Community and Its Impact on Holy Intimacy (and Friendship)

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[Guest post by Hudson Byblow]

Recently, I received an inquiry from a parent who was looking for a “healthy online community for a young person graduating from high school.” The parent went on to mention that “same-sex attractions may be an issue.” Though I am joyful that this parent wants what is best for their child, their inquiry drew me to think about community (or a lack thereof) and how that may impact a young person’s development overall. This strikes particularly close to home for me, since growing up in a solid Catholic community was instrumental in my eventual return to the Catholic Church.

Negotiating The Jungle

There is nothing wrong with a healthy online community. However, there is something wrong when that online community becomes a substitute for face-to-face community.  This is true even in the context of a faith development community. The main reason is because an online community offers people a lesser degree of opportunity to navigate verbal and nonverbal cues given by others. This is important because the less a person understands these cues, the more likely they are to inadvertently contribute to their own exclusion. This is because when people don’t know the “unwritten rules” of face-to-face communication, they are all the more likely to break them. And if this breaking of the “rules” is seen as not advantageous by the rest of the critical mass, they will distance themselves from said “rule-breaker.” In other words, peers jockeying for position in the jungle of adolescence tend to exclude those who behave inappropriately enough to bring down their own social status through association. For that reason, it is in the best interest of people (of any age) to learn how to negotiate those invisible “rules” so that they will be less likely to commit social faux pas that could contribute to their exclusion, or worse yet, bring about the situation where the critical mass of peers might turn on them.

Cause and Effect

The topic of exclusion is important because when people are excluded, they are deprived of opportunities for positive and appropriate physical contact. Where appropriate physical contact norms are learned, a person would be less likely to be fearful of that very same appropriate contact. And this is significant because if one is fearful of such contact, they are more likely to avoid situations where they might encounter it. However, the aversion to appropriate contact (which may result in the lack of contact) brings with it a lack of holy contact. And without experiencing holy contact, there will result a deficit in understanding holy intimacy. And where there is a deficit in understanding (and knowing the joys of) holy intimacy, people will be less likely to seek it out for themselves. Instead, it will remain off their radar. And this will impact the type and quality of friendships that a person will be able to have.

Holy Intimacy

Holy intimacy is necessary for all persons because it provides for us the optimal space to grow in relationship as opposed to isolation. It is optimal because truly holy contact is devoid of the commission of sin and thus it is less likely overall to draw people towards sin. In addition, holy contact honors what God has authored, and draws people closer to Him and the pursuit of virtue (even if a person doesn’t recognize this gradual transformation at the time). With holiness and virtue as an underlying objective, a person reveals that their primary intention is to strive to draw another person into a deeper intimacy with God Himself.

The Cultural Narrative…

Though God made us (including our bodies) good and holy, without a foundational understanding of holy intimacy, intentional physical contact itself may become perceived as something reserved for only sexual/romantic circumstances. As this perception takes root within a culture, people may be drawn to withdraw from appropriate non-sexual/non-romantic contact altogether for fear that it may be interpreted as something romantic/sexual when it is not intended as such.

Despite the over-sexualization of our culture, however, people seem to be increasingly deprived of holy contact altogether, let alone holy intimacy. However, the basic needs for holy contact and holy intimacy remain. As a result of the increasing absence of holy intimacy, people seem to be increasingly seeking out ways to fill that void. It is predictable that people strive to do this in the only ways they have come to learn (which in this culture, largely involve sexual/romantic exploration). A person engaged in this pursuit ought to not shoulder all the blame, for they are products of our culture. Indeed, their expectations may have become set in this way on account of any number of factors, including the lack of holy intimacy being modeled within our world today.

As Catholics, we are called to strive to live that holy intimacy with Christ and reflect that to others, and we might do well to ask ourselves about how well we have reflected that to the world. Truly, it starts with us.

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[This commentary originally appeared on HudsonByblow.com and is reprinted with the author’s permission.]

Hudson02Hudson Byblow is a Catholic speaker, author, and consultant who lives in the Midwest where he has a career in education. He has presented at National and International conferences in the United States and Canada and also presents to clergy, schools and parishes. Additionally, Hudson serves as a consultant to various Catholic agencies, speakers and educators. His website is www.hudsonbyblow.com and he can be booked by emailing info@hudsonbyblow.com.

 

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An End-of-Year Look at a Memorable 2018!

 

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Theology of the Body Institute team: (l-r) Bill Donaghy, Christopher West, Bill Howard, Alyson Lindner, Jennifer Settle, Michele Sankus and Jason Clark.

It’s been an exciting year for the Theology of the Body Institute. As we wrap up 2018, I want to share with you some of the many highlights of this past year that show your prayers and support are reaching hearts around the globe. I and the TOB Institute team are so grateful for your support, and we cannot wait to share some exciting plans for 2019!

Merry Christmas,

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Christopher West

President, Theology of the Body Institute

2018 TOB Institute and Cor Project Highlights

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* The biggest news came on August 15 — the Feast of the Assumption — when the Institute announced a merger with The Cor Project. This joining of forces, according to Christopher West, Institute president, “will allow the programs and courses of the TOB Institute to expand their reach in tandem with The Cor Project’s global evangelization efforts and membership program.” Read more here.

* Christopher, Bill Donaghy and Jen Settle taught nine week-long TOB immersion coursesthrough the Theology of the Body Institute to 690 students representing 14 countries. Among the students were 81 clergy (priests, deacons) and religious/consecrated. One TOB 1 course was held for the first time at St. Meinrad, Ind., in March. Another highlight was the return of Father Timothy Gallagher’s “TOB and the Interior Life” course, which also featured Christopher and Father Jason Smith adding richness to Father Gallagher’s instruction on Ignatian Discernment.

* Nine students graduated from the Certification Program.

* Theology of the Body 1 was held for FOCUS Missionaries at Ave Maria University.

* A new certification course was offered, “TOB & Spiritual Direction: The Art of Accompaniment,” with new faculty: Rev. Thomas Acklin, OSB and Rev. Boniface Hicks, OSB (co-sponsored by St. Vincent Archabbey).

* The Institute offered its first “Missio” training program for certification students — taught by Christopher West, Bill Donaghy, Rose Sweet and Jen Settle.

* Bill Donaghy had 32 speaking engagements in 14 different states. Audiences included:

— Lay faithful, seminarians, priests, parishes, universities, parents and teens, young adults, married couples, men’s ministry, pro-life leaders and diocesan staff.

— High school faculty

— Legatus leaders

— FOCUS missionaries

— Mennonite Leadership

— The Marians of the Immaculate Conception order of priests and brothers

— Culture Project missionaries

— The St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington, DC

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* Cor Membership was relaunched as the Theology of the Body Community, a subscription-based online platform that features resources to help you unpack St. John Paul II’s beautiful teachings, access to the Theology of the Body Institute team, and a community of people ready to journey with you. Learn more here.

* The Cor Project visited 16 states and traveled to six countries while leading 42 live events in 2018. From Brazil, Spain, Poland, England, Canada and Italy, the Cor team spread the TOB throughout the world to Catholic and Christian audiences with your support. Our visit to Poland included a special meeting with St. Pope John Paul II”s personal secretary Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who presented Christopher with a first-class relic of JPII in gratitude for his promotion of the TOB for the past 20 years.

* We held 12 of our new Made for More events, with several reaching full capacity attendance. We also held several Our Bodies Proclaim the Gospel conferences for Protestant communities, as well as Living the Joy of Love weekend conferences.

* Christopher embarked on a summer 2018 speaking tour to promote the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. He released a booklet, Eclipse of the Body, in conjunction with the anniversary and it has sold several thousand copies and already gone into a second printing.

* The Cor Project continued to expand its publishing efforts, releasing or re-releasing SIX books by Christopher this year: Theology of the Body for Beginners (revised); Love Is Patient But I’m Not; Eclipse of the Body; Word Made Flesh: A Companion to the Sunday Readings, Fill These Hearts (new paperback version) and Good News About Sex & Marriage (updated). Several have deeply discounted bulk discounts for parishes and large study groups on the product page.

* On social media, Christopher’s Facebook page (@cwestofficial) has grown to nearly 102,000 likes. His Instagram page more than doubled to about 3,500 followed.

* On Aug. 30, Christopher and Bill Donaghy collaborated on a live Facebook event: A Hopeful Response to the Sexual Crisis in the Church.

* The Cor Project held its annual pilgrimage from Nov. 8-20, this time journeying with 95 pilgrims from around the world to Italy. Among the highlights were almost an hour alone in the Sistine Chapel, where Christopher gave a 30-minute talk; Mass and a reflection in front of Bernini’s Teresa in Ecstasy masterpiece at Santa Maria della Vittoria; and a special reflection in St. Peter Square at the spot of the assassination attempt on John Paul II. Our two chaplains, Fr. Ryan Mann and Fr. Patrick Schultz, did an amazing job (we recorded their homilies). We also had a pilgrim couple’s baby receive a kiss from Pope Francis during his Wednesday audience. A videographer traveled with us, and footage will be unveiled in the coming months. It was an unforgettable journey filled with faith, fun and delicious food. Stay tuned for the announcement of details of our next two pilgrimages: Mexico City in October 2019 and our much-anticipated first Holy Land pilgrimage in February 2020!

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The Rosary and TOB: Exploring More Deeply the Mystery of Man

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[Guest post by Debbie Staresinic]

Many who are familiar with Theology of the Body (TOB) know that St. John Paul II identified the problem with the modern world as a fundamental lack of understanding of the meaning and purpose of the human person. Said differently, if we don’t know who we are and why we’re here, we’re going to have a difficult time reaching our true destination. To fill that gap and thus open up the mystery of man, the Holy Father wrote Theology of the Body and delivered it in the form of Wednesday audience addresses from 1979-1984.

Less well-documented is St. John Paul II’s belief in the value of the Rosary to more deeply explore these same truths. In his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pope St. John Paul II wrote about the anthropological significance of the Rosary. He said, “Each mystery of the Rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man.” Hence, we can perceive the mutual effect that the Rosary and TOB might have in aiding our understanding of the human person. This is what fueled a project to bring these two devotions together in the form of Theology of the Body Rosary meditations.

COR THOUGHTS 274: The Indissolubility of Marriage and Flat Tire Syndrome

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In this Sunday’s Gospel, when the Pharisees try to justify divorce, Jesus appeals “the beginning of creation” in order to reestablish the indissolubility of marriage. It was never God’s design for marriages to end in divorce. Moses allowed divorce, Jesus tells the Pharisees, because of the “hardness of your hearts.” Because of the effects of sin, it’s as if we’re all driving around town in cars with flat tires. The rubber is shredding off the rims; the rims are getting all dented up; and we think it’s all normal. After all, everyone’s tires look this way. Jesus is saying to the Pharisees (and to all of us), “At the beginning of creation, they had air in their tires.” At the same time—and this is the good news!—Christ is injecting his listeners with hope … hope of restoration … hope of healing … hope of redemption. For “Jesus came to restore creation to the purity of its origins” (CCC 2336). Lord Jesus, re-inflate our flat tires!

252. The Mass Tells the Love Story of All Love Stories

Transforming Your Mass Experience with the TOB Lens Pt. 2

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[NOTE: This two-part series of blog posts is excerpted from Christopher’s new book Word Made Flesh: A Companion to the Sunday Readings (Ave Maria Press). The book highlights the next liturgical cycle (C) beginning with Advent, and subsequent cycles will be released before Advent in 2019 and 2020. Order the book individually or at our exclusive 50% parish bulk discount here (US shipping only at this time). Order the e-book version here.]

Let’s try to let this essential message sink in: the Song of Songs, this unabashed celebration of erotic love, expresses the essence of biblical faith. How so? The essence of bib­lical faith is that God came among us in the flesh not only to forgive our sins (as astounding as that gift is); he became “one flesh” with us so we could share in his eternal exchange of love. In the first of his many ser­mons on the Song of Songs, St. Bernard of Clairvaux aptly described marriage as “the sacrament of endless union with God.” The book of Revelation calls this endless union the “marriage of the Lamb” (Rv 19:7).

But there is more. Remember that pithy rhyme we learned as children: “First comes love, then comes mar­riage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage”? We probably didn’t realize as children that we were actually reciting some profound theology. Yes, our bodies tell a divine story; our bodies tell the story that God loves us, wants to marry us, and wants us to “conceive” eternal life within us. This is not merely a metaphor.