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Theology of the Body gives teens key to life Print
Guest column
Wednesday, May. 12, 2010 -- 1:28 PM

Guest Column

I grew up learning about the gift of life and God's great love for humanity through the example of my own parents. At the same time I grew up hearing very little about the meaning of life, God's plan for my sexuality, and ultimate freedom and happiness.

It was in reading Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West that the teachings of John Paul the Great first came to my attention. Unlike the list of rules I had heard, this new message said whole-heartedly, "Yes!"

Theology of the Body

Pope John Paul II gave the Church what we now call "Theology of the Body" during the first part of his pontificate through 129 short talks between 1979 and 1984. As a youth minister, I have been completely blessed by this teaching.

These topics are important for all persons, especially for teens. Teens crave the Theology of the Body (TOB) -- even though they may not know it at a cognitive level.

They are yearning for answers to life's deepest questions, as well as a positive portrayal of their sexuality, just as I was. John Paul II's vision for the meaning of our bodies and our sexual desires is a topic that connects with teens in a way that speaks to the deepest desires of their hearts.

Teenagers struggle with the culture

Human beings were made for greatness. We were made to know God, know truth, and live life in a way that brings us peace and happiness. These pursuits are often difficult to reflect upon and come by in today's distracting and permissive culture.

As a result, it is perhaps harder to live as a teenager today than any other time before. The wounds our teenagers experience are deep and manifold.

Due to our culture's focus on immediate gratification, many teens have lost their way and in the process have lost hope of attaining the greatness they desire. TOB helps restore their hope because it reveals for our teenagers a road map to real love and authentic happiness.

Theology of the Body for Teens helps them to unlearn the misguided teachings of the modern culture and provide them with the very key to life -- the key to happiness and peace. It also helps them discover the ultimate purpose for which God created them -- communion with him.

Because all these topics are so present in our teens' lives, the parishes of Christ the King, McFarland; St. John the Baptist, Waunakee; St. Patrick, Lodi; and St. John the Baptist, Jefferson, have joined efforts with the Diocese of Madison to bring a three-part series dedicated to sharing Pope John Paul the Great's teaching of Theology of the Body to area diocesan parishes. The final session for this year, "Living out Pope John Paul II's TOB," was held April 11 at St. Ann Parish in Stoughton.

Continuing the series

To continue this "rEVOLution (of Love)" series in the upcoming year, we are inviting interested parents and adults to step forward to help us in the mission of our late Holy Father to share Theology of the Body with the world and especially our high school teens here in the Madison diocese.

We would welcome those interested to join us in a core-team planning meeting on Wednesday, May 12, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Bishop O'Connor Center in Madison. The evening will allow for input and discussion in forming next year's series topics. RSVP on the Diocese of Madison Web site ( and look for the "rEVOLution (of Love)" tab.

Pope John Paul II beautifully articulated that "real love is demanding" and through the "rEVOLution of Love" series we hope to do just that: to encourage future generations to love in a revolutionary way -- one that is not as the world would portray it, but as Christ did. As we celebrate the Easter season, we are reminded very distinctively of the real love Christ shared with all of humanity. A love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.

Tiffany Topel is the director of religious education and youth ministry at St. John the Baptist Parish in Jefferson.