When I first learned about Theology of the Body as an eighth grader, I assumed I wouldn’t need it for a while. After all, wasn’t it just a pope talking about husbands, wives and sex? I wasn’t even close to being ready for that, I was just trying to learn what I needed to get confirmed. When we talk about Theology of the Body, it can be easy to assume that because its main focus is about men and women, that the only people who can benefit from its wisdom are those who are married, or at least in relationships.
But through college as I learned more about Saint Pope John Paul II and his teachings in Theology of the Body, I realized there were aspects of this theology that I could put into place before I was dating or getting married.
Theology of the body isn’t just for the bedroom. It’s for conversations on college campuses, nature walks with friends, and heart to hearts with those closest to us.
“In his everyday life, man must draw from the mystery of the redemption of the body the inspiration and strength to overcome the evil that is dormant in him. . . What is at stake is the hope of the everyday, which in the measure of normal tasks and difficulties of human life helps to overcome ‘evil with good.’” (John Paul II)
In her book These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body, author Emily Stimpson says, “The theology of the body is a practical theology. That’s what makes it a domestic theology, one that weaves together a tapestry of glorious, grand ideas all to be lived out in the mundane moments of ordinary time.”
So regardless of our state in life, we can all learn something from these incredible teachings of Saint Pope John Paul II. If you’re dating, married, single, consecrated, discerning religious life or living those vows out already, everyone can find beauty in this teaching. But how can we apply it to our lives? Here are three ways that you can incorporate Theology of the Body into your daily life right now, wherever you are on your journey to Heaven.
- Reject the 'interested' button on Facebook.
We live in a non-committed culture. Last week I was invited to an event on Facebook and I had three options - I could ignore the invite, tell the person I was going for sure, or say I was interested in the event. The 'interested' button is full of non-commitment. Clicking it is similar to saying "This event sounds neat! I'll be interested, but I may decide not to go if something better comes up."
“Love consists of a commitment which limits one's freedom - it is a giving of the self, and to give oneself means just that: to limit one's freedom on behalf of another.” (Saint Pope John Paul II)
Love requires commitment, and that commitment will limit our freedom. If I say that I'm going to an event, I will put it on my calendar and make plans to go. I can't say 'yes' to another event at the same time. My freedom is limited. But I've also given my time as gift. This is living out the Theology of the Body - we see ourselves as gifts to others and look for ways to love them in a committed way. So the next time someone invites you to an event on Facebook, make a committed decision and don't click the 'interested' button.
- Become a spiritual parent.
Wherever vocation we are called to, each and every one of us is called to be parents. This doesn't mean that we'll all have biological children. In fact, some of us may never have kids. But we're all called to reveal the beauty of the masculinity and femininity stamped in our bodies through parenthood.
"The mystery of femininity manifests and reveals itself in its full depth through motherhood. What also reveals itself is the mystery of man's masculinity, that is the generative and paternal meaning of his body." (Saint Pope John Paul II)
Women are called to be receptive and attentive to others. To sit by the girl at class who no one is talking to, or to bring a meal to the neighbor who just had a baby. She is called to be creative and to teach the beauty of true femininity to a world that wants to destroy the beauty of sex.
Men are called to be protectors, regardless of their vocation. That could mean standing up for the unborn when a friend talks about abortion. Men are called to be courageous, to defend, to lead and to challenge. He is called to provide accountability for a struggling brother, or to lead the bible study when no one has volunteered.
You don't have to have a biological child to be a parent. But it is only through parenthood that we discover the authenticity of what it means to be a man or a woman.
- Stop multi-tasking.
I always thought I could multi-task really well. I’m notorious for being in the kitchen, cooking dinner, doing the dishes, listening to a podcast, and trying to listen to someone talk to me on the phone. But when I look around the kitchen, I realize that the dishes aren’t really that clean, I’m burning dinner, I’ve tuned out the last five minutes of the podcast, and my friend on the phone is wondering if I’m really paying attention.
Learning how to live out the Theology of the Body is not something that happens overnight. It takes practice, patience, perseverance and what Saint Pope John Paul II calls "the peace of the interior gaze." He also says that living out these teachings will require "self-mastery and self-dominion."
I have a friend who loves to read. But instead of reading tons of books, he has decided to become the master of one book. He wants to know the book front cover to back cover and truly invest time into learning everything it has to offer. He is a stellar example of what it means to reject multitasking. Whether it’s not starting another book until you finish the one you’re reading, or not having your phone out to text other people while you’re out with friends, live a life that is focused on completing each task before you with your whole heart.