Pope John Paul II, seen in this Register file shot at World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, offered the world his extraordinary Theology of the Body.

Sr. Helena Burns: Gospel of the Body needs to be heard

  • March 4, 2021

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Gospel of the Body needs to be heard

Sr. Helena Burns, FSP

Since the Daughters of St. Paul have always printed papal encyclicals and works of the popes, we naturally collected and published John Paul II’s extraordinary “Theology of the Body” — a series of catechetical talks he delivered in the early 1980s.

Even though the buzz surrounding this revolutionary, life-changing teaching continued to grow steadily through the succeeding decades, I didn’t really pay it much heed until 2006. It has now taken over my entire life. In a good way. A very good way.

Much of my apostolate is now centred on sharing Theology of the Body with anyone who will listen. I also offer an online “Theology of the Body Foundations” certificate course through Sacred Heart College in Peterborough for those who want to familiarize themselves with the terminology, concepts and principles of TOB.

This “Gospel of the Body” is needed now more than ever in a culture of confusion that is fleeing from the human bodies that we are (we don’t “have” bodies, we “are” bodies). As a former radical feminist, I know firsthand the havoc wrought by denying one’s very nature. But the truth will set us free, and not only that: the truth has a tremendous power to heal.

Part of John Paul II’s genius was realizing that people no longer believe in what they can’t see and feel. Therefore, instead of beginning evangelization with spiritual realities, he starts with the common experience of physical realities, namely, the body, where we all live. Theology of the Body is a return to the body, a coming home to the body. Human beings can be defined as “body and soul together forever” because of the resurrection of the body. We need to get comfy as the bodies that we are because we’re going to be together — body and soul — for a long, long time.

I’m often asked if young people reject Theology of the Body or get angry when they hear it. The answer is “no.” They’ve never heard anything like it. They’re instinctively drawn to the truth, beauty and goodness of it. They know that to live it will be hard, but worth it.

The problem is that anyone who shares TOB is like a “voice crying in the wilderness.” Increasingly, the news media, entertainment, schools, academia, government, laws, courts, medicine, etc., are all saying the opposite … in lockstep. So either I’m a hit-and-run nutjob addressing you for one hour, or maybe, just maybe, what I’m saying is the truth about the human person and it’s our institutions that are the victims of gargantuan, deceptive, fraudulent error.

Although I speak to a range of age levels, I revel in bringing a message of hope and affirmation to young people in particular. Here are five key points our youth desperately need to hear, believe and internalize.

1. God, Creation, the Bible, the Church and science are all saying the same thing. What??!! Well, didn’t God make Creation, give us the Bible and the Church? And all science is doing is showing us how amazing God designed everything, how it works and how it works best.

2. Theology of the Body is how to get what you want. We go to God through our desires, the desires He already put inside us. Theology of the Body isn’t a bunch of rules and regulations. It’s who you are. Who you are is God’s gift to you — now go forth and live the gift!

3. We can only find our true identity in our Creator. We are made in the image of God. Anything else is a deception. Need a fake I.D.? Satan specializes in them.

4. Love thy body. What’s more body/sex positive: “You were born wrong and you need massive, invasive surgery and to be on dangerous pharmaceuticals for the rest of your life” or “You’re amazing just the way you are and you can learn to love yourself, all of yourself! Your true self is who you are right now, body and soul.”

5. Men and women are not called to competition. We are not called to “the battle of the sexes” where one is inferior and one is superior. That’s a sinful master-slave dynamic. We are called to recognize and appreciate our differences, to work together, help and love each other. Neither are we to ignore or wipe out our unique gifts (how can we “celebrate diversity” if there’s no diversity?). In TOB, “all differences are a call to communion.”

(Sr. Helena, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. www.HellBurns.com  Twitter: @srhelenaburns)

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