‘Theology of the Body’ for teens
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Jenna, foreground, reflects while Noran reads from Scripture before they start their Theology of the Body class at St. Joseph Church, Rice Lake, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. (Catholic Herald photo by Julie Kelemen)
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© Superior Catholic Herald, January 17, 2013
|RICE LAKE — “Sex is good, right?” said a facilitator of a youth discussion group in a church basement classroom.|
Five Rice Lake High School seniors in the room nodded and assented.
“When is it good?” she pressed on.
“In marriage,” a few said.
“Why is it best in marriage?” she asked.
They contemplated a few seconds. Then Andrew Buchman spoke up: “Sex is meant, one, to procreate obviously and second, is to show just how much you love and care for that other person.”
Marriage quickly entered his explanation.
“Until you’re ready to commit yourself fully to that person, you cannot fully give them the love that you are meant to give them through the sexual act,” he said.
He went on to explain that if one is sexually active before marriage, “the sexual act is basically invalid because it’s a lie in the sense that you’re saying that you love them but yet you have not committed yourself to them.”
The teens were gathered at St. Joseph Church as part of a multi-week sexuality and morals course on the “Theology of the Body,” a term that refers to the topic of lectures Pope John Paul II gave during his Wednesday audiences in Rome between 1979 and 1984.
Theology of the Body is also a curriculum that a Catholic publisher has developed to help middle and high school aged youths absorb the pope’s human sexuality teachings in a meaningful and relevant way.
One developer of that course, Brian Butler, will be in the Diocese of Superior in mid February to address catechists, youth ministers, directors of religious education, principals, teachers, marriage preparation coordinators and others who work with teens. They will meet at Turtleback Conference Center in Rice Lake Feb. 18-19.
Butler said the topic is “especially important for teens who are thinking every day about their bodies and souls as they search for meaning in their lives.”
The training is intended to introduce those at the gathering to church teachings on life and love and how to present it to teens, said Megan Noll, the Diocese of Superior’s director of marriage, family and youth. She said the diocese is sponsoring this training “to assist young people in better understanding their vocation, more specifically … on the marriage vocation. Young people have a lot of challenges in the culture in living out chastity.”
Noll said her impression is that priests strongly support the beauty and sacramentality of marriage, but a challenge they encounter when they meet with engaged couples is cohabitation.
“In order to prevent risky behavior such as cohabitation, premarital sex and pornography, to name a few, (priests) feel that we need to tell young people about the sacrament of marriage earlier. This is why Theology of the Body for Teens and Middle Schoolers is so necessary,” she said.
Noll said she’s seen Butler publicly present his material on Theology of the Body: “He is engaging and dynamic. Any adult would benefit from his expertise,” she said.
From the grass roots
While sitting around a table with the youths from St. Joseph Parish, Noll said the impetus for offering the course there actually came from someone in the class.
“I received a phone call … personally,” she said. “That speaks volumes for a young person to say, ‘We want to do this. This is relevant to our lives,’ so I’m very proud of all of you,” Noll told them as they munched on the carrots, snack cakes and cookies they’d brought that evening.
Jenna Orr thinks the class has helped her deal with peer pressure. One reason she wanted to take the class was “obviously to grow in my faith,” but she added that it has also helped her share her countercultural sexual beliefs with “others who don’t believe in this — how to answer tough questions or be able to interact with them and just be able to share how I believe … instead of just standing there and listening when things get brought up (that aren’t) something that I believe in or participate in — kind of knowing how to approach it.”
Giving credit to many Catholic young people, Noll said they “want to be in union with God. Theology of the Body helps them express their desire for love and how to do it as God planned. It is important for them to dialogue with their peers and parents to find support among Catholic Christian believers.”
She said conversation about sexuality should also take place in the home.
“Parents are part of the solution and also need to be equipped to deal with the cultural tide.”
Noll encouraged parents, educators, priests and other parish leaders to attend the training about the topic.
For registration information one can download a flyer at http://sn.im/263q7kb or contact Noll at 715-234-5044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.