I have started to describe my life in terms of “before TOB” and “after TOB” to friends and family since the Head and Heart Immersion Course last June. “Before TOB,” I attended Mass on Sundays and was slightly active in my parish. “After TOB,” I am open to vocation as a celibate single person.
At a retreat I attended last March, I heard fellow attendees say things that struck me deeply such as, “God wants to marry us,” and “We are all called to holiness.” I had never heard anyone say such things in all my years of Catholic education; I was intrigued to find out more. Upon further investigation, I listened to a talk by Patty Schneier, who discussed the issue of contraception in the Church, and referenced Christopher West’s book The Good News about Sex and Marriage. My curiosity grew.
I finally went on Christopher West’s website and saw that he recommended Theology of the Body for Beginners for anyone looking to start their journey to read this wonderful gift from Pope St. John Paul II. I downloaded it to my iPad and started reading. I finished it within a week. I had gone on retreats before but hadn’t had an “aha” moment like the one I had while reading it.
When I started to dive into Theology of the Body for Beginners, I knew I was reading something that would change my life forever. I had never read a book that evoked such emotion. I cried tears of sadness and tears of joy. This teaching is such a beautiful gift – why had no one informed me of it before?
Last summer, I attended the TOB I: a Head and Heart Immersion Course. There I met consecrated brothers and sisters for whom I developed a new-found appreciation and respect. I also celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation after a 22-year hiatus, and received the most wonderful gift of healing. I have since come to appreciate my Catholic upbringing immensely to the point where I want to shout it out to the world.
“Celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” struck a chord with me during and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since reading Theology of the Body for Beginners. Christopher West and Pope St. John Paull II talk about remaining in the “ache” of man’s original solitude – the “ache” to which the Lord himself refers when he said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). The conscious choice to refrain from marriage “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” becomes a powerful testimony to the fact that God and God alone can ultimately fulfill that “ache” of solitude. Men and women who vow to a life of celibacy devote their yearning for communion directly toward God.
I look at the “ache” and am deeply attracted to it. I recently realized why:
“For those whose hearts are bound by lust, the idea of choosing a life of total continence is absurd. But for those who are being liberated from lust by the ethos of redemption, the idea of sacrificing the genital expression of their sexuality ‘for the sake of the kingdom of heaven’ not only becomes a real possibility – it also becomes quite attractive, even desirable.” (TOB Explained, 340)
This was me – I was the one who was bound by lust. But I experienced that liberation from lust by the ethos of redemption. Now, I am extremely excited about living the rest of my life as a celibate. I welcome the “ache” with open arms.
In my post-TOB life, I have continued to immerse myself even deeper in the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II as well as St. Paul, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. I continue to write and speak about my story in the hopes that I can inspire others to live the truth of their bodies.
I look forward to pursuing the full certification so I can bring TOB to everyone with ears to hear it. It’s a beautiful thing!
Michelle Piccolo lives in Cleveland, Ohio and is a member of Church of the Holy Angels in Bainbridge Ohio where she is a lector. As a Personal Trainer and Bodybuilder, Michelle blogs about health and fitness but has also managed to write about her own TOB story at TheJoyfulCelibate She is pursuing a full TOB certification. She hopes that by sharing her personal transformation story, others will be inspired to a “call to holiness.” She is a Godmother and devoted aunt to two nephews, Matthew and Sean, and she is the youngest of 2 other siblings, Nicole and Joe.