number of political upheavals in Catholic Phillipines. Still, the people have retained the tradition of celebration of La Naval de Manila.

The full story is further below.

The procession announcement is here:

The Story of La Naval

Of all the famous Marian images in the Philippines, La Naval stands alone as a "native virgin". Although her clothes mark her readily as a product of the 17th century Spanish "Golden Age", her oriental features reflect the uniqueness of her position as a truly indigenous queen of the Philippines.

In 1593, on the death of his father, the Spanish Governor General Luis Perez Dasmarinas commissioned Captain Hernando de los Rios Coronel to have a Marian statue sculpted. He wished to give a religious imprint to his regime in the Philippines. A non-Catholic Chinese sculptor was found to make the statue. This sculptor later became a convert through the intercession of the virgin.

The beautiful image was presented to the Manilla Dominicans and enshrined in the old Sto. Domingo Church by the Pasig. The image is about 4'8" tall and is made of hard-wood, with ivory face and hands. Over three centuries have mellowed the ivory to a delicate brown. The Oriental- Filipina face is almond-shaped, with high-set cheekbones and slanting eyes. The image is dressed as a royal lady of the palace of King Philip of Spain. On her left arm, she holds her beloved Holy Child Jesus. With her right arm, she holds a royal scepter and staff and her Rosary. The statue is covered with jewels, tributes from her throngs of devotees through the ages. Each jewel has its own story. The halo issurrounded by 24 stars, and she wears a queenly crown.

In 1571, the armada of the Cross under John of Austria, brother of King Phillip II, met and defeated the naval armies of the Crescent under Selim the Sot off the gulf of Lepanto between Itally and Greece. Saint Pius V, the great Dominimcan Pope, ordered the public praying of the Rosary throughout Christendom in support of the Christian navies stopping the onslaught of Islam. Although aged and ill, he himself led, on foot, a rosary procession through Rome. After the victory fo the Christian forces, the church was quick to acknowledge the help of Our Lady, and instituted October 7 as the feast of the Queen of the Most HOly Rosary, a feast around which naval traditions have gravitated through the centuries. From this, the name "La Naval" came to be known as a special title for Our Lady, helper of Christian Navies.

In the Philippines of 1646, there were not only hostile Muslims in the South, but also Dutch and English privateers who wanted the riches of the archipelago and who wanted to replace Catholicism with Dutch Protestant Calvinism. During this year, there were five bloody naval battles between the greatly outnumbered Spanish - Catholic - Phillipine forces and the Dutch marauders. Only fifteen of the defenders of Manilla were lost in all of the battles. The Dutch, then political enemies of the Spanish, retreated, and never again threatened to destroy the integrity of the islands by annexing them to the Dutch East Indies.

Before each of the battles, the intercession of Our Lady was fervently sought. Crew members -- Spanish soldiers, religious, and Filipinos -- vowed special homage to Our Lady for a victorious battle. True to their Latin heritage and Catholic pride, the victorious defenders petitioned official church recognition and declaration of the naval victories of 1646 as miracles worked by the Mother of God. The Ecclesiastical Council in Cavite, with the help of doctors of theology, canonical experts, and prominent religious, deliberated and examined written and oral testimonies from all eye-witnesses. Finally, on April 9, 1662, the Council ordered that the five naval victories of 1646 be declared as miraculous, "granted by the Sovereign Lord through the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin and devotion to her Rosary, that the miracles be celebrated, preached and held in festivities and to be recounted among the miracles wrought by the Lady of the Rosary for the greater devotion of the faithful to Our Most Blessed Virgin Mary and Her Holy Rosary." This decree was signed by all eight members of the Church Council.

As ordered, these miracles have been preached and celebrated in solemn festivities for over three centuries. Through the centuries, there have been a number of political upheavals in Catholic Phillipines. Still, the people have retained the tradition of celebration of La Naval de Manila.

After the 1896 Revolution, the large processions in her honor were toned down, but never suspended. In 1906, La Naval was crownded canonically by Rome's Apostolic Legate. In l941, her shrine in the old Sto. Domingo Church in Manilla was bombed. La Naval was safely hidden for a time in the old church's vault, and later transferred to the chapel of the University of Sto. Tomas. Here, thousands of her devotees flocked to honor her in her third Centennial in l946. In l952, the cornerstone was laid for a new shrine at the Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City.
In l954, in a boat shaped carriage, La Naval was led in solemn procession by the Phillippines hierarchy, public officials, priests, nuns, and thousands of devotees to her new home. This shirne was declared by the Philippine bishops as the national shrine of the Queen of the Holy Rosary of the Philippines.

During her feast in October of 1973, La Naval was acknowledged as the patroness of the capitol city of the Philippines. In l974, she was enshrined in a safer vault- altar because of recent sacrilegious robberies of churches and sacred images in the area.

In l985, a year long celebration was held in the Philippines for the Marian year. Shortly thereafter, in February of l986, Cardinal Jaime Sin, archbishop of Manilla, called for "people power" in a pastoral act designed to avoid bloodshed. The phenomenon surfaced, and people armed only with the weapons of love ---rosaries, icons of Jesus and Mary, flowers and food --were able to stop tanks and troops in battle gear. Rosary vigils and nightly processions of a replica of the antique image of La Naval were led by the Filipino Dominicans outside the gates of the Presidential palace. Many Filipinos attribute the victory in the peaceful revolution to divine intervention.

Two of the most prominent church leaders in the Philippines, Cardinal Sin and Cardina Ricardo Vidal, archbishop of Cebu, have said they see the church's role in the Philippines in traditional terms of nonviolence and prevention of bloodshed. They encourage their people to work together for peace. The Dominicans and the devotees of La Naval implore their special patroness here to bring them this fervently sought for peace.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Means for Practising Purity

Council of Trent

Avoidance Of Idleness

We now come to the remedies which consist in action. The first is studiously to avoid idleness; for, according to Ezechiel, it was by yielding to the enervating influence of idleness that the Sodomites plunged into the most shameful crime of criminal lust.


In the next place, intemperance is carefully to be avoided. I fed them to the full, says the Prophet, and they committed adultery. An overloaded stomach begets impurity. This our Lord intimates in these words: Take heed to yourselves, lest perhaps your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness. Be not drunk with wine, says the Apostle, wherein is luxury.

Custody Of The Eyes

But the eyes, in particular, are the inlets to criminal passion, and to this refer these words of our Lord: If thine eye scandalise thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee. The Prophets, also, frequently speak to the same effect. I made a covenant with mine eyes, says Job, that I would not so much as think upon a virgin. Finally, there are on record innumerable examples of the evils which have their origin in the indulgence of the eyes. It was thus that David sinned, thus that the king of Sichem fell, and thus also that the elders sinned who calumniated Susanna.

Avoidance Of Immodest Dress

Too much display in dress, which especially attracts the eye, is but too frequently an occasion of sin. Hence the admonition of Ecclesiasticus: Turn away thy face from a woman dressed up. As women are given to excessive fondness for dress, it will not be unseasonable in the pastor to give some attention to the subject, and sometimes to admonish and reprove them in the impressive words of the Apostle Peter: Whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel. St. Paul likewise says: Not with plaited hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly attire. Many women adorned with gold and precious stones, have lost the only true ornament of their soul and body.

Avoidance Of Impure Conversation, Reading, Pictures

Next to the sexual excitement, usually provoked by too studied an elegance of dress, follows another, which is indecent and obscene conversation. Obscene language is a torch which lights up the worst passions of the young mind; and the Apostle has said, that evil communications corrupt good manners. Immodest and passionate songs and dances are most productive of this same effect and are, therefore, cautiously to be avoided.

In the same class are to be numbered soft and obscene books which must be avoided no less than indecent pictures. All such things possess a fatal influence in exciting to unlawful attractions, and in inflaming the mind of youth. In these matters the pastor should take special pains to see that the faithful most carefully observe the pious and prudent regulations of the Council of Trent.

Frequentation Of The Sacraments

If the occasions of sin which we have just enumerated be carefully avoided, almost every excitement to lust will be removed. But the most efficacious means for subduing its violence are frequent use of confession and Communion, as also unceasing and devout prayer to God, accompanied by fasting and almsdeeds. Chastity is a gift of God. To those who ask it aright He does not deny it; nor does He suffer us to be tempted beyond our strength.


But the body is to be mortified and the sensual appetites to be repressed not only by fasting, and particularly, by the fasts instituted by the Church, but also by watching, pious pilgrimages, and other works of austerity. By these and similar observances is the virtue of temperance chiefly manifested. In connection with this subject, St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, says: Every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things; and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. A little after he says: I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest, perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway. And in another place he says: Make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscence.

Christopher West and Company Vs. ‘Custody of the Eyes’

Life site news

July 27, 2010 ( - In her Theology Master’s thesis, written for the DC Dominican House of Studies, pro-life personality Dawn Eden has critiqued Christopher West’s take on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, which is also spread by the Theology of the Body Institute.

A dispute over West’s methods erupted in May 2009 after ABC aired an interview with the prominent Catholic apologist, in which he appeared to make several highly controversial statements. Although West later clarified and said the statements in question were taken out of context, one of West’s former professors, David Schindler, of the Pontifical Institute for Marriage and the Family in D.C., took the opportunity to express concerns about various aspects of West’s approach.

In her thesis Eden, like Schindler, specifies that she does not question West’s intention to be orthodox. Rather, she proposes corrective measures which she suggests would redeem the “unwitting flaws” in West’s catechesis, which “detract from his intended message.”

For Eden, one of the main contentions with West’s approach is that it opposes traditional conceptions of modesty and the recommended practice of looking away from immodesty (‘custody of the eyes’).

Eden notes that the Catholic Church has traditionally stated that chastity education should include instruction on avoiding occasions of sin. “West states, by contrast, that mature purity is found only in those who are willing to ‘risk’ concupiscence so that they might reap the benefits of ‘union with Christ and his Church.’"

Citing examples from West’s writings, Eden explains that, “By ‘risking,’ he means specifically that men who struggle with lust should practice looking at beautiful women so that they might learn to raise their thoughts and feelings from lust, to joy at encountering the image of God in female beauty.”

In her thesis titled, "Towards a 'Climate of Chastity': Bringing Catechesis on the Theology of the Body into the Hermeneutic of Continuity," Eden argues that such advice runs contrary to traditional Catholic teaching. In the ninth chapter of the Book of Sirach, Eden points out, men are encouraged to look away from shapely women.

Furthermore she points out that Pope John Paul II, who originated the Theology of the Body, has pointed out that after the loss of original grace, man and woman have a “specific necessity of privacy with regard to their own bodies.” Eden states that John Paul’s “understanding of modesty—seeing it not merely as a reaction to the potential lustful ‘look,’ but as a requirement for a ‘truly human culture of morals’—is absent from West’s TOB.”

One of the central arguments West uses in making his point about the necessity of taking the “risk” of “trusting our own freedom to control concupiscence and to choose the good,” is the story of “two bishops.” Eden’s thesis quotes West relating the story:

The following story illustrates what mature Christian purity looks like. Two bishops walked out of a cathedral just as a scantily clad prostitute passed by. One bishop immediately turned away. The other bishop looked at her intently. The bishop who turned away exclaimed, “Brother bishop, what are you doing? Turn your eyes!” When the bishop turned around, he lamented with tears streaming down his face, “How tragic that such beauty is being sold to the lusts of men.” Which one of those bishops was vivified with the ethos of redemption? Which one had passed over from merely meeting the demands of the law to a superabounding fulfillment of the law?

West explains that “the bishop who looked away was continent, but the bishop who saw rightly was virtuous.”

Eden argues, however, that the story, as presented by West, is misleading. She writes that West says the story is “adapted from the story of Bishop St. Nonnus of Edessa and the harlot Pelagia” and he cites Helen Waddell’s account of Nonnus and Pelagia in The Desert Fathers.

However Eden points out that Waddell’s account of Nonnus and Pelagia differs significantly from West’s. “Pelagia, in Waddell’s account, does not notice that Nonnus looks at her on the street,” writes Eden. “Her conversion comes about afterwards, when she hears him preach.”

Eden adds, “Most significantly, when Pelagia then writes to the bishop and asks to see him, he agrees only on the condition that there be other bishops present. ‘[S]eek not to tempt my weakness,’ he writes.” Eden explains: “It is not surprising that West omits that last detail, as, by his own definition, it would mean Bishop St. Nonnus was insufficiently virtuous.”

Eden suggests that a possible motivation for what she says is West’s over-sexualization of Theology of the Body and shunning of traditional practices of custody of the eyes could be the fact that he lived with his parents in an overly-restrictive community which was condemned by the local bishop. Writes Eden, “West told the Washington Post that, after spending years living in the community and submitting to its leaders' control of his social contacts, his work, and his studies, he realized, ‘It's a cult. I've been living in a cult.’”

Eden presents her thesis as contributing to the necessary amendments to West’s popular presentation. She says she is hopeful about the six-month sabbatical that West has undertaken to (in the words of his institute) “reflect more deeply on fraternal and spiritual guidance he has received in order to continue developing his methodology and praxis as it relates to the promulgation of the Theology of the Body."

Through the eyes, disordered affections and desires are excited --St. Alphonsus.

Through the eyes “generally speaking all disordered affections and desires are excited,” says St. Alphonsus.

I present this article next to help us all, especially men, to learn this difficult virtue of practicing custody of the eyes, not only to preserve the virtue of purity but also to mortify curiosity that can lead to many other vices.

Visual temptations are very strong and difficult to resist; therefore, it is necessary to beware of them and take precaution not to be ensnared by them. Through the eyes “generally speaking all disordered affections and desires are excited,” says St. Alphonsus. St. Augustine explains that bad “thoughts follow the look; delight comes after the thought; and consent [to sin] follows delight.” And we see that the very first sin that brought death to all began with an unguarded look: Eve “saw that [the fruit] was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and beautiful to behold, she took of the fruit, and ate.” (Gen 3:6). The devil certainly knew the power of temptations of sight and made use of it here. So we can see that the devil first tempts us to look, then to desire, and afterwards to consent. How important it is then to acquire the habit to restrain our eyes and be on guard when we are faced with any sight that we know would offend God.

Because of the enticing allure of visual temptations it is imperative first to avoid all occasions to sin and then if avoidance is not possible, custody of the eyes must be practiced. Common occasions of sin to be avoided today are: television programs, beaches during the daytime in summer, other public places where immodesty reigns, computer internet sites, certain persons who typically are a cause of sinful temptation, etc.

To practice custody of the eyes the advice invariably offered by the saints is to keep one’s eyes cast down when danger is present, or to stay out of view of the sinful sight, or not to fix one’s eyes on certain people, especially those of the opposite sex if we are vowed in marriage or some form of religious life. [If our eyes are not good and we wear glasses, it is also helpful to remove the glasses when immodesty is present.] When these temptations are present we will find it much easier not to fall into sin if we raise our hearts to Heaven asking our guardian angel and Our Lady especially to protect us and strengthen against the snare of sinful sights and from making sinful glances and gazes.

This advice was not followed by the two Judges in the book of Daniel who looked upon Susanna with lust and “perverted their own mind and turned away their eyes that they might not look to Heaven nor remember just judgments.” (Dan. 13:9).

Jesus tells us that “if your eye is an occasion of sin to you, pluck it out! It is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell-fire, “Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9: 46). Our eyes were given to us by God “to be directed to what inspires devotion, to sacred images, and to the beauty of creation, which elevate the soul to the contemplation of the divinity,” says St. Alphonsus, not to behold things that cause us to sin and offend God.

St. Dominic Savio would strictly control his eyes on his way to and from school so much so that his friends, who loved to look at exciting things along the way, learned that he never noticed those things. One boy angrily yelled at him: “What are your eyes for if you don’t use them to look at things like these?” St. Dominic replied: “I’ll use them to look at the face of the Blessed Mother if by God’s grace I am worthy of Heaven.” One day he also found his friends looking at indecent pictures. He went in the midst of them, grabbed the pictures and tore them up in their presence, saying: “How stupid can we be? God gives us eyes to look at his beauties, and you use them to stare at this filth made by corrupt men to harm your souls. Have you forgotten all you learned? Our Lord says we can soil our souls with a single evil glance, and you go ahead and gloat over these dirty things!”

The virtue of practicing custody of the eyes is indeed difficult. It requires a diligent and unyielding effort exercised with frequent recourse to Heaven, frequent confession in the Holy Sacrament to cleanse one’s soul and strengthen one’s resolve, and a perseverance that will never slacken until a firm habit has been established in controlling one’s eyes. Some men, and perhaps women too, find it next to impossible to restrain their eyes with the immodesty in the world; but for those who are committed to living a holy life and not offending God, there is always great hope using these supernatural means of recourse to Our Lady and the Sacraments accompanied by a planned resolve every day to conquer this sinful temptation more and more.

Friday, July 16, 2010

‘He changed history through prayer’

Paolo Gambi meets Alberto Michelini, a distinguished Italian politician who has made an intensely moving film about Pope John Paul II

Alberto Michelini has been a member of both the Italian parliament and the European Parliament for about 20 years, and a distinguished journalist for many decades. He is also the creator of a documentary called Credo about John Paul II. The film is not the first time he has engaged with the Polish pope. He has in fact already made 20 films and written ten books about him. I sat down to interview him in Rome.

Is this your last film about Pope John Paul II?

I consider this to be my last and most definitive film about John Paul II. Obviously 20 films and 10 books are not enough to describe John Paul II's figure, so it was worth running over John Paul II's life again.

This time, I needed to do it through signs. The fewer words I used, the better it would be.

I already chose not to add a commentary to the Tor Vergata youth meeting [World Youth Day 2000] film. But this time I wanted to make a sort of outline, with images accompanied by sacred arias performed by Andrea Bocelli. I tried to put together music and images referring to the issues of John Paul II's pontificate. One might ask: how could we choose the right arias? For some arias it was remarkably easy. Take the three Ave Marias by Gounod, Schubert and Mascagni for Pope's Marian devotion: he was a Marian pope par excellence, even in his coat of arms, and in his extraordinary life story. He was in fact the pope who suffered an attempt on his life and was saved through the help of Mary. He was the pope who answered Fatima's message by consecrating the world to Mary's Immaculate Heart in 1984, as she had asked.

Why did you call the film Credo?

It may seem obvious, but I called it Credo simply because the pope's faith was so strong. Credo, because through him you understand what being faithful means. One of the sacred arias is called "I believe": this is what came to mind when you saw him praying. John Paul II's way was to lavish love on everybody he met. He was extraordinary. I love Pope Ratzinger, but in the Church's history there has never been and won't be any pope gifted with such charisma. He was a pope who changed history through his prayer, through his being a contemplative, because he drew strength for action from his prayer. Whatever he did, it was enlightened by prayer. Everybody knows he often worked in the chapel.

How did the idea of this film come to you?

The producer Caterina Caselli called me while she was watching the endless procession of the pope's funeral, proposing the idea of putting those images together with Andrea Bocelli's arias. As a matter of fact, the sequence of the film follows the sequence of the pope's funeral procession: the body is carried down from the third lodge, the royal stair, inside the Basilica, then three days pass and then the funeral. This is the movie.

But it could not be just this. This is the background. Besides these images I put images of the pope's life, divided into topics: peace, war, ecumenism, women... my only regret is that I had to discard many wonderful images. But I had one hour, and half of it had to be images of the dead pope.

You spoke about signs. Why did you choose to use signs to tell the pope's story?

He was a man who used signs, as when he put a letter in the Western Wall in Jerusalem. He was asking forgiveness for the Catholic Church by performing the most Jewish sign that exists. Or when he went to jail to forgive his would-be assassin Ali Agca.

Between one sacred aria and the next the pope speaks. And he is the only one who speaks, in different situations and languages. He was the one to be listened to. I hope I have succeeded in this aim.

You were close to John Paul II, and know a great deal about his pontificate. What was your most outstanding impression of him?

Many things. First, his vigour in his first years as pope. And we can notice that in those 30-year-old images, like his historic speech at his enthronement, when he said: "Open, open wide the doors to Christ! He alone has words of life." And he added: "Yes, of eternal life!"

And this struck me because in the following years I saw him sick. He had such strength... it's as if those words recovered their freshness and their deepest meaning. As a matter of fact the journalist Andr� Frossard, who did the first book-length interview with John Paul II, said that it was if those words gained their real meaning. "May Jesus Christ be praised" was no longer a trite ritual formula and got its real meaning back. Frossard said the difference was like when the word "land" is pronounced by a land registry clerk or by a man on the top of a caravel.

Listening to the word "Christ", or "you have the words of eternal life", or whatever else he said, it was as if Christianity were rising from Nero's stadium. The impression this pope gave was like that of the early Christians. It was as if he had just left the net on the Sea of Galilee's shore and arrived in Rome. This pope suddenly made the recovery of Christian identity seem possible. And this happened from his very first encyclical to his 2001 Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, where he wrote that we will be saved not by a formula, but by a person: Jesus Christ.

From there also comes the idea, recognised by everybody in the world - even by non-believers or members of other religions - that he was the most authoritative defender of human rights. What amazed observers, every one of us, was that a Roman Pontiff became a figure of highest moral authority, a defender of human rights.

Then I was struck by his way of praying. He prayed as if he was in another dimension, and it did not matter if he was in his private chapel - where, by the way, I often went - or facing two million people. He was present, but projected a mystical dimension of prayer. He was a great mystic, a contemplative. Then I want to mention his love for men, for women and children, for poor and sick people. And one more word I want to mention is indignation: which we saw against the Mafia (to whom he said: "Convert, once God's judgment will come!") or when he went to Poland in 1999, or when he warned the priest who became a minister in Latin America, or his criticism of the massacres in the former Yugoslavia.

Two more words for him: truth and courage. He reminds me of the early Christians, saints, prophets and patriarchs. The French Cardinal Paul Poupard once said that the pope had the chin of a commander and the forehead of an intellectual. And it was true.

Credo has already been shown in several cities around the world. Are people appreciating it?

I saw people crying. Even Sir Rocco Forte has been touched in London. In March it will be shown in Guatemala City, Mexico City and Buenos Aires. It is an instrument for evangelisation. When in 1992 to 1993 I made 10 films about John Paul II, someone from Aid to the Church in Need watched them, and wanted to translate them into the languages of the former Communist countries. I gave them away for free, and it has been wonderful. For the Church, films can be a form of evangelisation.

Credo is currently available from The Catholic Herald will be promoting the DVD in the run-up to Easter

Friday, June 18, 2010

Arriving at the Peace of Chastity: powerpoint presentation

I have just uploaded to Scribd my powerpoint presentation on Arriving at the Peace of Chastity.

Here is a prayer also based on the book that is now being used in the US.

The presentation is based on the breakthrough insights of John Paul II's Theology of the Body and T.G. Morrow's Achieving Chastity in a Pornographic World.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Love alone makes us happy

Benedict XVI: The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: love alone makes us happy because we live in a relationship, and we live to love and to be loved. Borrowing an analogy from biology, we could say that imprinted upon his "genome", the human being bears a profound mark of the Trinity, of God as Love.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Theology of the Body: FAQ

by Dr Mary Shivanandan

I have heard it said that theologians have always accepted that the body is part of the person but could not explain it very well. What methods were used to explain that the body is part of the person before JPII and what were their limitations?

It must be kept in mind in discussing the Christian view of the body as part of the person, that it developed as an integration of two different anthropologies or views of the nature of Man. One was based on God’s revelation and the other on Greek philosophical concepts, faith and reason respectively. First and foremost, in the biblical view, the person is created as a living being. Biblical thought does not conceive of the soul and body as separate. The human being, moreover, is always in relation with himself, the world, other human beings, and God. Even in the shadowy world of Sheol after death the attenuated body has a place. By contrast the Greek philosopher, Plato, posited a radical otherness between the world of sense and the invisible world of ideas. Indeed, matter participated in various degrees in the abstract ideas of goodness, truth, and beauty, but the goal was to flee the decaying world of the body. Aristotle, on the other hand proposed that the soul is the form of matter, a much more affirming view of the material world.

It was the Aristotelian view that predominated in the development of Christian thought, especially in Thomas Aquinas. At the same time Aquinas adopted from Augustine Plato’s idea of participation, that all creation participates in the being, goodness, truth and beauty of God. Boethius following Aristotle defined man as “individual substance of a rational nature” (naturae rationalis individua substantia) . Now the problem with this definition is that “substance” or supposit refers to an existent being in reference to itself. The sense of relation to God, the world, and other human beings is obscured. The definition of Richard St. Victor in discussing the divine persons “an incommunicable existence in a divine nature” (naturae divinae incommunicabilis existentia) brought forward a more spiritual definition but Boethius’ formula remained the preferred definition for the human person even in Thomas.

Why did this definition eventually prove inadequate?

Substance came to be identified, not with the entirety of the human being as the body in union with the soul, but the body as set over against the soul, and isolated in itself, a distinctly non-biblical view. Francis Bacon, an originator of the scientific method, prescinded the body and matter from God as Creator and Revealer. Instead of seeing each created thing as participating in God’s creative act with intrinsic value ordered to its fulfillment in relation, matter became a “given, ” a “substratum” that could be measured and manipulated by mathematical formula. The criterion of truth became physical evidence, not faith in a personal God as Creator and reason participating in divine truth and conformed to the intelligibility in things. This brought about a tremendous mastery over the physical world but since physical evidence deceives, eventually a more secure mode of certainty as a criterion of truth was sought. At the same time in scientific materialism the interiority of the human person is reduced to insignificance. Enter Descartes with his philosophy of doubt about the external world and his turn to an interior source of certainty, cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am). It is now man who imposes truth on the external world through his own mind. Matter is res extensa, completely cut off from the invisible realm of the spirit. Such a development of Western thought on the body and matter, very briefly sketched, was hostile to the Christian view, central to which are the Incarnation and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What advantages has the Theology of the Body to explain the body as part of the person?

John Paul II bases his reflections on marriage and sexuality on texts from Scripture, beginning with the creation of man and woman in Genesis. In other words he returns to a biblical view of the body and soul but without diminishing in any way the metaphysics of Aquinas. Not only does he return to a biblical view but he greatly expands our understanding of the body as expressing the person made in the image of God. The body in some way images the Creator. He goes further, the body in its masculinity and femininity is ordered to love and communion so that the love between a man and a woman in original innocence actually imaged the total self-giving love of the divine persons of the Trinity. It is the body alone that makes visible divine realities. Christ in the union of his divine and human natures is not the “ontological exception” but the fullness of what it is to be human, body and soul. As Gaudium et Spes, no. 22, says “Christ, the final Adam by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.”

This is the real challenge of Christianity. It is the reason the Greek philosophers on the Areopagus rejected Paul when he spoke of the resurrection of the dead. It is the reason many Christians through the centuries have rejected the radical teaching of John 6 on the Eucharist. To start from this premise sheds a whole new light on the relations between Man and God, men and women, marriage and consecrated celibacy.

What are some key insights of John Paul II?

The idea of interpreting the human person as a gift ordered to self giving is an essential concept. John Paul II calls this the “hermeneutics of the gift.” God created the world out of nothing. He did not have to create it. The human person, the highest point of creation, is the fruit and image of God as a Person and a communion of Persons. It is the body that makes visible the spiritual and divine. Not only, says John Paul II, does the body make visible the spiritual attributes of the person as one who has the capacity to know and love freely, but even more in its masculinity and femininity, gender, the body makes visible its ordering to total self-giving love in the manner of the divine Trinitarian Persons.

Gender then is central to a Christian anthropology not just a social construction?

John Paul II takes Genesis 3:18, “It is not good that man (male) should be alone. I will make a helper fit for him” as a starting point for his whole discussion of the meaning of gender. The fact that Adam was created alone, he calls “original solitude,” referring to the original nature of Man in the Garden of Eden. He was created as a person, with intellect and will, with a body that expresses who he is as a spiritual being different from the animals and in a unique relationship with God. “Partner of the Absolute” is the phrase the pope uses since Man has been given the power to determine his own destiny. All these gifts, God saw were good but not enough. “It is not good that man should be alone.” So, God creates Eve out of Adam’s rib, which indicates she shares the same humanity, the same attributes of being a person in original solitude. Yet Eve is different. Eve is a different manifestation of the same humanity. And that difference is not just superficial but belongs to her very way of being a person. This is called asymmetrical difference.

Why asymmetrical difference?

In any giving and receiving of love, the integrity of the person must be preserved. This means that the man can never dominate the woman or use her for his own selfish ends. He must always receive her in her femininity as a gift from the hand of God, just as he received his own being from God. Only in this way can man and woman enjoy the fullness of communion and image divine Trinitarian union. The difference, which can never be overcome but only shared, must always be honored. It is this communion of complete self-giving that constitutes original happiness.

Man and woman were created for love. There must be one who first loves and one who receives love. In the one flesh union of man and woman the fruit is first of all the bond of love and then the child. It is this very way of being a masculine or feminine person, expressed in the body, that enables the love to be fruitful. The fruit is also spiritual in the education of the child.

The kind of communion you are talking about seems rare if not impossible in today’s world.

John Paul II would say that it is difficult but not impossible. Indeed when Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit of the tree of good and evil, its first and most devastating effects, after the rupture with God, penetrated their communion. They could no longer receive each other as a gift. The other became an object of use and manipulation. The Church has always taught that, even though human nature was damaged by original sin, its underlying goodness remained. This is a very important part of John Paul II’s catechesis, the recognition that there is a continuity as well as a discontinuity between the graced state of original innocence and the historical state of sin. In fact the experience of shame in some way links the two. When man and woman feel shame before one another’s nakedness, it reveals to them that something has been lost. They instinctively protect their vulnerability from the other out of fear of exploitation. Nakedness is significant not just in the physical arena. It comprises the whole area of psychological and spiritual relations between men and women. Chastity , either in the single or married state, is the virtue that protects the integrity of the person. It is intimately linked to self-mastery and is essential for the “freedom of the gift.”

If human nature was so grievously damaged by original sin, how can communion be restored?

Christ came in the flesh to restore Man’s dignity. Taking on a human body in the Incarnation, Christ raised the human body to a new level. In the catechesis, John Paul II shows how redemption through Christ has real power to restore the human person, body and soul, so that once again the body can express total self-giving love between man and woman. Now there is a new way of living the meaning of the body as gift in consecrated celibacy, when the total gift of self is given to God alone. Such a way of life points to the resurrected state where there will be no marrying or giving in marriage but all will be absorbed in God in a virginal way. The total transformation into a spiritual body will bring about a perfect “intersubjectivity” or communion between persons.

You have called your study guide A New Language, why is that?

John Paul II has always recognized the importance of language. It frames not only our way of thinking but our behavior. When we speak of fornication, we are reminded that sex before marriage is disordered. The sociologists knew this so deliberately changed the language to premarital sex which makes it sound benign. John Paul II has not only restored biblical language for speaking about sexuality but brings out the full meaning of the spousal language in Sacred Scripture, that reveals the nature of God’s incomparable love for his people. The Old Testament equates the idolatry of the Israelites to adultery. The body itself, says John Paul II speaks a language of which it is not the author. In its actions it speaks on behalf of the person, as it were truth or untruth. When, for example, a couple engages in sex outside marriage, the body speaks the language of total commitment but the man and woman falsify that language by not making the total commitment that can only be expressed in the indissolubility of marriage. It is the same with contraception. When the couple withhold the gift of fertility, their union is not total.

What place does passion have in the theology of the body?

John Paul II views eros, which strives to possess the good, the true and the beautiful, as a powerful force for the goodness of union. He interprets the Song of Songs not as a spiritual allegory but the love of man and woman as it would have been in the Garden of Eden. In the first English translations several of the more erotic verses were left out. These have been restored in the fine new translation by Michael Waldstein. Far from being suspicious of eros, John Paul II sees it as an essential ingredient of spousal love. When it is integrated with the love that desires only the good of the other it is purified and contributes greatly to total self-gift. Pope Benedict XVI has developed these insights in his encyclical, Deus caritas est, seeing eros even in God’s passionate love for us.

I have heard the phrase “the sacramentality of the body.” What does it mean?

John Paul II speaks of a general sacramentality of the material world, which makes visible the goodness of God in creation. The body participates in that. We are more familiar with the seven sacraments, of which marriage is one. In his comments on the Passage in Ephesians 5:21-33 on marriage as an image of Christ’s union with the Church, his bride, John Paul II offers a rich reflection on general sacramentality as well as the seven sacraments including marriage.

In a short interview it is not possible to bring out all the wealth of wisdom and insight John Paul II brings us in his Catechesis on the theology of the body. I have touched on only a few of the highlights. It is well worth spending the time to study it in depth.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


By Christopher West

“It is an illusion to think we can build a true culture of human life if we do not . . . accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and their close inter-connection.”

John Paul II, The Gospel of Life (n. 97).

The sexual embrace is the foundation stone of human life. The family + and, in turn, human society itself + spring from this embrace. In short, as sex goes, so go marriage and the family. As marriage and the family go, so goes civilization.

Such logic doesn’t bode well for our culture. It’s no exaggeration to say that the task of the twentieth century was to rid itself of the Christian sexual ethic. If we’re to build a “culture of life,” the task of the twenty-first century must be to reclaim it.

But the often repressive approach of previous generations of Christians (usually silence or, at most, “don’t do it”) is largely responsible for the cultural jettison of the Church’s teaching on sex. We need a “new language” to break the silence and reverse the negativity. We need a fresh theology that explains how the Christian sexual ethic + far from the prudish list of prohibitions it’s assumed to be + corresponds perfectly with the deepest yearnings of our hearts for love and union.

As many people are only now discovering, Pope John Paul II devoted the first major teaching project of his pontificate to developing just such a theology; he calls it a “theology of the body.” This collection of 129 short talks has already begun a “sexual counter-revolution” that’s changing lives around the world. The “fire” is spreading and in due time we can expect global repercussions.

Papal biographer George Weigel said it best when he described the theology of the body as “a kind of theological time bomb set to go off with dramatic consequences ...perhaps in the twenty-first century” (Witness to Hope, 343).

A Reply to Our Universal Questions

By focusing on the beauty of God’s plan for the union of the sexes, John Paul shifts the discussion from legalism (“How far can I go before I break the law?”) to liberty (“What’s the truth that sets me free to love?”). The truth that sets us free is salvation in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter what mistakes we’ve made or what sins we’ve committed. The Pope’s theology of the body wags a finger at no one. It’s a message of sexual salvation offered to one and all.

In short, through an in-depth reflection on the Scriptures, John Paul seeks to answer two of the most important, universal questions: (1) “What’s it mean to be human?” and (2) “How do I live my life in a way that brings true happiness and fulfillment?” The Pope’s teaching, therefore, isn’t just about sex and marriage. 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, 80).

To answer the first question + “What’s it mean to be human?” + the Pope follows Christ's invitation to reflect on the three different “stages” of the human experience of sex and the body: in our origin before sin (see Mt 19:3-8); in our history darkened by sin yet redeemed in Christ (see Mt 5:27-28); and in our destiny when God will raise our bodies in glory (see Mt 22:23-33).

In response to the second question + “How do I live my life?” + John Paul applies his distinctive “Christian humanism” to the vocations of celibacy and marriage. He then concludes by demonstrating how his study provides a new, winning explanation of Church teaching on sexual morality.

We’ll look briefly at each of these different sections of the Pope’s teaching. Of course, in a short introduction such as this, we’re only scratching the surface of the Pope’s profound insights (see resource section to learn more). We’ll begin with his main idea.

Why is the Body a “Theology”?

According to John Paul II, God created the body as a “sign” of his own divine mystery. This is why he speaks of the body as a “theology,” a study of God.

We can’t see God. As pure Spirit, he’s invisible. Yet Christianity is the religion of God’s self-disclosure. In Christ, “God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (CCC, n. 221). Somehow the human body makes this eternal mystery of love visible.

How? Specifically through the beauty of sexual difference and our call to union. God designed the union of the sexes as a “created version” of his own “eternal exchange of love.” And right from the beginning, the union of man and woman foreshadows our eternal destiny of union with Christ. As St. Paul says, the “one flesh” union is “a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:31-32).

The Bible uses spousal love more than any other image to help us understand God’s eternal plan for humanity. God’s wants to “marry” us (see Hos 2:19) + to live with us in an “eternal exchange of love.” And he wanted this great “marital plan” to be so plain to us, so obvious to us that he impressed an image of it in our very being by creating us male and female and calling us to communion in “one flesh.”

Thus, in a dramatic development of Catholic thought, John Paul concludes that we image God not only as individuals, “but also through the communion ...which man and woman form right from the beginning.” And, the Pope adds, “On all of this, right from ‘the beginning,’ there descended the blessing of fertility” (Nov 14, 1979). The original vocation to be “fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28), then, is nothing but a call live in the image in which we’re made + to love as God loves.

Of course, this doesn’t mean God is “sexual.” We use spousal love only as an analogy to help us understand something of the divine mystery (see CCC, n. 370). God’s “mystery remains transcendent in regard to this analogy as in regard to any other analogy” (Sep. 29, 1982). At the same time, however, the Pope says that there “is no other human reality which corresponds more, humanly speaking, to that divine mystery” (Dec. 30, 1988).

The Original Experience of the Body & Sex

We tend to think the “war” between the sexes is normal. In his discussion with the Pharisees, Jesus points out that “from the beginning it was not so” (Mt 19:8). Before sin, man and woman experienced their union as a participation in God’s eternal love. This is the model for us all, and although we’ve fallen from this, Christ gives us real power to reclaim it.

The biblical creation stories use symbolic language to help us understand deep truths about ourselves. For example, the Pope observes that their original unity flows from the human being’s experience of solitude. At first the man was “alone” (see Gen 2:18). Among the animals there was no “helper fit for him” (Gen 2:20). It’s on the basis of this “solitude” + an experience common to male and female + that we experience our longing for union.

The point is that human sexual union differs radically from the mating of animals. If they were the same, Adam would have found plenty of “helpers” among the animals. But in naming the animals he realized he was different; he alone was a person called to love with his body in God’s image. Upon sight of the woman the man immediately declares: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). That’s to say, “Finally, a person I can love.”

How did he know that she too was a person called to love? Her naked body revealed the mystery! For the pure of heart, nakedness reveals what John Paul calls “the nuptial meaning of the body.” This is the body’s “capacity of expressing love: that love precisely in which the person becomes a gift and + by means of this gift + fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence” (Jan 16, 1980).

Yes, the Pope says if we live according to the truth of our sexuality, we fulfill the very meaning of life. What is it? Jesus reveals it when he says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). How did Jesus love us? “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19). God created sexual desire as the power to love as he loves. And this is how the first couple experienced it. Hence, they “were both naked, and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25).

There’s no shame in love; “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4:18). Living in complete accord with the nuptial meaning of their bodies, they saw and knew each other “with all the peace of the interior gaze, which createsB the fullness of the intimacy of persons” (Jan 2, 1980).

The Historical Experience of the Body & Sex

Original sin caused the “death” of divine love in the human heart. The entrance of shame indicates the dawn of lust, of erotic desire void of God’s love. Men and women of history now tend to seek “the sensation of sexuality” apart from the true gift of themselves, apart from authentic love.

We cover our bodies not because they’re bad, but to protect their inherent goodness from the degradation of lust. Since we know we’re made for love, we feel instinctively “threatened” not only by overt lustful behavior, but even by a “lustful look.”

Christ’s words are severe in this regard. He insists that if we look lustfully at others, we’ve already committed adultery in our hearts (see Mt 5:28). John Paul poses the question: “Are we to fear the severity of these words, or rather have confidence in their salvific ...power?” (Oct 8, 1980). These words have power to save us because the man who utters them is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).

Christ didn’t die and rise from the dead merely to give us coping mechanisms for sin. “Jesus came to restore creation to the purity of its origins” (CCC, n. 2336). As we open ourselves to the work of redemption, Christ’s death and resurrection effectively “liberate our liberty from the domination of lust” as John Paul expresses it (March 1, 1984).

On this side of heaven, we’ll always be able to recognize a battle in our hearts between love and lust. Even so, John Paul insists that “the redemption of the body” (see Ro 8:23) is already at work in men and women of history. This means as we allow our lusts to be “crucified with Christ” (see Gal 5:24) we can progressively rediscover in what is erotic that original “nuptial meaning of the body” and live it. This “liberation from lust” and the freedom it affords is, in fact, “the condition of all life together in truth” (Oct 8, 1980).

The Ultimate Experience of the Body & Sex

What about our experience of the body in the resurrection? Didn’t Christ say we’ll no longer be given in marriage when we rise from the dead (see Mt 22:30)? Yes, but this doesn’t mean our longing for union will be done away with. It means it will be fulfilled. As a sacrament, marriage is only on earthly sign of the heavenly reality. We no longer need signs to point us to heaven, when we’re in heaven. The “marriage of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7) + the union of love we all desire + will be eternally consummated.

“For man, this consummation will be the final realization of the unity of the human race, which God willed from creation. ...Those who are united with Christ will form the community of the redeemed, ‘the holy city’ of God, ‘the Bride, the wife of the Lamb’” (CCC, n. 1045). This eternal reality is what the “one flesh” union foreshadows from the beginning (see Eph 5:31-32).

Hence, in the resurrection of the body we rediscover + in an eternal dimension + the same nuptial meaning of the body in the meeting with the mystery of the living God face to face (see Dec 9, 1981). “This will be a completely new experience,” the Pope says + beyond anything we can imagine. Yet “it will not be alienated in any way from what man took part in from ‘the beginning,’ nor from [what concerns] the procreative meaning of the body and of sex” (Jan 13, 1982).

The Christian Vocations

By looking at “who we are” in our origin, history, and destiny, we open the door to a proper understanding of the Christian vocations of celibacy and marriage. Both vocations are an authentic “living out” of the most profound truth of who we are as male and female.

When lived authentically, Christian celibacy isn’t a rejection of sexuality and our call to union. It actually points to their ultimate fulfillment. Those who sacrifice marriage “for the sake of the kingdom” (Mt 19:12) do so in order to devote all of their energies and desires to the marriage that alone can satisfy + the marriage of Christ and the Church. In a way, they’re “skipping” the sacrament (the earthly sign) in anticipation of the ultimate reality. By doing so, celibate men and women declare to the world that the kingdom of God is here (see Mt 12:28).

In a different way, marriage also anticipates heaven. “In the joys of their love [God gives spouses] here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb” (CCC, n. 1642). Why, then, do so many couples experience marriage as a “living hell”? In order for marriage to bring the happiness it’s meant to, spouses must live it as God intended “from the beginning.” This means they must contend diligently with the effects of sin.

Marriage doesn’t justify lust. As a sacrament, marriage is meant to symbolize the union of Christ and the Church (see Eph 5:31-32). The body has a “language” that’s meant to express God’s free, total, faithful, and fruitful love. This is exactly what spouses commit to at the altar. “Have you come here freely?” the priest asks, “to give yourselves to each other without reservation? Do you promise to be faithful until death? Do you promise to receive children lovingly form God?” Bride and groom say “yes.”

In turn, spouses are meant to express this same “yes” with their bodies whenever they become one flesh. “Indeed the very words ‘I take you to be my wife + my husband,’” the Pope says, “can be fulfilled only by means of conjugal intercourse” (Jan 5, 1983). Sexual union is meant to be the renewal of wedding vows!

A New Context for Understanding Sexual Morality

The Church’s sexual ethic begins to make sense when viewed through this lens. It’s not a prudish list of prohibitions. It’s a call to embrace our own “greatness,” our own God-like dignity. It’s a call to live the love we’re created for.

Since a prophet is one who proclaims God’s love, John Paul II describes the body and sexual union as “prophetic.” But, he adds, we must be careful to distinguish between true and false prophets. If we can speak the truth with our bodies, we can also speak lies. Ultimately all questions of sexual morality come down to one simple question: Does this truly image God’s free, total, faithful, fruitful love or does it not?

In practical terms, how healthy would a marriage be if spouses were regularly unfaithful to their wedding vows? On the other hand, how healthy would a marriage be if spouses regularly renewed their vows, expressing an ever-increasing commitment to them? This is what’s at stake in the Church’s teaching on sexual morality.

Masturbation, fornication, adultery, intentionally sterilized sex, homosexual acts, etc.+ none of these image God’s free, total, faithful, and fruitful love. None of these behaviors express and renew wedding vows. They aren’t marital. Does this mean people who behave in such ways are “inherently evil?” No. They’re just confused about how to satisfy their genuine desires for love.

If I offered you a million dollar bill and a counterfeit million dollar bill, which would you prefer? Dumb question, I know. But what if you were raised in a culture that incessantly bombarded you with propaganda convincing you that counterfeit was the real thing and the real thing was a counterfeit? Might you be a little confused?

Authentic Sexual Liberation

Why all the propaganda? If there’s an enemy that wants to keep us from heaven, and if the body and sex is meant to point us there, what do you think he’s going to attack? Sin’s tactic is to “twist” and “disorient” our desire for the eternal embrace. That’s all it can do. When we understand this, we realize that the sexual confusion so prevalent in our world and in our own hearts is nothing but the human desire for heaven gone berserk.

But the tide is changing. People can only put up with the counterfeits for so long. Not only do they fail to satisfy, they wound us terribly. Sadly, the truth of the Church’s teaching on sex is confirmed in the wounds of those who haven’t lived it. Our longings for love, intimacy, and freedom are good. But the sexual revolution sold us a bill of goods. We haven’t been “liberated.” We’ve been duped, betrayed, and left wanting.

This is why the world is a mission field ready to soak up John Paul II’s theology of the body. And this is why it’s already changing so many lives around the world. The Pope’s teaching helps us distinguish between the real million dollar bill and the counterfeit. It helps us “untwist” our disordered desires and orients us towards the love that truly satisfies.

As this happens, we experience the Church’s teaching not as a burden imposed from “without,” but as a message of salvation welling up from “within.” We experience the truth that sets us free. In other words, we experience what the sexual revolution promised but couldn’t deliver + authentic sexual liberation.

Prayer for Purity of Heart

Lord, help me to accept and receive my sexuality as a gift from you. Grant me the grace to resist the many lies that distort this divine gift and help me to live my sexuality according to the truth of self-giving love. Grant me purity of heart so that I might see the image of your glory in the beauty of others, and one day see you face to face. Amen.

Prayer for the Redemption of Sexual Desire

Lord, I praise you and thank you for the gift of my sexual desires. By the power of your death and resurrection, untwist in me what sin has twisted so that I might know and experience sexual desire as you created it to be + as the desire to love freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully. Amen.

Prayer in a Moment of Temptation to Lust

Lord, thank you for the beauty of this person whom you made to be loved + never to be treated as a thing for my gratification. I renounce any tendency within me to use this person for my own pleasure, and I ask you to set my desires aright. Amen.

Theology of the Body: A Compelling, Bold, Biblical Response to the Sexual Revolution

By Christopher West

“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:31-32).

If the typical Christian in our culture spilled the contents of his mind on a table, ideas about sex would probably look a lot more like Hugh Hefner’s vision than the Apostle Paul’s presented above. Hugh Hefner has been one of the most successful “evangelists” of our time. The world is starved for love, and when the Church fails to proclaim the glory of the banquet, we inevitably fall for the lies of the dumpster.
In Hefner’s “Christian” upbringing, sex was taboo – the body inherently tainted and “sinful.” Hefner, himself, said he started Playboy magazine as “a personal response to the hurt and hypocrisy of our puritan heritage.” Christians can – and should – agree with Hefner’s diagnosis of this disease. Rejecting the body as evil has no place in an authentic biblical vision. God proclaimed that everything he made was “very good” (Gen 1:31). Furthermore, Paul’s admonitions about the dangers of “the flesh” do not condemn the body itself. Paul, rather, is warning us precisely of the dangers Hefner fell into by divorcing the body from the spirit.
Thus, if Christians should agree with Hefner’s diagnosis of the disease, we must disagree with his treatment of it. Hefner’s pornographic remedy doesn’t, in fact, solve the problem at all. All he did was flip the puritanical pancake over from repression to indulgence. Both approaches flow from the same failure to integrate body and spirit. Only such an integration can truly cure the disease.
Paul called this cure the “redemption of the body” (Rom 8:23). Pope John Paul II called it the “theology of the body” (TOB).

A “Theological Time Bomb”

When John Paul II was elected Pope in 1978, he knew that Christians needed a new language to speak about sex that would break the silence in our churches and reverse the negativity. He knew we needed a fresh theology that explains the beauty and greatness of God’s plan for human sexuality. Above all, he knew that we desperately needed salvation from a widespread sexual chaos that, left unanswered, was sure to spell cultural suicide.
And so, in a collection of 129 scholarly addresses delivered between 1979 and 1984, that’s exactly what he provided. In its course, John Paul offered – not just to Catholics, but to all Christians – a bold, compelling, and thoroughly biblical response to Hefner’s pornographic revolution. Rather than condemn Hefner and his followers for eating out of the dumpster, the Pope simply laid out the banquet that truly satisfies the hunger.
Only now, after John Paul’s death, is knowledge of this “banquet” spreading. In due time – if Christians take it up and live it – we can expect global repercussions. Papal biographer George Weigel said it best when he described the TOB as “a kind of theological time bomb set to go off with dramatic consequences ...perhaps in the twenty-first century.”
Of course, a short article like this can only scratch the surface of the Pope’s profound vision. We’ll begin with his main idea.

What Makes the Body “Theological”?

To many Christians the phrase “theology of the body” sounds like an oxymoron. Yet such a reaction only demonstrates how far many of us have drifted from an authentic Christian world-view. As John Paul II observed, “Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh the body entered theology ...through the main door.” Because of the Incarnation, the Apostle John can proclaim it is that “which we have touched with our hands” that we proclaim to you concerning the Word of life. And that life was made visible (see 1 Jn 1-3).
We cannot see God; he is pure spirit. But the astounding claim of Christianity is that the invisible God has made himself visible through the human body. For in Christ “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9). God’s mystery revealed in human flesh – theology of the body: this phrase is not only the title of John Paul II’s talks. It represents the very “logic” of Christianity.

Image of God

The Pope’s thesis statement proclaims that “only the body is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it.” This “mystery hidden in God” refers to the eternal union of the three Persons of the Trinity and our privileged invitation in Christ to share in the Trinity’s eternal exchange of love. This is the “theology” that the human body signifies.
How? Precisely through the beauty of sexual difference and union. In the normal course of events, the union of the “two” leads to a “third.” Here, in a way, we see a trinitarian image. Thus, John Paul concludes that we image God not only as individuals, but also through the union of man and woman. Of course, none of this means that God is “sexual.” We use spousal love only as an analogy to help us understand something of God’s mystery. God’s mystery, itself, remains infinitely beyond any human image.
The Bible, itself, uses spousal love more than any other image to help us understand God’s plan. It begins in Genesis with the marriage of Adam and Eve and ends in Revelation with the marriage of Christ and the Church. Here we find a key for understanding the whole of Scripture: God’s wants to “marry” us – to live with us in an eternal bond of love that the Bible compares to marriage. But there’s more! God wants to fill us – or, to go with the analogy – God wants to “impregnate” us, his bride, with his own divine life. This is a very “earthy” way of speaking, but it isn’t mere poetry. In Mary we witness a woman who literally conceived divine life in her womb.
What we learn in the TOB is that God wanted this great “marital plan” of union and eternal life to be so plain to the world that he impressed an image of it right in our bodies by creating us male and female and calling us to become “one flesh.” If we have difficulty seeing our bodies this way, it’s only because we have been blinded by sin and a deceiver who is literally hell-bent on keeping us from recognizing our true dignity.

“In the Beginning”

On this side of the Fall men and women are often blind to the truth about their bodies and plagued in their union with all kinds of tensions and conflicts. John Paul II reminds us of Christ’s words that “in the beginning it was not so” (Mt 19:8). And the “good news” is that Christ came into the world to make God’s original plan a reality in our lives. With this approach – the Gospel approach – John Paul shifts the discussion about sexual morality from legalism (“How far can I go before I break the law?”) to liberty (“What is the truth about sex that sets me free to love?”). The truth that sets us free to love is salvation in Jesus.
In the beginning “nakedness without shame” (Gen 2:25) reveals a very different experience of sexual desire from our own. God created sexual desire as the power to love as he loves. And this is how the first couple experienced it. Nakedness without shame, in fact, is the key, according to the Pope, for understanding God’s original plan for human life. It unlocks the intimacy and ecstasy of love that God intended “from the beginning.”
The entrance of shame, then, indicates the dawn of lust, of erotic desire cut off from God’s love. We cover our bodies in a fallen world not because they’re bad, but to protect their inherent goodness from the degradation of lust. Since we know we’re made for love, we feel instinctively “threatened” not only by overt lustful behavior, but even by a “lustful look.”

Beyond “Sin Management”

Christ’s words are severe in this regard. He insists that if we look lustfully at others, we’ve already committed adultery in our hearts (see Mt 5:28). John Paul asks whether we should fear Christ’s words, or rather have confidence in their power to save us. Here, the Pope sets us on the path of an effective sexual redemption. This is perhaps the most important contribution of the entire TOB.
As we allow our lusts to be crucified with Christ (see Gal 5:24) we can progressively rediscover and live God’s original plan for sexual desire. We needn’t merely cope with our lusts or “manage” our sinful tendencies. Our sexual desires can be effectively transformed through the “redemption of the body” (Ro 8:23). C.S. Lewis offered a grand image of this at the end of The Great Divorce when “the lizard of lust” was transformed into a great white stallion.
Of course, on this side of heaven, we’ll always be able to recognize a battle in our hearts between love and lust. Only in eternity will the battle cease, as will marriage as we know it. However, when Christ said we will no longer marry in the resurrection (see Mt 22:30), this doesn’t mean our longing for union will be obliterated. It means it will be fulfilled in the “Marriage of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7). That is the union we truly crave. The union of the sexes here on earth is only an icon that’s meant to point us to heaven. When we get there, the icon will give way to the ultimate reality!
In fact, all the sexual confusion in our world and in our own hearts is simply the human desire for heaven gone berserk. The gift of the TOB is that it helps us “unberserk” it. Lust has inverted our rocket engines causing us to crash and burn. The TOB redirects our rocket engines toward the stars.

True and False Prophets

Only in this context does the Christian sexual ethic make sense. Everything the New Testament teaches about sexual morality is an invitation to embrace the original plan of Genesis in order to launch us toward the marriage in the Book of Revelation.
But here’s what truly makes the Gospel good news: it doesn’t only give us a list of rules to follow. Christ empowers us with his grace to fulfill the law. As we allow grace to work in us, the law no longer feels like a burden imposed from without. It wells up from within. We embrace the biblical teaching on sex not because we “have” to, but because we long to. When we see the riches of the banquet, the dumpster no longer attracts us.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). For what reason? To proclaim and participate in the “great mystery” of Christ’s ecstatic union with the Church (see Eph 5:31-32). Could there be a more glorious vision of human sexuality than this?
As a proclamation of divine truth, sexual union has a “prophetic language.” But, as the Pope maintained, we must carefully distinguish true and false prophets. If it is possible to speak the truth with the body, it is also possible to speak a lie. Marriage vows are the solemn promise a man and a woman make to love each other “in the image of God.” In turn, spouses are meant to express this same love with their bodies whenever they become one flesh. In other words, sexual intercourse is meant to be a renewal of wedding vows – where the words of the vows are made flesh.

Ecumenical Significance

Since the “one flesh” union offers a prophetic reference to Christ and the Church (see Eph 5:31-32), our understanding of sexuality has ramifications for all of theology – for the very way we conceive of Christ and his Church. Thus, it shouldn’t surprise us that disputes about the nature of marriage are often at the core of historical divisions within Christianity.
Followers of Christ everywhere recognize John Paul II’s tireless ecumenical efforts. He publicly repented on behalf of those Catholics whose sins led to division in the first place. He reached out repeatedly to Protestant and Orthodox leaders, even asking them to help Rome “re-envision” the papacy so that it could more effectively serve the needs of all Christians. Yet, when history witnesses the fulfillment of Christ’s prayer that “all may be one” (Jn 17:11), it may well recognize the TOB as John Paul II’s most important ecumenical contribution.
If disputes in Christ’s family have led to multiple divorces, the Pope’s daring, biblical apologetic for unity in the “domestic church” (the family) can contribute greatly to bringing about unity in the Church at large. It’s precisely here, in fact – in the cultural battle for marriage and the family – that committed Christians of varying professions find themselves overcoming their mutual prejudices and standing together.
Alan Medinger, who has served the sexually broken for a quarter century through Regeneration Ministries, observes that “evangelicals have much to offer the Catholic Church.... But this is a two way street.... Catholics have [much] to offer [us] in the area of teaching and theology regarding the related matters of life, reproduction, and sexuality.” He concludes, “At this point in my ministry, I can think of no greater service to render to my fellow evangelicals than to point them to Theology of the Body.”

Cultural Renewal

There will be no renewal of the Church and the world without a renewal of marriage and the family. And there will be no renewal of marriage and the family without a return to the full truth of the Christian sexual ethic. This will not happen, however, unless we can find a compelling way to demonstrate to the modern world that the biblical vision of sexuality is not the prudish list of prohibitions it is so often assumed to be, but rather it is the banquet of love we so desperately yearn for.
This is the gift and the promise of John Paul II’s TOB. But its riches have barely begun to penetrate the Catholic world, let alone the wider Christian community. Perhaps if Christians everywhere feasted on this biblical banquet, we could save our culture from its repressive heritage and from the pornographic backlash it inspired. In the process, we might even be able to evangelize Hugh Hefner rather than Hugh Hefner continuing to evangelize us.