Why the Body Matters
Why the Body Matters
Recently, an audience member at one of my Theology of the Body Evangelization Team (TOBET) talks approached me afterward for advice for a female friend transitioning to a “man.” She mostly wanted to express her grief about this friend who had already made up her mind that she is “trapped” in the wrong body. We all know that this is the issue in the cultural conversation, and the complexities are real. This conversation was just one of many reminding me of the importance of reaching people before they find themselves confused, lost, and misled.
The Theology of the Body (TOB) diagnoses the poison from which this illness in our society comes: St. John Paul calls this a problem of detachment. Scripture and the saints speak about detachment as something positive, as in being detached from pride, materialism, etc., but St. John Paul uses the word to describe the particularly modern separation of the “I” from the body. In one passage of TOB, he writes: “Look, a body that reveals the person!” showing the integral connection of the “I” to the person. Various forms of detachment arise when this integral connection is severed, such as mutilating the body based on the feeling of being “trapped” in one’s body, leading a person not toward, but away from his or her true identity, for the body matters.
Countering detachment is one of the reasons why TOBET’s program for Pre-School to 8th grade is called The Body Matters. When children read our books, they learn to see the body, in the words of St. John Paul, as a sacrament, or a revelation of the person. Their imaginations are thus formed before they are bombarded with the lies of detachment. We present a holistic, beautiful picture of what it means to be human, while waiting to present a TOB approach to sexuality in our middle school books.
The Body Matters includes 18 original books (with corresponding, original educator guides) to help children see the truth of their bodies by receiving the body as a gift from God in whose image they are made, so as to become gifts to others. Our program encourages dialogue between parents, teachers, and catechists in order to facilitate conversations about the goodness of all human life, while respecting children’s developmental innocence.
Through The Body Matters, children are given a new vocabulary to use in their day-to-day interactions. Children learn phrases such as “You can be a gift to your classmate,” or “Show reverence toward everyBODY,” or “Self-mastery leads to freedom.” Colleen Smith, a teacher at a school in Nebraska using The Body Matters, said to us at TOBET: “The dialogue that we are having with the students using TOB language and examples is essential! It builds the foundation in a way they can understand. They see the relevance of TOB in their everyday life as children.” Starting in faith formation, schools, and families, TOBET hopes to change the cultural imagination from detachment to a return to a “Christian pedagogy of the body” (TOB 122:5) so that all will see human life, including the body, as a gift.
Whereas many people might assume that TOB means a conversation about sexuality, The Body Matters emphasizes a total vision of what it means to be human. Children are given a solid grounding in the proper view of the body—and thus of the human person—so that they will enter the modern world with an instinctual knowledge of what is true and what is false. Moreover, when they go to Mass and hear the Good News of Jesus’ Body given, they will receive Him in the Holy Eucharist with more wonder and awe.
The Body Matters is enriching formation as well as preventative care, before the inculcation from a confused culture reaches our children. Indeed, all of us TOB enthusiasts can be heartened by the words I received in a letter last month from Pope Emeritus Benedict’s secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein: “The Pope emeritus thanks you sincerely for your evangelizing work in promoting the Theology of the Body, offering thus a convincing answer to the challenge of Gender Ideology.”
May all of us who promote TOB continue to work toward countering detachment—giving everyBODY the truth of our very bodies: we are made for real, life-giving love.
Monica Ashour is co-founder, speaker, author for the Theology of the Body Evangelization Team, Inc. (TOBET).
For more information, go to https://tobet.org/the-body-matters/