As teenagers grapple with difficult questions of identity, love, and the meaning of life, parents and teachers are seeking a way to respond that is grounded in faith and Catholic teaching. Responding to the need for guidance, Kimmy Zeiler, director of youth ministry for the Diocese of Orlando, coordinated a Theology of the Body training on Dec. 6 for those working with high school students and provided information about Ascension Press’ updated high school program on the subject, “YOU. Life, Love and the Theology of the Body.”
Zeiler said youth and young adults, “are looking for something deeper. They’re looking for the answers to life’s most important questions. Who am I? Why does that matter? Am I worth it? Do I have dignity? Is there something more than all this? And Theology of the Body answers all those questions.”
Presenter, teacher and theology chair at St. Scholastica Academy in Louisiana, Colin McIver, explained, “Theology of the Body is Pope St. John Paul II’s teaching on the meaning of human life, our identity as God’s sons and daughters, our being made body and soul, our being made for relationship and our being made for ultimate communion with God.”
McIver says it is relevant because, “Our core question is about our identity.” McIver is convinced that “American life and culture are rooted in insecurity about our identity.” And the statistics back him up. From 2011-2013, 44% of female teenagers and 47% of male teenagers aged 15-19 had experienced sexual intercourse. Nine out of 10 boys are exposed to pornography before age 18. But contrary to appearances, McIver says, “At the core, teens—and the rest of us— crave the adventure of self-gift over the glut of self-indulgence.”
When this is not attained, it wreaks spiritual havoc—leading to “…disintegration between body and soul, faith and life compartmentalization, and spiritual blindness due to sexual sin,” said McIver.
But there is hope. As Theology of the Body teaches, love is the answer. In Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, he said, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible to himself; his life is senseless if love is not revealed to him, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.” Furthermore, “The human body includes, right from the beginning… the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift – and by means of this gift – fulfills the meaning of his being and existence.”
From the classroom to prison ministry, the YOU program is adaptive. Deacon Manny García said he came for his granddaughters. “I felt I needed to come because they are going through very challenging years of puberty where they need to sort out what God is asking of them. What does it mean that your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit? I would like to be an influence in their lives. And this will be a tool, a beginning,” he said.
Deacon García added, “We are all impressed with what society tells us about pre-marital sex, cohabiting and all those temptations that I would like to fight against and be their warrior. I would like to help my children in that sacred task.”
McIver said, “Theology of the Body’s greatest message is Jesus Christ. If we want to know who we are, then our focus can’t just turn on ourselves. Our focus has to turn on Jesus who reveals who we really are, particularly, when He makes that gift of himself. That is the most important thing if we want healthy relationships; if we want our families to thrive, then we put Christ on the throne where He belongs and things start to fall into place.”