Theology of the Body for Young People Part II

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Last month’s column covered some of the key teachings from St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body that can help form our students in a whole and holy approach to understanding the body and sexuality. Growing up in a culture where relativism and a radical sense of autonomy influence our moral thinking, children and teens can be easily persuaded by secular ideas about the body, such as:

  • Marriage is irrelevant to sexual acts.
  • Pornography is fine.
  • I can create my own gender identity based on my preference.
  • How I display or use my body isn’t a big deal.
  • Children are a dangerous and unintended side effect of sex.

Do any of these ideas sound familiar? They do to our kids, because this is what they are likely picking up from their social circles, the media, messaging from the businesses we all use, and many government programs.

By contrast, God reveals the meaning of human sexuality as a life-giving, mutual self-gift intended for the covenant of marriage, and (truth-bomb alert!) it is a means of discovering God’s own nature! It is sacred and points to God.

Genesis 1:27 is a rich gem containing many of the truths presented in the Theology of the Body. These truths directly challenge the false messages from the culture. In Genesis 1:27 we read (my translation): “God created the human person in his own image; in the image of God he created the human person; male and female he created them.”

Last month we looked at the phrases “God created” and “the human person.”

Here are two more key insights from this verse:

“In his own image”: The human person possesses a great dignity because of our origin and destiny in God’s love. Each human life, each human body, each act which can create new human life — all of this is incredibly sacred and serious business because the human person is made in the image and likeness of God.

Cultural ideas this opposes: A secular view of humanity sees the human person as a random, inexplicable phenomenon whose worth is up for debate. Likewise, bodily activities are random or shaped by evolution and have no deeper meaning.

How to help young people understand this truth: Open conversations with your children about some of the most basic questions of human existence: Where did you come from? Where are you going? If they’re old enough, teach them St. Augustine’s beautiful quote: “You have created us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Ask them how we treat what is holy — the sacred vessels at Mass, for example, which are set apart for a holy purpose. Remind them that they are set apart for a holy purpose, too.

“Male and female he created them”: The human person most perfectly images God by being in relationship, and the complementarity of male and female shows us this. By having different but complementary bodies, minds and spirits, male and female reveal two different but equal ways of being human that rely on each other. Together, the relationship between man and woman shows us a glimpse of the communion of persons in the Trinity.

Cultural ideas this opposes: Gender ideology proposes that gender is fluid. Individualism rejects the idea that we need each other.

How to help young people understand this truth: Talk about how God made men and women different because we need both. Both are good. Both are a gift. Being a dad is good, and so is being a mom. Share what you love about being a man or a woman, and praise your spouse for their unique gifts as a man or woman as well.

Again, Ruah Woods Press’ Rooted curriculum is a great resource to help with these discussions at home or school. TOBET.org also has kids’ books, and there are many other good Theology of the Body resources for kids and teens out there.  

Northwest Catholic - October 2019

Sarah Bartel

Sarah Bartel, a member of St. Andrew Parish in Sumner, holds a doctorate in moral theology and ethics from The Catholic University of America, where she specialized in marriage, family, sexual ethics and bioethics. Her website is www.drsarahbartel.com.

Website: www.drsarahbartel.com