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