It’s a difficult thing to talk about – theology of the body. For one thing, it’s very complicated and rooted in a deep theological understanding of the Church’s teaching on love and marriage. But really it is so much more. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface and honestly, I dream of the day when I can really study and absorb this beautiful theology.
One of the big challenges with TOB is pretty basic – how do we live TOB in our day-to-day lives? I attended the Vicki Thorn talk (which Bruce summarized in his most recent blog post) and I left there with a lot of questions. She talked a lot about contraception. This is most definitely a hot button issue these days, especially as it relates to the HHS mandate. What exactly does it mean to be open to life? What really are the consequences of not answering Christ’s call to this openness? I thought a lot about the latter after Vicki’s talk last week. She talked of course about the biological consequences of contraception, but it’s the spiritual and emotional effects, the unquantifiable realities, that got me thinking.
When we were first married, Gary and I didn’t understand the Church’s teaching about contraception. Sure, I knew Catholics had big families and obviously didn’t use birth control but I had no idea why. It wasn’t until I started studying TOB that I even heard the term “openness to life” and it was then that I began to slowly appreciate what that actually means.
As Catholics haven’t we struggled with the “why” for years now? Isn’t that, in part, the reason behind this New Evangelization that we hear so much about. Generally speaking, I think we could all agree that Catholics as a whole haven’t done the best job in communicating the “why” behind much of our faith. Perhaps that’s because we don’t know it? Or at least we don’t know it well enough to feel like we can talk about it with any sense of authority. As I reflect on my own formation as a young Catholic, I don’t think I really paid attention to the little details of my faith. No doubt that we’ve realized that those details matter – a lot.
We live in a secular world full of deviated sexual attitudes that are so far removed from TOB that they pretty much are antithesis to the Church’s teachings on sexual love. What are the consequences, as a culture – even a civilization, for our failure to understand what God intended about sexual love. Most importantly what it IS and what it IS NOT. How do we as Catholic Christians cloaked with the knowledge of TOB communicate this beautiful teaching to a world that doesn’t want to hear it? A world in fact that believes that this teaching is bigoted and sexist. When a friend (or acquaintance) tells me that she’s taking the pill, how do I communicate TOB without sounding like I’m judging her or her husband for the decision they made.
The million dollar question right? A good place to start is just to talk about it I guess, or at least not be afraid to talk about it. Those taboo topics. Politics and religion are always off-limits right? Well – not anymore. We can’t justify glossing over the “details” of our faith anymore. Sure it’s a lot easier and certainly more comfortable to blend in but we are called to do more. It’s always been cool to be counter-cultural right? Well, here’s our chance. Guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s not be afraid to talk about it. But when we do let’s communicate in a way that reflects an underlying sense of love. For that is what TOB is about really. Love. God’s love for us. As we were reminded in the second reading yesterday, “Faith, hope and love remain, but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
I’ve grappled with this same issue – of how to evangelize TOB – for some time. You don’t want to be “that person” who is so reputed for always bringing up her favorite topic that everyone does their best to avoid the subject OR just rolls their eyes when you start to talk. I think it’s about attitude. We need to be joyful in our understanding and proclaiming of these teachings. That includes not judging folks for where they are, but always being willing to find ways to inspire them to “try it out”.