“In the beginning, it was not so.”

The body expresses the person. We have to go back to the beginning, before sin distorted things. That is the standard. That is the norm. The Pope proposes an “echo” of the beginning exists within each of us. TOB for Beginners

John Paul maintains that, despite sin, an “echo” of God’s original plan remains deep within every human heart. In his TOB, the Pope aims to help people peel away the layers of debris that cover the true desires of their hearts so that this “echo” can resound. The more it does, the more our subjective experience harmonizes with objective reality. The more that echo resounds, the more we can read the “language of the body” and the desires of our hearts “in truth.” People who come to understand the Pope’s TOB cannot help but recognize the inner movements of their own hearts being laid bare. It rings true. “I can identify with this,” they respond. “I experience life this way. This is what I desire. TOB Explained


For as long as I can remember, I have always felt like I was trying to play catch-up.

What do I mean by that? I mean that feeling you get when someone tells a joke and everyone laughs but you don’t get it but you’re too shy to say anything. That feeling of everyone raising their hand in class because the answer is easy and simple but you don’t raise your hand because you have no clue what’s being taught. That feeling of seeing your friends and people your age getting married and having kids and you haven’t even had a serious boyfriend yet.

Part of this, looking back, was due to my age. Maybe I should have been held back in school by a year. I was one of the “young ones.” Do you remember the kids in your class that were JUST celebrating their birthdays when you started a new grade? I was one of those, being a September baby.

This feeling never really left me. Up until recently, I still felt like I was behind the times. Slow to catch on. Not getting the joke. Appearing perplexed and confused when everyone else has taken the test and handed it in and I’m still stuck on question number 3.

Finally, after almost 37 years, I feel like I know something no one else does and I feel like I just skipped to the head of the class. I feel like I just solved every single question to every problem I have ever had in my entire life and I can’t tell anyone.  Not because I don’t want to share this news, but because I have no earthly idea HOW.  But over the next few week, months, years(!?!)  I will attempt to uncover this through this blog.

“Echo! Echo! Echo!”

What were the events leading up to this “discovery?” I would say the retreat at TOB Institute was the Main Event. But reading Theology of the Body for Beginners was the dress rehearsal. It was in this book that I finally was able to answer questions I have had in my mind since I was young, especially concerning sexuality, marriage, love, the existence of God, pretty much every question every person has but might be too fearful to vocalize it.

I just took two quotes from TOB and put them up there at the top of this page to help explain a little bit of this “discovery” and perhaps you, reader, have felt this too.

Disclaimer: In case it’s not obvious, I am no theologian. I am no best selling author. So this explanation will pale in comparison to the real deal, the actual Theology of the Body written by Pope John Paul II. If you want to “skip ahead” yourself, I encourage you to read one of Christopher West’s books. They will change your life.

Pope JP2 refers to an “echo” that we all have in our hearts. I think of this as a feeling of wanting to do the right thing, a feeling of love, a feeling of enormous longing. A feeling of “there has to be more than this.” And “I know that this is NOT what my life is supposed to look like. I know there is something more. I can feel it.”

This line that I underlined describes perfectly the feelings I had while reading TOB and continue to have now: People who come to understand the Pope’s TOB cannot help but recognize the inner movements of their own hearts being laid bare. It rings true. “I can identify with this,” they respond. “I experience life this way. This is what I desire.

In short, one can observe that the TOB seeks to answer two of the most fundamental human questions: What does it mean to be human? and How do I live in a way that will bring true happiness? TOB Explained page 74

I know what you’re thinking – Geez, this is some pretty serious stuff you’re saying here. I’m not sure I can handle all this theology! And you’re right, it is serious. But, I believe in my heart, that this teaching, this catechesis on the body by JP2, is what will save lives. It certainly saved mine.

To be continued….

-Michelle

What I’m Currently Reading:

Losing my religion for equality

From Rene Descartes to Caitlyn Jenner

The Body God Gave Us Doesn’t Lie

Chivalry Is Making a Comeback

Love, Tolerance, and the Making of Distinctions

 

Start A Fire: How Song Lyrics Can Spark a Blaze

A couple weeks ago I posted how we are all called to holiness.

How many people actually believe that? Apparently, not many. I have heard from friends/others that to live a chaste life, to live a holy life is “too hard, too difficult. Save that holy talk for the priests and the nuns, and the saints. That’s not for me!”

If you truly believe that all of us aren’t called to a life of holiness and chastity, (yes married people are called to a chaste life too!), then what are you called to be? Just an average person going through life?

Aren’t you feeling called to do a little more with this one life that you have been given?

Because I’m passionate about music, I thought others could relate and so I found some song lyrics that might help start a fire within you to help you see things differently. I put them into some categories.

You Are Not Called to Live a Mediocre Life:

“I don’t wanna go through the motions,

I don’t wanna go one more day,

without your all-consuming, passion inside of me.

 I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,

“What if I had given everything, instead of going through the motions?”

– Matthew West, from his song “The Motions”

I hear this song and I automatically want to change how I live my daily life. I feel compelled to pray daily, I feel driven to spread the Word, I get excited about how I can stand up for my beliefs. I think about the “motions” I go through everyday when I’m not feeling too inspired and how I feel like it’s a waste to sit on my butt and do nothing that brings me closer to God. So I do my best to “give everything” to Him. He gets all the glory, all the praise.

Sometimes I think
What will people say of me
When I’m only just a memory
When I’m home where my soul belongs

Was I love
When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of us
Was my worship more than just a song

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
-Sidewalk Prophets, “Live Like That”

The message I get from this song is in one of the last verses in this chorus: Never Holding Back. Don’t be afraid to speak up and speak often. Don’t be afraid to tell people you love them. Don’t be afraid to call someone out on something that you don’t think is right or good. Don’t censor yourself. As long as it’s done in an educational and loving way, there’s no way we can’t have a genuine conversation about “hot button topics” and maybe make some changes in this world.

Sometimes the day won’t ever end…some days you just throw up your hands.

It’s the little things sometimes.

Sometimes the world has just gone dark, sometimes you’re praying for a spark.

It’s the little things sometimes.

But if you lift your eyes, see it in a different light, just a cloud up in the open sky, let the rain fall away because today is beautiful!

If you see more than what’s in front of you
You might see more of heaven’s view

– David Dunn, from his song “Today is Beautiful”

I don’t see how ANYONE could NOT feel happy after hearing this song. Talk about powerful lyrics! Don’t we all have days when we want to see things in a different light? It could be the most dreary, dreadful, grayest day. But if we look at things differently, we can see that it’s a new day, we are alive, we have breath.  So let’s be grateful for this new and beautiful day. Look at your problem in a different light, pray about it, and you might get an answer from God that surprises you. Because, as we know, even when we think God doesn’t hear our prayers, He does.

Forgive and Be Forgiven:

I can’t believe what she said
I can’t believe what he did
Oh, don’t they know it’s wrong
Don’t they know it’s wrong

Well maybe there’s something I missed
But how could they treat me like this
It’s wearing out my heart
The way they disregard
This is love or this is hate…
We all have a choice to make

Oh, Father wont You forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’ (oh no)

Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’

– Tenth Avenue North “Losing”

Forgiveness is probably one of the toughest things that we as Christians struggle with. We desire forgiveness from God through confession. But we also ask for forgiveness from friends and family when we mess up. But the biggest struggle might be when we observe others sinning with no apologies, with no regard for what they are doing to themselves and to their community. We pray to God to please, please, forgive them because they just don’t know. They don’t know that what they are doing is wrong. They believe in their heart that they are doing the right thing because maybe it’s what society told them to do. Maybe since “Everyone else is doing it, I can too!” Maybe it’s even LEGAL but that doesn’t mean it’s right. Is this action going to bring you/them closer to God? If the answer is no, then we need to forgive them anyways, as difficult as it may be. But do so lovingly, not with hate. As the lyrics mention in another part of the song:

Why do we think that hate’s gonna change their heart?
We’re up in arms over wars that don’t need to be fought
But pride won’t let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up but just to burn them down
We think pain is owed apologies and then it’ll stop
But truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not
Freedom comes when we surrender to the sound
Of mercy and Your grace, Father, send Your angels down

Take Action:

Here they come, we are surrounded
We’re outnumbered with no place to run
So we’re staying here, lifting up a prayer
Deliver us

Hear that voice there “You shall not fear
You shall not fight watch me there.”
Can we really stand fast while the enemies advance
We swore to believe so no matter the chance we sing

Raise the banner high march with I and I
Lift your voices up loud and high
Strength and unity, faith and victory
Let the battle rage on we cry

Whom shall we fear, no one, no one
We put our weapons down
Whom shall we fear, no one, no one
We raise up worship now

– Audio Adrenaline, “20:17 Raise the Banner”

This is obviously a battle cry. Stand together, stay strong. It’s a constant battle within ourselves and with each other isn’t it? We so badly want our voices heard, but if we are together with other Christians, our voice comes across as one loud voice, and that will get our message out more clearly than just complaining and or just a faint whisper. Be proud of who you are and what you believe in. Pray for God to help make our voices heard.

This world can be cold and bitter
Feels like we’re in the dead of winter
Waiting on something better
But am I really gonna hide forever?

Over and over again
I hear Your voice in my head
Let Your light shine, let Your light shine for all to see

[Chorus:]
Start a fire in my soul
Fan the flame and make it grow
So there’s no doubt or denying
Let it burn so brightly
That everyone around can see
That it’s You, that it’s You that we need
Start a fire in me

You only need a spark to start a whole blaze
It only takes a little faith
Let it start right here in this city
So these old walls will never be the same

Over and over again
I hear Your voice in my head
They need to know
I need to go
Spirit won’t You fall on my heart now

-Unspoken “Start a Fire”

By far one of the best songs to start your own fire. Let it start with YOU. Too many times we listen to that negative voice or negative external voices that say, “That can’t be done, you’re shooting for the sky, that’s unrealistic!” or “You’re just not smart enough to pull this off.”  You ARE enough. If something is important to you, even if you know it’s going to be difficult or challenging or even costly and great sacrifices will need to be made, seek a way to get it done anyways. No one, not even God, said our lives were supposed to be easy or fair. There will always be a struggle. There will always be despair and setbacks and sadness. But what’s the opposite of all of these? Happiness, joy, love, courage, redemption, peace.

Fit In Your Faith Today:  Find a song and let it speak to you! Sometimes songs speak to us moreso than scripture, although it’s funny because most of these songs contain scripture passages. 🙂 There are countless songs out there than start your spark. Here are a few more that you can listen to today!

Switchfoot – Dare You To Move

Redeemed – Big Daddy Weave

Do Something – Matthew West

Where I Belong – Building 429

Hope in Front of Me – Danny Gokey

Revelation Song – Phillips, Craig & Dean

Day One – Matthew West

 

 

 

Selfless Desire

Selfless desire for the other’s true good is called benevolence in love. If love as desire says, “I long for you AS a good,” love as benevolence says “I long for YOUR good,” and “I long for that which is good for you.”

Love as desire is not itself a problem or a defect; it is merely incomplete. It must be balanced out with love as benevolence.

The person who truly loves longs not only for his or her own good, but for the other person’s good, and he does with no ulterior motive, no selfish consideration. The is the purest form of love, and it brings the greatest fulfillment.

-Christopher West, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and The Universal Longing

Fit In You Faith Today: Have you ever experienced benevolence in love? You have if you’ve ever loved someone so much, that you pray that they receive what is good for them, what is best for them, even if it doesn’t include YOU. It’s selfless desire. A good example is loving someone you wish to marry. But they don’t share the same feelings for you. You then desire that they end up with someone that will be good and healthy for them. As much as you would desire to be with them, you know in your heart they would be better served with someone (or some thing else). That’s selfless. That’s benevolence in action.

Theology of the Body

Christopher West is one of the most recognized teacher of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

What is the Theology of the Body? Check out this explanation here.

In the meantime, here are some of what I refer to as “nuggets of wisdom” from his book “Theology of the Body for Beginners.”

(If you are interested in learning more about the Catholic teaching of marriage, the human body, sexuality, and love, I highly recommend picking up one of West’s books. They are life-changing.)

  • God gave us sexual desire as the fuel of a rocket that is meant to launch us into the stars & beyond. But what would happen if the engines became inverted, pointing us back only upon ourselves & no longer toward the stars? It would be a massive blast of self destruction.
  • This is the purpose of sexual union in the divine plan: To prefigure in some way the glory, ecstasy, and bliss that awaits us in heaven.
  • When our desire to understand the body and sexuality is not met with the truth, we inevitably fall for the lies.
  • The difference between marriage and celibacy must NEVER be understood as the difference between having a “legitimate” outlet for sexual lust on one hand and repression on the other. No, Christ calls Everyone, no matter his or her particular vocation, to experience redemption from the domination of lust. Both vocations, celibacy and marriage, flow from the same experience of the redemption of sexual desire.
  • Celibacy and Marriage complement each other. Celibacy helps married couples realize that their love also is oriented toward “the kingdom.” Furthermore, by abstaining, celibates demonstrate the GREAT VALUE of sexual union.
  • Celibacy for the kingdom is meant to be a fruitful, living out of the redemption of sexual desire, understood as the desire to make oneself a “sincere gift” for others.
  • Purity does not reject the body, It is the glory of the human body before God. It lets us perceive the human body – ours and our neighbors – as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty.
  • Spousal love is the love of total self-donation. The power to express love, preciselyt that love in which the human person becomes a gift, fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence. If you’re looking for the meaning of life, it is impressed right in your body, in human sexuality.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Take just one of these statements and reflect on it. (It helps to have the context surrounding it from the book itself, which is why it’s highly recommended you purchase one of his books.) But in the meantime, ask yourself some of these thought provoking questions:

Do you think of your body as a gift from God, as a holy temple? Do you treat it as such?

Do you think of yourself as holy?

What is your definition of holiness?

Do you believe that God calls us all to a vocation of holiness? (He does, by the way.) 😉

Do you look at marriage as a sacrament? Do you regard marriage as a holy union?

What do you think of people who are celibate?

What words come to mind when you hear that word?

If you have any confusion or questions about what the Catholic faith says about sexuality, purpose of marriage and life, lust, love, union, relationships, etc., I can guarantee this book explains A LOT. You cannot possibly NOT grow in your faith after researching and reading Theology of the Body.