Friday, February 15, 2019

Original Sin: The Adam in All of Us

The first reading at Mass this week is from the beginning of The Beginning, that is, from the Book of Genesis. Today we reached the sad story of the original sin, the story, as Pope John Paul put it, of the temptation and sin against God's fatherhood; the rejection of God as good Father. The serpent offered our first parents the brightly colored water (there was no Kool-Aid yet) of a lie about God and themselves: that they were in competition; that God was holding out on them; that God was secretly threatened by the possibility of their full flourishing, and that all they had to do to be his equals was, you know...

Currently for my evening spiritual reading I am slowly making my way through a book on St Paul's insights on life in Christ. It's slow going because the book, by Father Giuseppe Forlai (of the Pauline Institute of Jesus the Priest) is in Italian--and I do my spiritual reading at night, so the old brain isn't exactly firing on all cylinders. (Plus my Italian vocabulary, cobbled together from reading the sermons of Blessed James Alberione, is heavy in old-fashioned pious language, while Father Forlai speaks and writes a very contemporary Italian--I keep a sheet of paper next to the book to write down words I need to look up.) Anyway, last night I came across just the perfect commentary on today's first reading, so I wanted to share it with you in a very rough translation (emphases are mine).

(Context: Father had gone to a public high school to give a talk about freedom, one of St Paul's favorite themes. When he mentioned the problem of sin limiting our human freedom, one of the students challenged him: You Catholics always bring up sin! It's just an excuse for you to claim that we need a savior... Father Forlai commented, at least to the reader, that everyday experience tells us that we live in a fallen world and that we contribute to that fallen state.)

Adam and I are connected. If we substitute the word “humanity” for Adam things might be a bit clearer. If I do wrong, this shows that humanity is capable of wrongdoing;  if humanity (for example a nation, a group, an organization) commits crimes, that's signifies that in them I too might have the capacity of doing the same evil, even if I find it revolting. This is not to say that I will commit it, but simply that I could be capable of committing it. We are interdependent in good and in evil, beyond the centuries that separate one generation from another. Whatever one says about it, I too am Adam; I keep that original evil alive in me: by sinning I give my assent to the evil that has preceded me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Mourning has broken in New York

Too bad New York doesn't seem to know it. The legislators applauded for themselves as if they had done something really worth noting, like a two-year-old who had a successful episode in potty training. Bible thumpers wondered when the fireball was going to come. Before the end of the week, 74 people had been murdered in Chicago alone, and in a completely different part of the country, ten people were killed in two mass shootings by extremely young men, one of whose grandmother five states away fled from her home, thinking she was next (police arrested the suspect, in fact, at Grandma's address).

This got me thinking.

"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen 6:9). In the Old Testament, this is a foundational principle for a criminal code based on the value of human life. It is still appealed to, even by some Catholics, as a justification for capital punishment. But I think we are seeing this played out, right before our eyes, on a very different scale. “By man shall his blood be shed” seems to apply on a social, rather than on the individual and legal level. I do not intend at all to get into questions about law, politics, or policy. My concern here is that what we saw in New York last week was the signing of a solemn pact with death, and a few days later we saw the first fruits of that pact: not solely in the death of the unborn, but in the unexpected execution of other innocent people for no reason at all.

This is what we have gotten into as a society. It doesn't matter if I have personally never voted for a “pro-choice” politician or if I have supported every gun control law ever proposed. Society is a body, and what one member does affects us all. When one member ingests poison, the whole body is sickened. And I think the poison here is the notion of absolute individual rights.

In both cases we find an untrammeled, exaggerated understanding of individual “rights” completely unmoored from the common good. Focusing completely on individual rights, extremists in both the abortion debate and in gun control refuse to consider any limits or restrictions. Hence the New York law.

Too many have already died or suffered inexpressible loss because of abortion and gun violence. And I think, given the signs of the times (Massachusetts is aching to follow New York's example) we should ready ourselves for more of the same. Unless, to use St Catherine of Siena's expression, at least we Catholics “become what we are and set the world on fire.” The crime of abortion and the thousands of violent murders in our cities (both mass killings and the daily violence doled out by gang members) call for a powerful supernatural offset: reparation.

If you have something to “offer up,” don't let it go to waste! Let that suffering, pain, disappointment, less-than-ideal situation be taken up by Jesus as his own as your way of tipping the scales ever so slightly in the direction of self-giving love, the self-giving, self-emptying love that is opposite of insistence on one's “rights.” Oh, how St Paul could wax eloquent on that theme! But he was only imitating the self-emptying love of Jesus, who “being in the form of God...took the form of a slave” for our sakes.

This is what the world desperately needs. This is the “apostolate of good desires,” and St Therese is the great example of it. She can show us how to multiply the special intentions for which we offer whatever we have at hand: pain, sorrow, drudgery, even mere inconvenience. It's all precious. And if we allow our life's crosses, big and small, to be claimed by Jesus as his own, we make ourselves, in Christ, bright outposts of the Kingdom of God; blast furnaces of charity; a healing remedy within society itself to counteract the poison that our fellow citizens have so willingly (and for so long) drunk in.

Friday, December 28, 2018

New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again! Time to get new calendars on the wall; time for making new ourselves, maybe to our family members or even to God about an area or two of life where we recognize that change is in order. It may be much needed attention to physical health (daily exercise! healthy diet!) or to spiritual health (daily prayer! consistent spiritual reading!); whatever it is, the start of a new year is a great time to renew our good will and to create some kind of practical strategy for maintaining that good will.

Along those lines, Father Alberione preached an end-of-retreat sermon in 1957 in our hospital outside of Rome. The retreatants were probably a mixed group of vowed religious who were patients in the hospital (his sermons were uncharacteristically broad), but as the retreat drew to a close, Alberione did not spare them the "spiritual work" of making firm resolutions for the future, however much time they had. He encouraged them to stir up their own good will.

I offer a quick translation of the beginning of that retreat sermon as we prepare to close the books on 2018 and begin a new year, a new year of grace and salvation, in just a few days:

It recently happened that an 81-year-old man died. The doctor who cared for him in his final illness had said to him,"I don't understand how with all these ailments you were able to have such a long life." The sick man answered, ”I have always had very strong will. I bore my aches and pains with patience and I used to tell myself: Tomorrow will be better than today. And so, with the courage that I had and with constant prayer, I was always able to work, even until quite recently."

We have a great natural power within us. When there is a sincere, heartfelt, decisive will, that is when we make the resolution not to be saints halfway, but saints all the way. And every morning we make the decision: I will begin today. What I have done until now is little; I want to do more today. Thus, renewing our good will every day, we can make progress.

Will power: generally we don't take enough advantage of the fruit, the energy that comes from a good will. How many things good will can do in the natural order and how many more things can be done through good will in the spiritual order!
Determine one area, establish it well and return frequently to that decision during the examen of consciousness… and with spiritual reading, making use of anything that can help you to observe the resolutions made. Don't do this because a certain saint has done thus and so, it is you yourself who made that resolution!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Offerings at the Manger

The Nativity; engraving by Martin Schongauer (Art Institute of Chicago)
Christmas Eve?! But...we just started the concerts! (You can listen to the music here or download the album on iTunes.) Well, yes, we also just ended the concert series a week ago last night, and got back to our respective communities on Tuesday. Our final concerts, in Los Angeles, put us in contact with so many Hollywood professionals who are living their faith and practicing their art at the highest possible level: what an inspiration!

But how can it be Christmas Eve so soon?

This tends to be the extent of my Advent each year, since our concerts begin at Thanksgiving--but this year we sang clear through the first day of the Christmas novena, too. And now it is Christmas Eve, and I feel I have gathered only a few straws to put in the manger before the little Child will be placed there.

In a way, the "straws" in my manger are what I have accumulated through the year, deposited at the crib as a prayer for their consecration. All the things I have done, or tried to do, of good (the "prayers, actions, joys and sufferings" of the Morning Offering), placed there under the watchful eyes of Mary, accompanied by her prayer. She'll make sure none of it gets lost or goes to waste. There are other things I'm tempted to hide away--failures, shortcomings, words that never should have been spoken--but I can bring these to Mary, too. She was a poor woman, used to making do with whatever she had on hand in order to provide for her family. She'll know what to do with the ruined parts of my year so that in some mysterious way my act of surrendering them to her transforms them into fresh, fragrant straw upon which she can lay her newborn Son.

Whatever your 2018 has been like, bring it to Mary tonight.  And may she grant each of us the joy receiving her Son into our arms, our heart, our life, our year.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Keeping up with the Choir

We're in the midst of our annual Christmas Concert tour, having held the Boston concerts in a new venue after we outgrew the motherhouse chapel. In fact, we're close to outgrowing the new venue, too: Yesterday afternoon's event was to an almost-capacity crowd. If you live near any of the concert venues, I hope you already have your tickets; Sunday afternoon attendees were really taking a chance here in Boston. (I think there were maybe 10 seats open in the well-appointed auditorium of Fontbonne Academy.)

After our big fundraiser in New York, we were treated to a special cooking demo/Italian feast at the Trattoria Romana on Staten Island. Chef Vittorio and his wife Pauline (they met in Rome; it's a charming story) treated us to a fabulous meal while Vittorio made mozzarella cheese right before our eyes, and then explained the best practices for buying mozzarella (if the deli has fresh mozzarella unrefrigerated and a bit warm, buy it rather than the stuff in the refrigerated case; it was just made) and canned tomatoes (buy a small can each of a few varieties to find the type you like, then stock up on that right away: tomatoes have seasons and next year's crop will have a different flavor).

The tiramisu is so good (we know from past experience), we had to prepare for it by offering a few songs for our hosts and fellow-guests. (Travel Tip: I personally think that the Trattoria Romana is in the running for the best Italian food in New York City. Worth the time to get to Staten Island if you are visiting Manhattan for business or pleasure.)

Sound check in Boston.
Tomorrow morning we fly to New Orleans (supper at my sister's house!), and then our first-ever concert in the Capital of Cajun culture, Lafayette, is scheduled for Wednesday night. Then it's New Orleans, St Louis, Cleveland, and Santa Monica. If you have any friends in these areas, please let them know about our event; they will thank you later for the wonderful time they and their whole family had celebrating the real meaning of Christmas.

Don't be afraid to invite the fallen-away, or even those who feel really alienated from the Church right now. We are finding that while this is a really rough time for our priests, people are still open to receiving the Gospel message from religious sisters, and many are probably secretly hoping to find some "safe" way to reconnect with the Church that will not immediately trigger thoughts of the current (but actually old) crisis.

As usual, the lineup is a mix of sacred Christmas music (traditional and contemporary, in a variety of musical styles) and "winter holiday" songs of the season. Most songs are introduced by one of the sisters with a personal story or reflection that creates a prayerful setting even after you've just sung "Jingle Bells" with us. Maybe that's why the concerts are enjoyed by such a broad mix of people, and why we have heard so many stories through the years (like the one you'll hear from Sr Tracey this year) about ways the Christmas concerts have made a difference in people's lives, or helped bring people back to the sacraments.

We pray daily for all those who are supporting us in any and every way: those who helped the sisters organize the concerts; who set up the Christmas trees or the hors d'oeuvres; who run the sound boards next to our tech sisters; who sent us supplies like batteries and the gift cards that pay for our baggage fees (and meals!); those who are praying and offering their sufferings for us.

Please do pray for us (safe travels, good health, calm prayer, and finding all our notes!) and for the people we will meet over the coming two weeks.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Message from a 17th Century Saint to Catholic Twitter

I am working on a project (coming soon!) that will promote the "9 First Fridays" in honor of the Sacred Heart, and as part of my research I read this week a biography of St John Eudes. He was the great predecessor of St Margaret Mary in spreading devotion to the Heart of Jesus, starting subtly by introducing a feast in honor of the Heart of Mary, which he found easier to popularize, given the climate among educated Catholics in those days. Let's just say that the Jansenists were no small threat to Eudes' mission, and a persistent thorn in his side. And then one of his benefactors, a man whose commitment of financial support had made it possible for Eudes to establish a seminary in the diocese, withdrew that support out of fear that Eudes gave too much responsibility to a suspected Jansenist.

There's a line in Eudes' response that needs to get out to the Catholic Internet these days. Take away the reference to Jansenism and it very well could have been written last week. So without further ado, here is a message from the 17th century, now suitably digitized:

Jansenism is a very pernicious thing because it is a heresy which destroys faith. Schism and division among the servants of God, however, are no less dangerous, insofar as they destroy charity which is a virtue more excellent even than faith. "And now the remain faith, hope and charity comedies three: but the greatest of these is charity," says the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Home Sweet Home (Shifting Gears!)

I've been back from the Emirates for over a week now and pretty much over the jet lag (the "fall back" weekend from Daylight Saving Time sure helped!), so I wanted to share an update on how the ACYC actually went, along with a few of my extraneous experiences:

The actual event I went to the UAE for (the Arabian Catholic Youth Conference) was held in Ras al Khaimah, one of the seven Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (of which Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the best known). RAK is a two hour drive through the desert from Dubai, and that desert was not quite what I expected. It was composed of orange sand that is more like powder than the sand of the seashore. And rather than seeing cows or horses from the car window, sure enough, there were real, live camels in the distance. Walking around the Church compounds the next day, I also spotted some lovely desert plants and interesting bird tracks.

But I was not there for sight-seeing. Arriving Thursday evening, I saw a great deal of preparation going on: a massive outdoor stage was rising in the courtyard between the Church and the parish house; young people were setting up a "Gethsemane Garden" for prayer in solitude; there was a pro-life exhibit, activity tents, and in the parish center, dorms were being equipped for the overnighters.
When the young people arrived (almost 1500 of them), I was enthusiastically greeted and welcomed into a thousand “selfies.”

Sr Bernadette Mary Reis of Vatican Radio had already interviewed the organizers (and the bishop of Southern Arabia), and once I arrived, interviewed me as well. I also became an unofficial photographer for Vatican news coverage of the event, providing all the photos featured on the Vatican site. (The young people were thrilled to pose for Vatican News!)

The participants came from all over the “Arabian Gulf” region, plus small numbers from Jordan and Lebanon. The delegates from Saudi Arabia, sadly, were unable to get their visas on time, but there were groups from Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar, and the bishop of Northern Arabia and Southern Arabia, as well as the Papal Nuncio for the Arabian gulf nations. The event was coordinated by the young adult groups of the UAE, all working together. This in itself is highly significant, because there are many distinct groups, some of them with roots in the home countries (for example, Jesus Youth from India, and Couples for Christ from the Philippines), so the collaboration among them was an important step forward for the church in the region.

I was one of four speakers brought in from other nations for the event. The others were John Pridmore (a converted enforcer and “entrepreneur" in organized crime who now lives in community in poverty, chastity and obedience), JC Libiran (a Filipino life coach), and Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra, Australia. I was the only woman. (Next time, you can be sure, there will be a more balanced representation of the Church!)  A few days before, we had been interviewed by a tabloid newspaper, the Gulf News, for an article that would be strictly cultural, with no religious reference at all. (The article that was published especially focused on John Pridmore's colorful life, but it did include a photo of me with John and JC, so like it or not a “religious” angle was there!)

The conference began with an African drum procession, a proclamation, and an energetic (and superbly performed) dance routine. All the general assembly talks were held in the Church hall, which comfortably held the 1500, with room to spare for spontaneous dancing during the musical sessions in between talks and Mass.

Friday being the Muslim holy day, it is a weekly holiday and the day that most Catholics have free for Mass, so the Sunday liturgy was celebrated here on Friday, the first day of the conference. (People could register for one or both days; most opted for Friday.) Friday night there was a concert on a huge stage in the church courtyard; a number of local bands performed. On Saturday there was a slightly smaller crowd, but just as much energy. Hot-button questions were delivered to us speakers during a panel discussion, and the young people really engaged with the content. Afterwards, I was stopped many times for further questions and conversation--conversations that are now continuing via social media (this is forcing me to get much more active on Instagram!). In between, I continued to hand out holy cards of Blessed James Alberione, as well as information about the MY SISTERS program and our Discover Theology of the Body video lecture series (with a special discount code--you can use it, too: ACYC2018).

When the conference was over, I had hoped to take some pictures of the desert (and the camels!) but we traveled back to Dubai late at night. All I saw were families on picnic blankets in the sand, having picnics by their cars... They do everything at night because the daytime is so blastedly hot, even now when (I was told more than once) the approach of “winter” temperatures means it does not get over 100ยบ during the day.

On my last day I had some free hours, so one of the organizers (a young woman who had participated in the "pre-Synod" meetings in Rome) took me to the ultra-deluxe Dubai Mall (replete with aquarium, ice rink, three-story fountain and other dazzling offerings). I also got to see the old style open market, the souk, where every merchant tried to tantalize me with their high quality Iranian saffron and other delicacies. I was tempted, but did not want to deal with any Customs agents on my way home—or any additional weight in my suitcase! (As it is, my trusty, battered Samsonite had to be delivered to an East Boston repair shop last week.)
And I'll never forget my ride on a traditional water taxi, the abra. This flat, little boat (seats 20?) with a putt-putt engine is steered by a pilot who stands in a kind of well at the center of the vessel, while we passengers position ourselves around him on a raised seating area. Fumes abound, and only an 8-inch ledge keeps passengers from sliding into the canal! (Needless to say, I was happy when we made it all the way to the dock—though disembarking without the boat being tied down was an act of faith!)

Now back in Boston I'm attempting to shift gears into Christmas concert mode: I can hardly believe that the choir will be assembling here in just two and a half weeks! (I have got a lot of practicing to do...)

If you are in a few hour's drive of any of our concert venues I hope you will consider making the trip; we are putting together a fantastic program. (Cleveland peeps: we are switching over to a Wednesday this year; couldn't make it for our usual Friday.)

An important message for our Boston-area friends: after last year's event when there was barely standing room in the chapel and we were nervously telling each other what to do in case of emergency, we are moving to a bigger and better location. The concerts will be at Fontbonne Academy's newly updated performance hall (in Milton). Tickets are on sale now.

Friday, November 02, 2018

All Souls Day and Preparing for Death is the release date for a rather edgy new book from Pauline Books & Media: Remember Your Death: Memento Mori Journal, prepared by Sr Theresa Aletheia during her year of daily Twitter posts according to the age-old #mementomori tradition.

Following the example of the saints (including our Founder, Blessed James Alberione), Sister Aletheia put a skull on her desk as a daily reminder that this life is moving toward a definite finish line, a point that is unknown to us but for which we can still prepare.

While I was in the United Arab Emirates for the ACYC, one of the speakers, Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra, Australia, told the assembly (of almost 1500!) his "memento mori" vocation story: From age 8 to 18, he crossed through a cemetery to get to and from school. That twice-daily trek taught him, he says, "Life is short. Death is certain. And eternity is v-e-r-y long." In that light, any thought of dedicating his life to something as short-term as money or fame went totally out of the window. He found himself drawn to a life that would be in line with the eternal framework he was learning from his neighbors along the walk to school.

This morning during the annual Mass for the deceased members of the Pauline Family (celebrated in the community burial chapel), Father Mike Harrington of the Pauline Institute of Jesus the Priest commented that for many people preparing for death nowadays ought to include arrangements for prayers to be offered after our death. His parishioners cannot count on their non-practicing children or grandchildren to understand the importance of a funeral Mass or the place of prayers for the repose of the souls of the departed. He recommends making "advance directives" very clear in this regard: to specify that you want a funeral Mass to be offered, and possibly also to have Masses offered for the repose of your soul each year on the anniversary of death.

* * * * *

I have recently updated my healthcare proxy form, naming a different sister as my proxy (after transfer season, it just makes it easier if my proxy is nearby!); this is the form I use to make sure that medical decisions are guided by Catholic principles. It would be an easy enough thing to do to include with this form wishes for "after care" (in the strictest sense!) so that these desires are readily available in case of emergency. (Make sure that your proxy, family and primary care provider all have copies of the signed and witnessed document.)

Pages from the Past: Prayer (and Praise!) in Purgatory

Medieval burial in a Church floor

Ideally, there should be no difference (at all!) in our attitude or prayer between the life and the next—it is mean to all be love, wonder, praise, overflowing in benefits to others, in loving service, mercy, intercession… 

Purgatory shows what happens when things are left incomplete or only lived in a perfunctory way. It only expresses the incompleteness of the person’s praise, worship, faith and love: there is still a gap between the person and the love of God that is meant to penetrate every fiber of their being; there is still resistance or reservation. The person is incomplete in love, and we are meant to be perfect as the Heavenly Father.

Do I pray (and live) like I'm in Heaven--or in Purgatory?

"Pages from the Past" are randomish excerpts from my old journals. I process things in writing, so there were a lot of volumes, but here and there I found notes that were still pertinent or helpful. I got rid of the books (hello, shredder!) and typed up the things I wanted to save, whether for myself (mostly) or to share. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Pages from the Past: Aiming for First Place

In 2014-2015 I read quite a few books by James Alison, a kind of "translator" of Rene Girard's insights. I found both men's books very helpful in terms of the light they shed on the "innermost secrets" of our hearts in our untamed and unquestioned desires. That's what is behind this reflection.

James and John in today’s Gospel invite me to continue to reflect on Alison’s insights about desire. Jesus “suggests” to them His own desire: “to serve and to give his life.” He suggests to them his desire to drink the cup the Father has prepared, and stirs up their desire, “We can drink it!” Ultimately, isn’t he sparking in them an ardent desire for communion with him in his dispositions and his “fate”?

“Do not fear”: fear is the opposite of desire. So “do not fear” means “desire rightly.” Desire what is fully worth of desire—“I am with you.” Jesus says: Desire that communion with Me that I desire for you.

Thinking of Joseph in the carpentry shop with Jesus. Joseph, modeling the desires of the just man to the just One. There was no fear in that shop, no hint of a threat;  none of that sneaking discomfort of being weighed on arbitrary scales and found wanting. Joseph was not threatened by Jesus’ divinity, so perfectly expressed in his boyish humanity, open to learn and receive and be formed. What an honor, what a credit to Joseph, to be entrusted with modeling human desires for Jesus!

What about the sacrament of the present moment? How might that fit into this model? Precisely it means not desiring other than what is. How, though, is this kind of peaceful desire acquired?

James and John’s request clearly seems to be from desiring according to the mode of this fallen world. They bid for first places in the Kingdom. Maybe the step forward is that they asked openly. (“Ask and you shall receive,” Jesus had said.) 

Rather than let them scheme for possession through grasping, Jesus aims to correct their desires: He offers them a new (and very different) picture of what it means to be in the first place in the kingdom…will they still desire it? Yes! Because Jesus, whom they love, is manifesting it as his own motivation: not an outward rule, but demonstrating the way his own desires are turned so that they can "catch" the desire from him.

"Pages from the Past" are randomish excerpts from my old journals. I process things in writing, so there were a lot of volumes, but here and there I found notes that were still pertinent or helpful. I got rid of the books (hello, shredder!) and typed up the things I wanted to save, whether for myself (mostly) or to share. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

ACYC Roster of Resources

Regular NunBlog readers, this post is support material from my talks to the participants in this year's ACYC, a gathering of Catholic young adults from the Persian Gulf region. You've seen my posts through the years on Theology of the Body, and followed the several projects I've worked on in that regard. Well, that was the theme I was asked to speak on. It's just way too big for 45 minute sessions, so I am providing these links as a way of continuing the conversation.

For ongoing spiritual formation with the Daughters of St Paul, join MY SISTERS, an online community with a variety of spiritual resources and twice-weekly video sessions by a rotating team of, well, my sisters! (This service is hosted on Facebook, so you have to be on Facebook to participate--but you don't have to actively "participate" in Facebook to be on MY SISTERS.)

T H E O L O G Y     O F    T H E     B O D Y

General resources on Theology of the Body:
Lots and lots of Theology of the Body articles can be found on the TOB Google+ Community page. You will need to request membership. Most of the sources I refer to are linked here. (Be sure to go to Sr Helena's blog for info on the newest films related to the sexual revolution and its profound and varied influences in our times.)

You can find all of Pope John Paul's TOB talks in the original (somewhat haphazard) translation online. (The talks were translated week by week by different staffers at L'Osservatore Romano, so there are many inconsistencies. Nobody knew, after all, that he was delivering a 400-page book with its own internal unity! They thought it was just six or so themes he was covering in sequence.)

The Big Book: A critical translation by Michael Waldstein was prepared that made use not only of the official Italian text of the talks as given in St Peter's Square, but also Pope John Paul's original Polish manuscript, tracked down with Sherlock-Holmesian devotion!

Theology of the Body Institute
Ruah Woods
Theology of the Body Evangelization Team (TOBET)

Theology of the Body writers, thinkers, and presenters
  • Christopher West @cwestofficial
  • Bill Donaghy @BillDonaghy
  • Sister Helena Burns @SrHelenaBurns (with her recommended Theology of the Body resources)
  • Angela Franks @theologianmom
  • Sister Miriam James @onegroovynun
  • Jason Evert @jasonevert
  • Damon Clarke Owens @damonowens
  • Timmerie Millington @timmerie
  • Jonathan Doyle @beingcatholic1
  • Matt Fradd @mattfradd
  • Michael Grasinski @MichaelGras
  • Debbie Staresinic @tobrosary
Intellectual approaches to questions related to Theology of the Body and its themes:
Discover Theology of the Body (10-part video lecture series; introduction and overview to the full set of Pope John Paul's talks). Use discount code ACYC2018. I wrote the study guide; download it here.

Books for general readership (there's a comprehensive list on Sr Helena's blog)
Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from Pope John Paul's Love and Responsibility (by Edward Sri)
Theology of the Body Explained (by Christopher West)
Theology of the Body made Simple (by Anthony Percy)

Scholarly books
Love and Responsibility (new critical translation by Grzegorz Ignatik): ebook available
Understanding Love and Responsibility (by Richard Spinello)
Theology of the Body in Context (by William May) 
Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II's Theology of the Body (by Carl Anderson and Jose Granados) 
Divine Likeness: Toward a Trinitarian Anthropology of the Family (by Marc Cardinal Ouellet)
Mystery and Sacrament of Love: A Theology of Marriage and the Family for the New Evangelization (by Marc Cardinal Ouellet)
Crossing the Threshold of Love: a New Vision of Marriage (by Mary Shivanandan)

Humanum Review, Volume 2. Identity and Difference: the Gender Debate

Contraception and Natural Family Planning
There are too many resources and recommendations to list here. Join the TOB Google+ group. But for a summary about why Pope John Paul called these "two irreconcilable approaches" to family planning, read Sr Helena Burns' article.

For a helpful website on women's health with articles and links in the areas of natural family planning and fertility awareness, see  This is not a "Theology of the Body" resource per se, but it reflects a view of the person that is consistent with TOB principles.

Issues around homosexuality
Two short films with personal testimonies
Desire of the Everlasting Hills (also offers a study guide)
The Third Way: Homosexuality and the Catholic Church

Organizations that are in full communion with Catholic Church teachings and pastoral principles:
Courage International: Catholic organization for persons looking for support, fellowship and communion in striving for holiness through chaste living.
EnCourage: a ministry within Courage dedicated to the spiritual needs of parents, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends of persons who have same-sex attractions.

Gender and Transgender Questions
Sr Helena Burns has posted two videos by Dr Michelle Cretella on gender dysphoria in children. The videos are followed by a long list of related links.

Here are two talks on "Gender and LGBTQ" by Sr Helena:

Porn Addiction Recovery Resources, Programs and Information

  • RECLAIM Sexual HealthCombines brain science and insights from Theology of the Body in a process of confidential, online, anonymous professional help for unwanted sexual behaviors.  A service of the Diocese of Green Bay, WI. (RECLAIM also offers bulk quantities of business card sized "confession cards.")
  • Integrity Restored: Restoring the Integrity of Those Affected by Pornography
  • Novo: Free 30-day video program for overcoming porn addiction with the help of Theology of the Body (includes free code for 30-days of Covenant Eyes; see below) and/or the Victory App (below).
  • Fortify Program: a pornography addiction "detox" program that includes instructional videos, in-depth personal inventory to get at the root causes of the addictive behavior, personalized "battle strategy" and a way to track the trends in one's online behavior. One-time fee (ages 21+)available; free for ages 13-20
  • CovenantEyes  Internet accountability and filtering. Monthly fee (also provides free downloadable e-books on the brain science of porn addiction and on church-based action).
  • x3Watch.comprograms for accountability partners; mobile-compatible. Annual fee. Basic and Premium level services.
  • The Victory App developed by LifeTeen; includes daily check-in, journaling and password protection. iOS or Android.
  • Fight the New Drug Created by and for young adults
  • Truth About Porn New site featuring academic research about the harmful effects of pornography.
  • The Porn Effect
  • Catholic Answers website covers issues with a special focus on teens' and parents' needs. Link leads to a short starter list of articles related to porn use.

Available from Pauline Books and Media: Cleansed, a Catholic Guide to Freedom from PornAdditional Articles about Internet Porn Addiction and Recovery

Recommended Books

Cleansed: A Catholic Guide to Freedom from Porn, by Marcel LeJeune
The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality behind the Fantasy of Pornography, by Matt Fradd