Dr. Christopher West delivers an online talk at the Theology of the Body conference. Screen shot

Theology of the Body trumpets human value

By 
  • May 5, 2021

The 2021 Theology of the Body Virtual Conference drew a robust online audience as more than 70,000 unique users from over 160 countries tuned in over the April 30-May 2 weekend to consume the free pre-recorded presentations and live prayers and sessions.

Michael Mangione, the director of events for the Theology of the Body Institute, explained via e-mail that the high volume of participating speakers — more than 80 — helped participants flesh out a more holistic personal understanding about what Theology of the Body means.

“We wanted to use this conference as an opportunity for speakers and experts from around the world to share this great teaching from their vantage point and vocation,” said Mangione. “The teaching is rooted in universal truth and therefore can resonate with everyone.”

Mangione said the institute — headquartered in Quarry, Penn. — developed four different tracks of content for the symposium to appeal to different audiences:

  • A generalized introduction to Theology of the Body;
  • A St. Joseph track conceptualized for men and women with religious vocations (also accessible for lay people);
  • A collection of content for artists with seminars from a host of professional performers; and
  • Multimedia recorded for Spanish-speaking attendees.

While no speeches were specifically advertised for teen and young adult Catholics, Mangione says education in Theology of the Body helps young people in their journey towards discovering God’s plan for them.

“In order to fully become who we are meant to be, we need to fully understand we are as we are created,” he said. “We need to understand our past, our present and where we are called to go. Theology of the Body teaches us what it means to be a human. It seems basic, but once exposed to this teaching everyone realizes they never fully understood their true identity until that moment. We are beautiful, complex, rooted in truth and meant for something great. TOB helps reveal this.”

Dr. Christopher West, Theology of the Body Institute president, perhaps provided the most impactful TOB educational material for young adults with an in-depth breakdown of the major themes that compose Pope John Paul II’s seminal book about sexuality entitled Love and Responsibility, originally published in Polish in 1960 before being translated to English in 1981.

West defined the concept of “recognizing the value of the person” as one of the sainted pope’s cornerstone contributions throughout his decades of presenting the tenets of the TOB.

“It can be summarized as an upholding, an explaining and defending of the true value of a human person,” said West. “In everything he said, taught and wrote, this was his goal.”

West referred to a teaching in Love and Responsibility to delineate what happens if this value is not upheld: “Anyone who is capable only of reacting to the sexual values connected to the person, and inherent in it, but cannot see the values of the person as such, will always go on confusing love and eros (lust).”

Canadian Kevin Muico, a lay missionary with Couples for Christ Canada, spoke about the similarities between the virtue of chastity and a morning coffee.

“Chasity and chaste people are generally happier than people who are unchaste,” declared the Milton, Ont., native. “And caffeinated people are similar in that sense. Look at your own lives: are you happier before or after drinking your coffee? I’m willing to bet that you agree we are better, happier people after that cup of coffee.”

Practising the virtues of chastity, Muico added, supplies true contentment compared to the unchaste “secular values of money, sex, fame, drugs and power,” which, he says, “is a façade that we can see through.”

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