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Turn to Jesus (Article)

The Theology of the Body: An Interview (Part III)
Fr Walter Schu, LC, on the concept of man behind theology of the body.

baby and parents

The following is a continuation of Kelly Luttinen’s interview with Fr Walter Schu, LC, on the Theology of the Body. In this section, Fr Walter comments on the concept of man behind Theology of the Body.

18. One of the themes of Theology of the Body touches on how we are not going to be able to heal the ills of this world, like war, global warming, etc, until we heal the relationship between man and woman. Can you discuss that?

This is at the heart of TOB.  All conflicts in the world come from that inner conflict in man himself, in each person, as a result of being wounded by sin   Christ comes to restore that original plan that God had for man and woman before the fall.  Adam is created in the midst of the Garden of Eden, amidst all creation. He is able to name all God’s creatures, and he has understanding of them and has authority over them, and yet he feels alone.  Why? Out of all these creatures, there is no one who can receive that gift of love, of his very self, and no one who can make that gift of love to him.  When God creates Eve, Adam exclaims, “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”  This beautiful expression helps us to see how Adam perceives the “person” of Eve through her body.

John Paul II speaks of that original innocence that Adam and Eve had. They are both naked and yet they are not ashamed.  How is this possible?  Before the fall, they see in each other’s bodies, not something to be used, but someone – a person -- to be loved.  We lose this ability with the fall.  This is one of the challenges of the Theology of the Body, to realize that Christ comes to bring that healing to our relationships, to help us regain what we have lost so we see others as persons to be loved and not used.

This is one of the anthropological differences between contraception and national family planning.  NFP sees another as a person in their wholeness, to be loved, and not reduced to an object which can be used for sensual satisfaction.

19. TOB gives an exalted and amazing view of what it means to be a human person.  Christ lifted up our nature beyond anything we could have hoped for.  Can you speak to this?

This is part of John Paul II’s adequate anthropology of the human person. To understand the fullness and beauty of Humanae Vitae, we need to see true vision of the human person. This what he did during those 5 years of Wednesday audiences.

The first stage of the anthropology is “Original Man,” where Adam and Eve are in the Garden before sin, showing their original experiences of innocence and being naked without shame.

The second stage is “Historical Man,” in which man and woman live after the fall, tainted by sin, and experience shame before God and each other. This is where lust first appears.  They realize that they cannot easily perceive the “spousal meaning of the body,” which is the fact that they we were created to be a gift to one another, because of lust.

When Christ sees man “fallen” man, as John Paul II describes, he cannot just past by and leave us wounded by the side of the road, and he himself becomes the good Samaritan and takes on our flesh.  By his death and resurrection he not only redeems our souls but our bodies, and makes it possible to reclaim that original plan for man and woman. He restores marriage to its original plan.  And he knows we cannot do this on our own, but only with the help of his grace.

We see that with the Pharisees, when they speak about divorce, Christ says, “In the beginning it was no so,” and that, “What God has joined, let no man rend asunder.”  So he restores marriage to its original plan, and he knows we cannot live this on our own, but only with his grace and sacraments and with prayer.  Then it is possible to reach that original idea of God’s plan, even on this earth.  But it will never come easy, without asceticism and sacrifice, it never will come without personal effort.  But Christ is always there in the sacrament of reconciliation to help us start anew.

20. There is a third part to the adequate anthropology about what we are called to in the next life, of which the love of man and woman, at its best, gives us a glimpse.

Yes, and that is precisely “eschatological man.” Eschatology is one of those fancy terms that theologians toss about, but it is as simple about meeting our final destiny to be with God in Heaven.  Here is where the true meaning of marriage is fulfilled.  We cannot understand who we are as persons without understanding the spousal meaning of the body.  If we are called to be married on earth, but not in Heaven, how can the spousal meaning of the body represent the meaning of our existence?  The fundamental answer comes in Christ’s incarnation. Christ has taken on flesh.  He is the Bridegroom, and we as his Church, are in a sense, the bride. In Heaven the meaning of marriage is fulfilled as each of us is “married” to Christ, and will have that intimate and person relationship with him, and through Christ, with each other.     

This will be a completely spiritual relationship, and will be more deep and more intimate that we can imagine in this life.

And this is where celibacy comes in to the Theology of the Body.  Marriage complements and shows the depth and richness of celibacy, and celibacy complements and shows the beauty of marriage.  Celibacy, in a certain way, is making present here on this earth that anticipation of the fullness of the meaning of marriage in heaven.  Celibates have that direct consecration to Christ that each of us will have in heaven.  Celibacy fulfills the spousal meaning of the body.  It is not self-giving to one human person, but a universal self-giving to everyone through a personal self-giving to Christ.  In Heaven, we will have direct self-giving to Christ, and through that universal self-giving to all.

21. Today there is the buzzword of “tolerance” but no real idea of what sin is.  Our current generation is having difficulty understanding the teachings of the Church, You discuss in your book a proper idea of sin and redemption.

Tolerance is a necessary Christian virtue.  It would be hard to find someone more tolerant than Christ, who was certainly tolerant of those who crucified him.  But you can also see it through the eyes of GK Chesterton, who says that tolerance is the virtue a society has left when it abandons all of its other virtues and convictions.  A negative aspect to tolerance is where anything goes. Here tolerance is the opposite of love, and the opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference. In a certain sense, if you let another person do anything, even if it goes against the way they were created, that obviously is going to be harmful to them.  So this sort of tolerance is not true love.  True love is raising another to the dignity of how they were created to be and their true calling in life.

22. I saw in the picture in the back of the book that you got to meet John Paul II.  What was it like to meet the man many believe was a living saint at the time?

That’s for sure.  There’s no doubt about that.  He is John Paul the Great.  He is certainly praying for us in heaven right now.  Well, I had the grace, while I studying in Rome, where I was able to serve Mass for him three times.  That was a real thrill.  He always took the time after Mass to stop and shake hands and talk for a moment with all the acolytes.  That picture was taken during one of those times. I think it was the Easter Sunday Mass.  Just being in the Pope’s presence was a tremendous experience.  He had a happiness and peace and joy that just radiated from him. You could tell that when he looked at you in the eyes, for that moment, you were the only person he was interested in, as if you were the only one in the world.  You could just see how he had that individual love for each person.  It was joy to be in his presence even if it wasn’t for very long

23. Considering John Paul II’s call to a New Evangelization, can you discuss ways people can get involved in spreading this message, perhaps with the help of the Legion and Regnum Christi?

One apostolate of Regnum Christi is called Familia, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  They have started a program for couples based on my book, The Splendor of Love.  Couples get together regularly to go over the workbooks and discuss questions on the Theology of the Body. They talk about how it can be part of their life, with its joys and challenges. It is a very beautiful way to make the Theology of the Body a part of your life. Then it is not just something you hear at a conference, and its sounds nice, but then you go your own way.

For more information call 763-391-0204, and ask for Jean Stolpestod, who will send you information on the program.  I’m convinced couples will get some real concrete fruits from this study.

[Note: to read an article about how Regnum Christi member Jennifer Haggerty is spreading the message of Theology of the Body at St John Vianney Catholic School in Illinois, click here. Along the same lines, Everest Collegiate High School in Clarkston, Michigan is currently teaching the Ascension Press TOB for Teens program. Father Daniel Pajerski teaches it at the Boys’ School and consecrated woman Jana Crea teaches it at the Girls’ School.]

24. Tell us how to get a hold of your book?

The book is published by New Hope Press in New Hope, Kentucky.  They have a toll free number 1-800- 764-8444. 

Also , if you’re looking for another good book on Theology of the Body, I recommend  Called to Love by Carl Anderson and Fr. Granados.  It is one of the best I’ve read.

Interview continues here.



Related links web site
Mission Network
Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center and the Center for Family Development
Changing Hearts
Cancun-Chetumal Prelature
Helping Hands Medical Missions

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