Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Merry Christmas to all of you – the youth and families of Queen of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church!!!  Special greetings to anyone who’s new to this blog after joining us at Mass during this special Christmas weekend then seeing our new topic in the bulletin entitled:  What is the meaning of sex in God’s plan?   

For the past few months during my time here serving as youth minister at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, I’ve been commentating on Blessed Pope John Paul II’s revolutionary teaching entitled: “A Theology of the Body,” which was the first major work of his Pontificate.  He delivered this teaching during his Wednesday Audiences in the form of lectures over the course of five years, from 1979-84.  I have shared some personal stories of my own, in addition to many examples and teachings from others including Christopher West, Jason and Christalina Evert and Mary Beth Bonacci who are all chastity speakers and apologists (an “apologist” is one who explains the Catholic faith publicly, but it is NOT one who apologizes for being Catholic).  I have also been trying to communicate how liberating this teaching of the Theology of the Body has been for me personally as a man growing up at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the third millennium in this western culture.  As you already know this culture is, unfortunately, filled with profound obstacles to purity, chastity and love on every level with few models of real men and real love.  During a past blog, I did share that it wasn’t until I studied and was formed to become a Catholic Priest that I learned about manhood in the context of priestly celibacy (a beautiful gift of God to the Church and world that is meant to remind everyone that we will not be completely fulfilled until our union with God in Heaven, a state in which we “are neither given nor received in marriage” at all (Mt 22:30) ).  As you all know, I was eventually called away from seminary life and am not a priest today, but I have learned many things about priesthood.  A celibate priest offers himself in love to His own Bride the Church sacramentally in the Person of Christ - sharing in Christ's priesthood.  As I studied in seminary and learned what it means to be a priest, I had to simultaneously re-learn what it means to be a Christian man.  Unfortunately, I realized, I had lots of work to do in order to become one of those “authentic Christian men.”  For example, how could I give myself fully in love like Christ, who pours Himself out in sacrifice, gift, responsibility, joy and love to His own Bride the Church even to the end (which was his own death on a cross) if I didn’t know about real manhood - which Christ models for us in this relationship of love?  I was often perplexed in thinking to myself during my life while I grew up:  “What does it mean to be a real man?  Do I have to be strong?  Do I have to be successful?  Do I have to be in charge, poised, articulate, muscular, handsome, crafty, intelligent, quick witted, tall, good at sports and mathematics, funny, all knowing, able to fix stuff and build large wooden cabinets, always the life of the party, knowledgeable of all feminine matters and skilled with the ladies, good with all things automotive and a near professional gunslinger???”  Then, of course, I would get stressed out and scared because I’m not too many of those stereotypically “manly” things anyway. 

Getting back to reality, the fact is that the man or womanhood which God gives us is the crown of his creation.  The human person whom “God made in his own image, male and female God made them,” (Gen. 1:27) is already the best part of God’s creative plan.  Aside form all the stereotypes we place on ourselves, our man and womanhood is meant to be the crown of all God’s creation, and that’s what God intended since we’re “made,” in His divine image.  We are created to image God, unlike anything else in all of creation (aside from the angels, of course, who don’t have bodies but who do share this special dignity imaging God).  For example, let’s take “beauty” as a reference point.  What is “beauty?”  We all seem to want to be beautiful, right?  So people can become more and more attracted to us as an end in itself, fall in love with us and then we can “get” anything we’d like including esteem, attention, care and happiness.  (That last sentence there, in italics, is part of the big fat lie I bought into as a young person for many years in high school and college.)  But really in truth, “beauty” is a Divine Attribute in that it comes from God and is an expression of God as well as an experience of Him.  All beauty is supposed to lead us directly to God, who is our final end.  Every flower, sunset, painting, sculpture, beautifully designed building, bridge or car, and yes – even every beautiful human body and person is supposed to lead us to God, who IS Beauty Itself.  Real beauty always points the way to the Divine so we can experience God.  Beauty is a way God communicates Himself to us so we can experience His goodness.  Real beauty is supposed to get out of the way, just like a prophet, who points to the real desire in all our hearts - God Himself.  Isn’t it “good” to experience beauty of any kind?  (The next time you see a beautiful sunset, painting, or person and you gasp then think to yourself, “wow, that’s beautiful,” recall that it’s really God you’re experiencing.)  Yes, the crown of all creation is the human person, male and female who are made in God’s image and likeness.  Even before we are in charge, poised, articulate, muscular, handsome, crafty, intelligent, quick witted, tall, good at sports and mathematics, funny, all knowing, able to fix stuff and build large wooden cabinets of any kind, we are already God’s crowning creation – small, conceived in our mother’s wombs, helpless, needy, incapable of taking care of ourselves, before we have beautiful flowing hair and big large muscles, all at the time in which we are quite little.  Our personhood is founded by our Creator, and not by our stereotypes.       

Essentially, during that time I had in seminary, I was being prepared for the beautiful vocation and sacrament of marriage through the eyes of a healthy understanding of priestly celibacy, theology and identity.  In learning about priesthood, I was forced to re-learn what it means to simply be a Christian man.  In studying and learning about priesthood I was also learning about marriage, sex and God’s plan for love and life by THE teacher of love and life; THE model of manhood and marriage: Jesus Christ and His Bride the Church.  Today, I am married to Alicia and the fruit of our love, which is modeled on Christ’s love for his own Bride the Church, (which every marriage is supposed to signify and reveal to the world) has born the fruit of Isaac, our son, among other things (as well as one more on the way, thanks God).  I love the Catholic Priesthood, am not a priest, but have learned so much about real love, manhood and personhood by the paradigm of person’s and humanity, Jesus Christ. 

So right now you may be thinking to yourself:  “What, you’re not supposed to learn about sex in seminary?  That doesn’t seem right!  Awkward . . .”  But, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Sex comes from God and it has a profound meaning.  Unfortunately, I would wager that most people in our culture never reflect on the intended, God-given meaning of sex.  Too often we consider our attraction to sex, our desire for sex, or our compulsion for sex without considering what’s really behind all that energy, drive and attraction.  So, what is the meaning of sex? 

Today, we are trying to answer that question: what is the meaning of sex?  Many would say that sex has no meaning at all.  It’s just an urge we have that we need to relieve like eating or drinking.  However, even eating and drinking are oriented to a participation in the life of God, for Blessed Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body, and they always point the way to Heaven.  Yes, even drinking water points to Heaven for the Pope!  Eating and drinking can also lead to sin (such as gluttony, for example) if it’s used in a “disordered” way contrary to God’s plan.  We spoke of how the human body, and especially the “one flesh union” of male and female, reveals God.  All of creation reveals God, we believe:  the mountains, sun-sets, the ocean, etc.  But, the crown of God’s creation, according to the Bible in Genesis, chapter 1, is the human person!  And for Pope John Paul II, the “one flesh union” of sexual intercourse reveals God too!  So, a man images God.  A woman images God.  But, so does the one flesh union, sex that is, image God.  The sexual embrace between a man and woman, in this understanding, is meant to image God and reveal Him to the world.  In fact, sexual intercourse in the right context which is marriage, is meant to be a participation in the life of God, a foretaste of heaven, a prayer, worship, a sign of the Trinity, a symbol and icon of the inner life with God – Heaven itself, a renewal and a living out of the wedding vows, and an exchange of love that makes God visible to the world.  Sex is also the consummation, or making complete, of the marriage itself.    Sex, you see, has deep and profound meaning.  It’s sacred.  Sex is sacred.

Now, if you’re like me and you were never taught the real meaning of sacramental sex while you were a teen ager, or in college or anywhere since (please note that above is mentioned literally 12 sacred points behind the Catholic teaching regarding the meaning of sex) and you need to understand more, then you’re in the right place.  Stay tuned for our next blog postings that will discuss, explain and “enflesh” all 12 of these sacred points regarding the true meaning of sex in God’s plan. 

source: West, Christopher. Marriage and the Eucharist. Audio media. Mary Foundation. 2003.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Theology of the Body, Talk #5: What is the Theology of the Body again? How far is too far to go with my boyfriend / girlfriend? What does Mary, the Mother of God, have to do with a Theology of the Body? What can we learn from the Immaculate Conception and virginity in this great teaching?

We are coming up on several land-marks in the Catholic Church, especially in English speaking countries.  The New Roman Missal will take effect at the beginning of Advent in these English speaking countries which, for us Catholics, is the beginning of our “new year.”  Advent always marks the beginning of a new liturgical year in the Church.  There is much to say about Advent and the New Roman Missal, of course, but I want to focus in on one of Advent’s great Solemnities:  the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which is coming up on December 8.

The Solemnity (or Feast) of the Immaculate Conception is a great Feast that has everything to do with our meditations on the Pope’s Theology of the Body.  I’d like to take a minute, therefore, and explain what this Feast of Mary has to do with our reflections on sex, marriage, love and life in the Divine plan. 

This special Feast has everything to do with a Theology of the Body!  Mary, in fact, is our model, our lens, for understanding the entire Theology of the Body. “Wait, Benjamin, Mary was “ever-virgin” so she didn’t have sex at all!  How can she be our model for the Theology of the Body?  How can a virgin be our model for sex and love in the Divine plan?”   Well, I’ll explain this as we go on.  We will come to see that virginity doesn’t simply mean something negative i.e.: “someone who has not had sex.”   Virginity is something much more than just “not” having sex.  It really has to do with an integration of body and soul that are free to properly love especially in regard to one’s state or vocation in life (single life, married life or consecrated life).  That’s why the Church has some vocations to a life-long promise of “consecrated virginity,” for example.  I personally know many consecrated virgins and they are full of joy.  (They are monks, nuns, priests, and there are even Lay Consecrated Virgins in the world working and living the single life, promising to God their virginity forever.)  In fact, even married couples are supposed to function from their place of integration in body and soul so they are free to give themselves completely to each other and to God.  Virginity, then, is much more about being liberated from lust and being free to give ourselves completely in the purity of body and soul in whatever vocation God has given to us.  In virginity, our body and soul move together in the same direction toward God.  Mary is the perfect virgin of all virgins.  She had total control over her body and soul and was able to give herself completely to God in everything because of her Immaculate Conception.  Imagine never giving in to a temptation to lust in thought, word or deed?!   Amazing!!!  Welp, that’s Mary!

So, here’s another example to help explain the things happening in virginity inside of your body and soul:  You’re on a date.  It’s a good date.  It’s your fifth date.  You haven’t kissed yet.  Tonight is the night!  You want to kiss.  You want to kiss tonight.  So, at the end of the date you drop her off at home and kiss her goodnight.  You kiss, and kiss, and then kiss some more.  You have accomplished the first kiss and beyond!  You like it and so does she.  You continue to kiss.  (Ok, sorry everyone… I’ll get to the point . . . it’s an important point.)  At the moment your heart begins to desire the kiss more than the person as an end, your body and soul cease being integrated and moving toward God.  It’s very, very subtle.  Because your desire for the kiss begins to overwhelm you in this way it becomes disordered.  Your body and soul, in this case, begin going different directions.  We’re talking about the inner life of our hearts, body’s, and desires now.  This is a simple example of when a kiss (something good in itself) takes your body, and your desires, away from the final end of a kiss, which is always God.

At this point you may be thinking something like this:  Benjamin, I’ve never thought or wanted a kiss to lead me to God… but it does really turn me on!”

How many of you have heard this before?  How many of you think in this way?

For now we have to return to the initial questions for today because I’ve gotten off track once again!  I simply wanted to give honor to Mary as we approach her great Feast day and doing so easily helps us to look at virginity.  This is just a foretaste… there will be lots more on the topic of virginity to come.  It is a very hard concept to understand in this culture because if you’re like me you always thought virginity was something negative: “that someone has not yet had sex.”  Please just remember that virginity is much, much more and we can learn about it by way of the Virgin Mary.  We’ll get back to that.

So, returning to the initial questions for today:  What is a Theology of the Body?  How far is too far with my boyfriend / girlfriend?  (I know I’ve been leading up to this answer for two postings and below is the answer.  You don’t have to wait any more.  But, before you read on please remember that the more you can train yourself in “waiting” the more you’ll understand what I’m about to say.) 

Let’s take the first question now:  What is a Theology of the Body?  Christopher West once asked me in a large group of people who where there to see him:  Have you ever just stopped to take a look at yourself in the shower and wonder, why did God create “this?” Now, I’m a man.  So, you see what he was getting at.  He asks the same question to women:  have you ever stopped to look at yourself in the shower and ask why did God create this?  Why did God create males and females?  Why not just one uni-sex person, figure, thing… like starfish?  If you think about it for a minute, or more, you can come to see that the masculine is ordered toward the feminine and the feminine is ordered toward the masculine.  Or, as one of my buddies once put it:  “Oh, I gotcha … they fit together in that special place.”  (You can read all about this in the book of Genesis: “It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make a suitable partner for him. . .” God said.  Then God makes Eve after Adam named all the animals of the earth yet “none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.” When Adam sees Eve he exclaims:  “At last bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” (Gen. 2:18-24)  That is why the two of them become one flesh.  Married couples became “one flesh” at the moment they first consummate their marriage, for example.)  Man and woman are created for each other.  They are not just created for themselves.  By looking closely at the human body, we can come to an understanding of some fundamental questions about why we are here.  We can learn from our bodies about ourselves and about our intended reason for being, our creation.  We can even learn about our Creator.  And that’s the simple explanation of a Theology of the Body.  The human body is a map, as I said before, to point to and lead us to God and to discover the purpose and meaning of human life and love.  (Remember, love will be a big topic when it comes to the body . . . )  The human body is a sign and revelation of God.  If we take a look at the human body we can come to an understanding of God since: “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1: 27)  The human body is not supposed to be something meaningless and ambiguous as our culture would have you believe.  The body, which is connected to the soul that makes up the person, leads to God who we image.  So, in this study we will be looking to our bodies, as a fundamental part of our personhood, to teach us about God and ourselves.

Question # 2: How far is too far to go with my girlfriend or boyfriend sexually?

This is a very common question.  To answer this we’ll use Jason Everet’s famous response: “I’m going to let you answer your own question with your heart.”  He then asks you to name an example of “going too far,” such as oral sex.  Is oral sex ok to do with my girlfriend or boyfriend?  No one can get pregnant.  It can be an expression of love.  I really want to!  Is oral sex too far to go with my boyfriend or girlfriend?  He invites you to simply imagine that your future spouse is somewhere out there in the world right now just like you.  Maybe you’ve met her and maybe not.  Maybe she, just like you, is sitting at her computer desk working on homework and taking a break before the big exam tomorrow.  Except that she studies at the Colorado Springs High and you study at Blue Valley High, for example.  Also, she has a boyfriend.  He comes by to visit during her study break.  One thing leads to another.  Is it ok for your future spouse to kiss her boyfriend?  Most would say, “sure” with a bit of reluctance.  Is it ok for her boyfriend to touch your future spouse on the genitals?  Is it ok for her mouth, the mouth that will eventually kiss your sons and daughters good night, to give that boyfriend oral sex?  This is kind of like a spiritual exercise.  If you experienced disgust, then you were able to answer the question.  If you did not experience disgust, then please, please keep reading because you have a lot inside of you that needs to be untwisted with the help of God’s grace.  Please apply this simple spiritual exercise to any question you have in your mind and heart about “how far is too far to go with my girlfriend, or boyfriend tonight, tomorrow, or whenever.”  This will help a lot.  If this is the first time you have thought of your future spouse then just say a prayer for them that God may help them, protect them and bless them in such a way that when you meet and get married . . . your marriage will be a sign and experience to the whole world of the marriage every marriage is supposed to signify:  the marriage between Christ and His Spouse the Church.

Ok, stay tuned for next weeks questions: Does sex have meaning, really? What is the meaning of sex?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Theology of the Body, Talk #4: What if I’m not attracted to living a chaste life? What if I’ve tried and failed over and over again? When it comes to purity and chastity, how far is too far sexually to go with a girl / guy on a date?

I’ve heard it said many times before, Even if I wanted to be chaste I just don’t think I could do it.”   Or, “I’m trying again and again with my boyfriend to be pure and chaste but in the heat of the moment I just can’t stop.”   Here’s another exclamation: “I don’t even think I want to be chaste… it’s just too much.  When it comes down to the desires inside of me, I just don’t want chastity.”   Let’s talk about these situations and difficulties in a frank manner.

Some young people know in their hearts they want to be pure.  They try and try again and again but they can’t stop going too far sexually with their boyfriend or girlfriend.  Then, afterward they feel depressed or shameful.  This can turn into a pattern which ends up in the bedroom at the end of every date.  Other times, however, young people do not want to be pure at all.  They will be sexually active with their boyfriend or girlfriend despite their heart which tells them otherwise.  They have gotten so used to being sexually active that they feel little remorse or conversion of heart.  (When I use the phrase “sexually active” I mean any activity that is sexual in nature such as: foreplay, heavy petting, oral sex, touching or pleasuring the partner that is sexually stimulating or contacting genitals which arouses the partner.  Sexual intercourse would certainly be considered “sexual activity” but so would the other examples.  We’ll be talking about and clarifying these details more and more.)  Then, there are some who do seek purity, desire it in their hearts, yet struggle from time-to-time and infrequently to remain pure.  Why are there so many different desires inside of us when it comes to purity and chastity?

Mary Beth Bonacci, a prolific Catholic writer and speaker on the topic of chastity and sexuality gives a great example to explain human desire when it comes to sex.  She talks about a frog that is placed in boiling water.  When the frog makes contact with hot water it will jump out immediately.  However, when a frog is placed in water at room temperature then made to boil; it won’t jump out at all.  It doesn’t recognize the change in temperature and remains in the water, then is boiled to death unknowingly.  (Real Love, Your Questions and Answers on Dating, Marriage and the Real Meaning of Sex. Mary Beth Bonacci.)  Our culture is analogues to the boiling water.  I’m sure you have recognized that many of the things you look at, read, watch, or listen to, are over-saturated with lies about human sexuality.  When young people grow up in a culture that capitalizes on sexuality in t.v., video, music, literature and entertainment it has an effect that works similar to the frog in boiling water.  The more you are exposed to sex in an unhealthy way through media, the less you will desire chastity.  Also, the more you practice unchaste behaviors, the less you will desire purity and chastity.  In addition, the more your family, friends, parents, associations… and especially your boyfriend/ girlfriend/ date, present to you an unhealthy sexuality the more you will be seduced by those desires inside of yourself.  Take guys, for example.  Guys are sexually stimulated visually.  The culture knows this, so advertisements, movies, or any marketing can play on visually stimulating media that is sexual.  A guy can remember sexual images for a long, long time and they can haunt him.  This is very harmful and dangerous when it comes to pornography, for example.  Girls are not as visually stimulated but their hearts are engaged differently when it comes to sex.  Girls will usually want to feel close to a guy and sex or sexual activity is a way she thinks this can happen.  She may get trapped down the road of impurity by doing the things her boyfriend wants to do.  She gets caught up in the lust and then desires chastity less and less while feeling worse and worse deep inside of herself.  It’s pretty well known by the past two generations that our culture is over-saturated with sex in the media.  But, there is a deeper problem than that because I know many people who desire and achieve purity despite the sex saturated culture.  Now days I think the deeper rooted problem with purity and chastity is the repetitive practice of sexual sins.  Someone who starts out innocent and pure then shown the way to sexual sins will loose the desire for purity in a manner of time.

What is my point?  Be careful.  Where is your desire for purity?  If it is a small desire, then ask yourself: What has caused this within me?  Is it repetitive sexual sins?  Is it the media or culture?  Do you watch too many unhealthy images of human sexuality?  Are you addicted to porn?  Has your boyfriend or girlfriend seduced you to sexual activity that at first was weird and difficult but has now become easier and more desirable?  Maybe there is a history of sexual abuse that happened to you.  This can be very detrimental for a healthy, holy understanding of sexuality.  I’ve talked to many young people with a history of sexual abuse who felt so trapped and disgusting they didn’t know what to do.  Then when a boyfriend, girlfriend or date wants to do something sexual with them they feel like it’s more respectful than what used to happen to them, so why not?

The human heart is able to understand, perceive and experience the truth of our personhood deep inside.  People can innately know they are created for love.  We constantly seek love.  We desire it.  We think, and talk about it all of the time.  What is it?  What is love?  Why do I desire it so much?  What does love have to do with sex?  Why am I so attracted to sex and love?

Ok, here’s the best part of it all: The human person, created by God in his image and likeness, is created for love.  Sex is God’s design.  “Male and female he created them…be fruitful and multiply,” (Gen. 1:27) God said.  A man and woman, their bodies and personhood, work like a road map which leads to and points to God, who is love (1 John).  Why did God create males and females at all?  Why did he create sex?  He created sex to lead us to love.  The human body, and our sexuality, is a sign.  That’s what Pope John Paul II’s premise is for the entire Theology of the Body.  The human body is a sign and revelation of God, who is the fullness of Love.  If we take a look at the human body we can come to an understanding of God.  In doing so, we can come to an understanding of ourselves who are made up of body, soul and sex.  This will have to be our starting point for a holy discussion about sexuality.  Without God and love in the picture for an understanding of our sexuality we get lost just like the examples above demonstrate.

So, stay tuned for next weeks answer to the question: How far is too far with my boyfriend or girlfriend?  What is a Theology of the Body and why is it so important?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Theology of the Body, Talk #3: What is chastity? Why is it good for human beings? What if I’m not attracted to living a chaste life?

Wow, these can be very difficult questions for young people to ask and answer!  They can be very difficult questions for any human person.  I’ll make an attempt to answer these questions.  Please remember, however, that this is only one way the questions can be answered.  If you want a better answer do some reading on your own from Pope John Paul II’s, Theology of the Body; or from The Good News About Sex and Marriage, by Christopher West; or If You Really Loved Me, by Jason Evert.  The list of great reading on the topic of chastity goes on and on.

Chastity is a virtue.  Virtues are good habits.  They come from two places: virtues come from God’s grace which is always flowing from the Person and work of Jesus Christ to humanity; and they also come from the repetitive good choices human beings make who are influenced by the Holy Spirit for help, power and strength.  Let’s take the example of a cross-country runner which is “a-moral” (that is, without moral implication necessarily).  I like to run but in the winter I really do not run at all.  After the winter is over and the spring comes I try to make my first run of the season in the nice weather.  It’s very, very difficult.  I can last about 5 minutes.  After the spring and summer I’ve been running for about three or four months.  I can run 30 minutes or more at that time.  When I practice and experience running over and over, I build up the habit of running and condition my body to run more and to run well, easier and better.  It is the same with the virtues.  Good habits are built and increase in us when we make good choices over and over again.  When we make one good choice that is difficult, the next time the choice comes around we can make it with less difficulty than before.  In habit and repetitive good decisions we become more and more free to choose what is good.  This strength, repetition and help always comes from God’s grace in us who is always the first one to act allowing us to respond to God’s inspiration.  Take someone who is trying to break the habit of looking at pornography (which definitely has "moral" implications!).  Maybe they have looked at pornography for one year.  The first time they turn away and stop that addiction (in this case a vice which is a repetitive bad habit) it is very difficult to do.  After three to six months of practicing turning away from pornography, it becomes easier and easier to do.  That person becomes more and more free to choose the good action and reject the sinful action.  Chastity works in this way and so do all the virtues.  (The theological virtues work differently in that they are directly infused into the soul, thanks God!  The theological virtues are faith, hope and love.  St. Paul, for example, was infused with all three of these virtues when thrown from his horse and immediately converted to Christianity after having led a life of persecution toward Christians (Acts 9:1-9).  At that time he did not really have any “good habits” that would dispose him to turn to a life of Christian discipleship.  But, after God infused these virtues into his soul he was forever changed.)

Chastity is the ordering of our sexuality toward it’s final end which is God and Heaven.  In response to that definition of chastity you might say:  “Weird Benjamin, why am I supposed to order my sex life to God and heaven?”  Well, since God created sex… “male and female He created them,” (Gen 1:27) “in the divine image He created them,” after He created us He said, “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).  God has a plan for sex too!  This is interesting to think about since our “plans” for sex are sometimes disturbing and dark, vicious and evil.  In those times, when our sexual desires do not correspond to virtue and goodness, then we have a struggle, a battle inside of our self.  But really, how does a person “order sexuality toward God?”

Christopher West uses this definition for chastity: “the ordering of our sexual desires, thoughts and behaviors toward the truth of authentic love.” (Good News About Sex and Marriage. p. 66)  He goes on to say, “chastity is a great yes to the true meaning of sex, to the goodness of being created as male and female in the image of God.  Chastity isn’t repressive.  It’s totally liberating.  It frees us from the tendency to use others for selfish gratification and enables us to love others as Christ loves us.  The virtue of chastity is therefore essential if we are to discover and fulfill the very meaning of our being and existence.”  When a person makes a “chaste” thought, word or action they are loving like Jesus loves. But, why… why Benjamin is chastity so difficult?  What if I’m not attracted to living a chaste life?  What if I’ve tried and failed over and over again?

Stay tuned to the “Theology of the Body” Queen of the Holy Rosary Youth Ministry blog for next’s week answer…

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Theology of the Body - Talk #2: Benjamin’s story and some example questions on the topic of sexuality we will attempt to answer

I asked Alicia to marry me on Good Friday in a field next to the Basilica Church of the Immaculate Conception at Conception Abbey (a Benedictine Monastery and College Seminary) in the state of Missouri during a day of silence and prayer almost kneeling down into cow poop.  It was 1:30 in the afternoon.  I was trying to wait until 3:00 pm since that was the hour when Jesus died on the cross but I could only wait until 1:30.  The night before on Holy Thursday after the Mass of the Lord’s Super, Alicia had said to me: “If you don’t ask me to marry you soon I think I’m going to ask you!”  She was weeping.  “Be patient for just a little longer,” I said knowing what was coming the next day.  Patience, waiting and the cross of our Lord will be the theme of our study on human sexuality and a theology of the body.  These are all potentially “difficult” topics and virtues but they are pointed at happiness.  Happiness is the end goal of marriage, sex, life, love and Jesus shows us the way to happiness which he calls, “Beatitude.”  Jesus is talking about Heaven and sex is supposed to lead people to God and to heaven.  Sex is sacred.  Since that Good Friday was a day of silence and prayer at the monastery I wrote to Alicia in a journal when I asked her to marry me that this was the hour when Jesus gave himself completely in love for the sake of his own bride the Church even to the point of his death on a cross.  I wrote to her that Jesus is my model for love.  I wrote that St. Paul once said, “wives be submissive to your husbands,” which really means for the woman to “get behind the mission” of her husband and help him achieve it.  (I struggled with those words of St. Paul for a long time!)  I reflected and wrote to her that it took me a long time to learn what it means to be a man and that I only discovered manhood in my studies for Catholic Priesthood years earlier when I was in seminary.  I wrote that when I discovered what St. Paul was talking about in Ephesians 5:21-33 he was talking about how the man’s mission is to love his wife as Christ loved his own bride the Church even to the point of his death on a cross.  I wrote to her in the silence of retreat on Good Friday, 2007, in the very place I fell in love with God for the first time while committing my entire life to him promising I would do anything he asked of me for the sake of the Kingdom, asking Alicia if she would marry me because this was the hour when Jesus gave himself in love completely for his own bride the Church even to the point of his death on a cross.  And Jesus, I wrote, is my model.  I want to do it like he taught me because I know, after all these years, about happiness, truth and love.

Eventually, I’ll share more and more of my own story with you about how a Theology of the Body has brought me to real freedom, real love and real manhood.  But, to make a long story short, as most of you know anyway, Alicia said “yes,” to me.  We've in our fourth year of marriage and we’ve been blessed with our first child who is two.  His name is Isaac Joseph.  Isaac is a very Eucharistic name.  Joseph is the foster-father of Jesus.  Many people ask me, “Hey Benjamin since you were in seminary for about 6 years learning and preparing for priesthood, when did you meet Alicia.  Is that why you left?”   I met Alicia about eight months after I exited seminary at Church just before Sunday Mass.  I exited seminary because God asked me, after all that time, to be married and have a family.  But, when I left I did not know who my bride would be.

Alicia and I profess and follow faithfully the Catholic Church and her teachings on human sexuality and marriage, as well as the entire deposit of faith she received from Jesus and the Apostles by way of the Holy Spirit handed down by the Bishops and the Pope(s), the Successor of Peter.  We stand with the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church which consists of the Bishops in union with the Pope, and we love being Catholic.  There is chastity inside and outside of marriage, Alicia and I often remember and so I’ll also be talking about chastity outside of marriage for those of you who are unwed at this time (which is most of you).  But, with God’s help, Alicia and I live the hard, difficult teachings such as Natural Family Planning (which is really beautiful and life giving) and we want to share many of these “teachings” with you from the context of the late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II’s catechesis entitled: A Theology of the Body.  Since God reveals himself to us in his creation he also reveals himself to us in the crown of his creation which is humanity and the human person who is made up of body and soul.  If we are able to look at the man and woman whom he created each for the other (Gen. 1-2) we can learn about God.  The body can be like a map that God is using to reveal himself and his “Beatitude.”  Instead of looking away from our bodies in disgust, perversion, scandal, and disorder like this culture does, we can look at our bodies as God intended them to be looked at.  Especially we will be looking at what God intended for erotic love which is the love proper for married persons.  Erotic love is not supposed to be a dirty phrase.  A Theology of the Body is how we can look at the body of a man and woman, and especially the two bodies together, connected, joined, in conjugal love, sex and marriage, to discover God’s plan for life and love.  We’ll talk lots about being chaste as single people, since that is the situation for the youth group and this is written for an audience of youth who are High School age and beyond.  Those of you who are married will benefit lots from this teaching too.

Some of the questions we’ll be attempting to understand and answer are the following: What is chastity?  What’s wrong with non-marital sex outside of marriage?  What is marriage?  What is sex within marriage supposed to be like?  What is wrong with contraception?  What is wrong with masturbation?  What is wrong with pornography?  What does it mean to be engaged?  What is Christian dating?  What is virginity?  Where can I find a good guy?  a good girl?  What about kissing, touching, flirting, and boundaries in dating and beyond?  How far is too far when it comes to sex?  What about same-sex attraction?  What about divorce?  What is womanhood / manhood?  What can I do if I’m not a virgin?  What is purity?  How can people even be pure today?  There are so, so many questions.  I haven’t written them all down here and there are more we’ll have to ask.  Please feel free to submit questions on the blog anonymously if you’d like.  Again, I’m going to be using a lot of help form the experts such as Christopher West, who brought the Theology of the Body home to me when I was in seminary and Jason and Crystalina Evert who are nationally know chastity educators for youth.  Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Mary the Mother of God, pray for us.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Theology of the Body: the Pope's great teaching on love, life, sex and marriage that has set me free . . .

Dear Youth and Families, Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish-

Thank you all for welcoming me and my family to this wonderful parish!  Thanks God for bringing us together.  I am so excited to meet everyone and work with the youth and families of this Catholic community.  One of the many purposes for youth ministry is catechesis and evangelization.  These are two big words for coming to a better understanding of our Catholic faith and being empowered by the Holy Spirit to live this great faith.  This is a blog that I began today in order to help our youth and families with some deeper questions about love, life, sex and marriage in the Divine plan.  I hope you will enjoy and find God here! 

The title of this blog is:  “A Theology of the Body – Love and Life in the Divine Plan.”  In short, this will be a catechesis on the late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II's revolutionary teaching on human sexuality, Gods' plan for men, women, sex, marriage, love and life!  I hope and pray you will join this blog often to read about these sacred topics.  Yes, sex is sacred!!!  We will explore the Catholic Teaching on human sexuality in the context of the Theology of the Body.  Wait, Benjamin, what is the Theology of the Body?

The Theology of the Body is a series of Wednesday Papal Audiences given by Pope John Paul II from the year 1979-1984, on the topic of human sexuality, men, women and a blessed look at the human body which brings us to an understanding of God.  Today, the Theology of the Body lives on, is being studied by many people, and continues to bring thousands more to new freedom in their life with God and each other.  We can learn from it the answers to questions we find in ourselves about sex and marriage, chastity, purity of life, children, dating, engagement, prayer, attraction, desire, virginity, celibacy for the Kingdom, the evil of contraception and abortion and other related topics that our culture has not embraced.  Most especially the Theology of the Body teaches us about love... God's love for us, His People, that is expressed in the relationship of Jesus Christ and His own Bride the Church!  We'll take up difficult questions such as "How can I find a good guy?"  Or, "Where can I find the right girl for me?"  "How do you know if you should marry someone?"  "What is chastity and why should I practice that?"  "How can I be pure?"  "What is wrong with contraception?"  "What is the Church's teaching on same sex attraction?"  We'll look at Jason Evert's famous question which he asks to thousands of teens each year: "How far is too far to go on a date?"  These and many more questions of the heart as I, Benjamin Darnell, share and discuss my own beautiful marriage and the wonder of living the full teaching of the Catholic Church which comes from God's plan for love and life.  We'll learn what some of the saints have said about human sexuality; study the Pope and use the help of commentators Christopher West and Jason and Crystalina Evert as our friendly guides throughout this marvelous revelation.

Last, I invite you to comment on the blog, ask questions about this or other topics that we Catholics embrace.  With the help of God and some study I'll do my best to break open the scriptures and the human heart so we can learn together and be transformed by the Holy Spirit to come to freedom and truth in this culture of death.  So please tune in frequently for the first formal installment and my own personal story of how the Theology of the Body transformed my life and continues to bring me to freedom and truth which I will entitle: "From Dating to Seminary, to Discernment and Marriage, God's Plan for Me".... or something like that...

New in the Office of Youth Ministry
Queen of the Holy Rosary, Wea