Pete and Therese Braudis are one of our Senior Advisor couples. They recently participated in the Theology of the Body Congress and below is a reflection on their experience. Having been married over 50 years, they have a lot of wisdom to share. We hope you enjoy their reflections.
Written by Pete and Therese Braudis:
Recently we spent Friday through Sunday, a weekend, on-line! That should be an attention getter, but in these pandemic times it has become the new normal. We attended the Virtual Theology of the Body Congress in front of the computer…and it was amazing!! We heard presentations by some of the today’s best Catholic theologians discussing St. John Paul II’s masterwork, “The Theology of the Body”, (TOB).
The roots of John Paul II’s theology lie, in a sense, in Pope Paul IV’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae which clarified the Church’s teaching on contraception. Although Paul VI’s encyclical was incredibly important for the life of the Church, it was met by dissent both within the Church by theologians and by the laity. And of course, there was wide criticism in the culture at large.
As Michael Waldstein, compiler and publicist of JPII’s “Theology of the Body” explained in his opening presentation at the Congress, while he was in complete agreement with Paul VI, John Paul II saw the need for a more comprehensive development and presentation of Humanae Vitae. The argument for contraception, and more broadly God’s purpose embedded in human sexuality, needed to be fleshed out, expanded, and presented in a way that the culture could hear and understand.
Thus, there followed a series of 129 Wednesday presentations given by Pope JPII and spanning a little more than 5 years. When compiled this theology presents a Christian anthropology in which we can see God’s purpose of love for man written in our bodies, male and female. This work is dense but approachable with the aid of the many current interpretive works available, Christopher West’s work being noteworthy. It is a necessary study for anyone wishing to understand marriage, family, and today’s culture which is in such a mess regarding sexuality.
We can only touch on some of the topics and points made during the Congress. Perhaps these thoughts will entice, and as well be more valuable to you in that they represent our take-aways as a Catholic couple married over 50 years who are deeply interested in growing our faith.
To begin, two key quotes of John Paul II that frame TOB:
- “The law of the Gift: your being increases to the measure that you give it away” …we were made to give and receive love.
- “Freedom exists for the sake of love” …it is in giving ourselves in love that we become most authentically who God intended us to be…and happy.
At the heart of JPII’s teaching is an anthropology centered on the “spousal analogy of the body”. Our bodies, male and female, reveal God’s original plan for us. A man’s and a woman’s body only make sense when viewed in relationship to each other. They fit together like puzzle pieces. Their complementarity reveals a call to love and to receive love. In marriage, this “becoming one body”, this intercourse fulfills the two purposes of marriage the unitive and the procreative.
This spousal love is self-sacrificing; it is for the sake of the other. It is opposed at its roots to the antithesis of love, which is use. To use another for my own purposes, my own pleasures degrades and destroys.
Spousal love is an echo in the world of the love within the Trinity. The Father gives Himself totally to the Son. He empties Himself in a free, total, fruitful act of love and gift… a gift which the Son receives, and, in perfect reciprocity, returns in love to the Father. That love, that bond of love between Father and Son is in fact the third person of the Blessed Trinity.
This spousal love also mirrors the love of Christ, the groom, for His bride the Church.
Our true sexual identity, confused by the effects of Original Sin, is being recovered, redeemed through the graces merited by Jesus Christ’ suffering and death on the cross, and by His resurrection.
John Paul II says that our actions are a form of speaking and that we are what we do. Contraception strikes at the heart of God’s plan for spousal love because by it we say “No” to life, to the fruitfulness God intended in His original plan of creation. We say no to God’s plan that through Him we participate in the creation of new life in the world.
As John Paul II, and Paul VI before him said, when we use contraception to sterilize an act of intercourse, an act of love, we are speaking with our bodies. We are saying “No” to life, “No” to love, “No” to God.
So, we encourage you to read and learn more about the “Theology of the Body”. It will build your married love, and it provides an important and meaningful way to introduce your children to the beauty of sexuality as designed by God.
“Annunciation Ministries”, annunciationministries.com
“Theology of the Body Institute”, tobinstitute.org
“Theology of the Body Explained”, Christopher West, Pauline Press
“Men, Women and the Mystery of Love…Practical Insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility”, Edward Sri, Servant Books
“Men and Women are from Eden”, Mary Healey
For Teens and children:
“Ascension Press”, ascensionpress.com
“You: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body”
“Theology of the Body for Teens: Middle School Edition”
“Books for Children”, tobinstitute.orgTags: Marriage Enrichment, Married Couples, Theology of the Body