Theology of the Body in One Paragraph (Unabridged version)

a red roseI see so much effort today placed on training to be chaste, how to maintain chastity, and all of it seems focused on the anatomy of the body, but ignores so much more that is vital. I found this short passage in my trusty old catechism from 1920. How far away from tradition have we come today! Busy-bodies and guarding the tongue are essential to preserving chastity? Who says that these days?

St. Augustine declares that the preservation of chastity is the greatest victory achieved by the Christian, and requires the hardest struggle. The Fathers of the Church call it a martyrdom; a blood less martyrdom, it is true, but not on that account the less sublime. For the martyr’s agony is short, and admits him immediately to celestial glory; whereas the safe-guarding of chastity demands a prolonged, a lifelong conflict.

As a single person, I’d like to punctuate that point in the paragraph — and I certainly hope in the promise! But I’d like to emphasize that I don’t hear chastity talk of our times presented in these terms. Chastity talk today seems to take the opposite premise — that it is the norm to be able to preserve chastity. I prefer this source, because it is well stated and mirrors my experience in a way I can verify what it says to be true.

What comes next is the part nobody talks about, but is so important. What comes next is the secret to all of it. What comes next is worth clicking on the donate button and donating to Bellarmine Forum for saving you lots of money on endless books that don’t mention these things:

Self-control has been enlarged upon under the head of the means of attaining perfection in general. We may particularize the necessity of bridling the tongue and observing custody of the eyes. St. Augustine says that tattlers and busy-bodies are in great danger of losing their purity. Death comes up into the soul through the window of the eyes (Jer. ix. 21). The lion is said to be tamed by blindfolding him ; so we can subdue our evil proclivities by strict custody of the eyes. Fasting is another aid to the preservation of purity; the flesh is tamed, just as animals are, by depriving them of food. ” Be not drunk with wine,” says the Apostle, “wherein is luxury” (Eph. v. 18). “Feasting fosters fleshly lusts,” says St. Ambrose, ” and wine heats the blood and in flames the passions of young men.” Prayer and the sacraments are means of grace without which it is impossible to conquer one’s self.

I had to take a break in the paragraph to warn you to pay attention to this next quote — holy moly! Note that these are doctors of the Church saying this (not some random guy off the street with a correspondence degree!).

“It is a mistake,” says St. John Chrysostom, “to imagine that one can in one’s own strength vanquish concupiscence and preserve purity; by God’s mercy alone can the passions of nature be controlled.” No man can otherwise be continent, unless God give it him (Wisd. viii. 21). Through confession and communion the will is strengthened and man is enabled to avoid sin. The Adorable Sacrament of the Altar is the corn of the elect, and a wine springing forth virgins (Zach. ix. 17).

Fasting? Who talks about fasting anymore? You can’t even see people abstain from meat, let alone fast. How else would people today be chaste? Has the human body changed in the past 100 years?

And there you have it: everything you need to know about Theology of the Body today!

This article, Theology of the Body in One Paragraph (Unabridged version) is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

John B. Manos

John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benziger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.
  • Carla Reynolds says:

    So, you are saying that there is nothing good to be gained by studying the work and writings of Bl.Pope JPII titled, Theology of the Body?

    • John B. Manos says:

      Thanks for the comment, Carla. No, I am not saying that at all. In fact, the opposite.

      First, let’s clear up with “Theology of the Body” is — it’s a series of 129 General Audience homilies given by JPII starting in 1979. By my account, roughly 10% of those homilies covered the topic of controlling speech and the tongue. As far as I’ve seen in the popularized, traveling circus “self-help-style” study series floating around today, they never discuss this aspect.

      If JPII and fathers of the Church thought that controlling one’s speech (telling the truth, not gossiping, not backbiting, etc.) was a key aspect of chastity, why do these side shows ignore it?

      I’m particularly disappointed in the aspect of the popular treatments that approach dating as something to be feared. Yet, they treat dating as if it is a dance on the third rail and eternal peril is the focus of the endeavor. Sad.

      Yes, study JPII’s 129 general audience discussions. But what I was pointing out here is that the topic is entirely encapsulated in the paragraph I cited here. Those are the key concepts — if you see these key concepts missing in some discussions, then they aren’t giving you Theology of the Body, but some subset thereof.

  • Joey Higgins says:

    Carla, come on! That is not what is being said at all and judging from your comment, you have missed the entire point of this post.

    What you have done is an example of a, “Straw Man,” fallacy, where you construct a false “straw man” version of what the author had said and defeat that argument. In this case, stating that “nothing good can come from studying the TOB” is wholly different than saying, “All you need to know about TOB.”

    If one studied TOB and came to the same points the author did, then that would be good, right?

    • John B. Manos says:

      Thanks Joey!

      I was beginning to doubt myself there — thinking I had not expressed my gist well. You got it, though!

    • Carla says:

      i just lost my entire reply for the error of not filling in all the fields…that is very frustrating :/
      I can’t rewrite my reply. But you are right: I did not get the point of the post. I am glad that you did. Maybe you can enlighten me as you did with the ‘straw man’ fallacy. Which I thank you for by the way…


  • Carla says:

    This conversation format is too much for me to deal with (I saw Higgins comment before yours etc.,) , which is too bad…really appreciate your explanation John…trying to steer my 26 year old son in the right direction and he’s been severly deprived spiritually in his upbringing so I thought I was doing something good for him in giving him a couple of books that others have written about TOB. What a great connection you made with the 10%…I take it to heart…I wish I knew how to help my sons more than praying for their conversions…maybe others are able to still gain in the places where you find much lacking? I hope…

    • John B. Manos says:

      That’s a noble endeavor, Carla! St. Monica is probably watching with great care thinking of her time tending to her son!

      I think, since you want him to catch up on spirituality, that Theology of the Body is a little too limited in scope for getting a person in touch with the person of God. I say that because, in my experience, the materials on Theology of the Body floating around are too heavily focused on sexuality and chastity, and when I hear you say, “spirituality,” I think of a person’s relationship with God and His saints — as in conversation with living, albeit invisible, persons.

      Is your son interested in the faith? Does he gravitate towards certain topics? Do you talk of God as a living person present to you and him?

      I think it’s an uphill battle to get people today just to apprehend objective reality, let alone begin to comprehend invisible persons. Does he know he has a guardian angel that God gave him at his conception?

      It’s difficult to give good advice in this context, but I guess that’s where to start: talking with him about all kinds of topics of faith and seeing what interests him and running with him. Oh, and I know that commending your son to St. Joseph’s care is never a bad idea, either. 🙂

  • Carla says:

    What a great kindness you have shown to me…John Manos, I am going to pray that God may use, for His Glory, your wonderful talents, for the young people out there especially, who desperately need what you have to share with them.

    I came into full communion with the church five years ago and my sons witnessed my dramatic beginning conversion fourteen years ago and were mostly exposed to the protestant faith. My eldest is now ‘ripe’ as I see him and searching for God, to better himself, to be right with the Lord….but there are so many conflicting ideas as he sees it. I am trying to help him with an RCIA group (it’s not easy in the liberal area where he lives but a good catholic father that I know is willing to join the team at a nearby parish just for him). I thought of TOB because he mostly desires a relationship, this is where he is deeply wounded, and he shares with me the fact that he is addicted to porn. My sons see my faith and I share as much as I can with them. My eldest trusts in Jesus, that’s his bottom line.

    With my Rosary, I daily bind all of my children to Mary’s Immaculate Heart; I will include commending them to Holy Saint Joseph in that.

    Mary, help of Christians; pray for us! +M

    • John B. Manos says:

      Thanks be to God for that, Carla!

      By any chance, have you seen the Fr. Hardon archives online? He speaks slowly, but trust me, it’s some of the best stuff around!

      You might see if your son is interested in the Marian catechist program – it will teach the faith week enough to become a catechist! Plus, I have utmost confidence in Fr. Hardon’s catechetical expertise.

      I guarantee it will challenge him – even if he pokes fun at how slowly Father spoke- father poked fun at himself for it !!!

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