|Fr Walter Schu, LC|
BY FATHER WALTER SCHU, LC
Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register.
As he gazes down from the window of
the Father’s house at the exuberant fans of his theology
of the body, John Paul II must be smiling. How
could the Pope who once exhorted the Church to “put
out into the deep” in quest of the New Evangelization
not be pleased?
After all, nothing could be nearer the
heart of the New Evangelization than the true meaning of
sex, right? Or is that right? Or, just as crucially,
is sex really what theology of the body is all
Not according to Michael Waldstein, translator of the definitive English
version of the 129 Wednesday audiences containing John Paul II’s
teaching on married love, celibacy and fruitfulness. In a 2010
summer course, Waldstein did not hesitate to affirm, “John Paul
II’s concern in the theology of the body is the
Gospel. It would be an error to get sidelined with
what is always attractive to people: sexuality.”
Naturally, Waldstein doesn’t mean
to deny the large role that sexuality plays in TOB.
After all, it is a central thesis of John Paul
II that God created us male and female so husband
and wife could incarnate the gift of their entire self
to one another in the marital embrace. Even more, this
complete self-giving lies at the very core of who we
are as persons (see Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 24,3).
But true self-giving love encompasses a much broader horizon than
the mere act of sexual union. Adam and Eve were
not created simultaneously. Adam was created first. Why? The Genesis
account reveals an experience present in the life of every
human person: “original solitude.” Before Eve was created, Adam stood
utterly alone in front of God, his creator.
us cannot recall such fundamental experiences of being alone in
our own lives? One occasion that will always remain etched
in my memory was the snowy Minnesota night I returned
home after attending Midnight Mass during my first semester in
college. Dad and Mom, my three brothers and three sisters
were all safely inside the house, sound asleep. As I
gazed up at the immensity of the starry night, with
a few flakes of snow beginning to fall softly, I
realized that no matter how close we might be to
one another as a family, my life was now on
a different trajectory than theirs.
Adam’s experience of original solitude reveals
that ultimately each one of us stands alone before God.
First and foremost we belong to our Creator. Although the
deep inner meaning of the human body, created male and
female, is spousal, even before that its original meaning is
virginal. As Waldstein reflects, “In the first place we are
a gift back to the Creator. It is to him
that we belong bodily. So the virginal meaning of the
body, in which we give ourselves to God, is the
first meaning of the body at creation and its eternal
meaning in heaven. Sex is a little episode between the
beginning and eternity, in which the body will be virginal
The celibate vocation anticipates on earth the ultimate fulfillment
of marriage in heaven, the eternal realization of the deepest
meaning of the body, when each of us will make
a gift of ourselves to Christ, the bridegroom, and receive
in return the very gift of Christ himself. Waldstein concludes,
“Married persons are between the divine origin and the definitive
goal in the heavenly Jerusalem. Sexual lives, inasmuch as they
are sexual, are a brief episode in the grand picture.
Sexuality has its wonderful and beautiful place, but a small
Approaching the theology of the body in this manner, from
its internal “logic of the gift,” reveals it to be
not merely a theology of sexuality, but one of communion.
And where can that deepest possible communion of persons be
found? In the eternal union between the Father, the Son
and the Holy Spirit. The continual self-gift of the three
Persons of the blessed Trinity overflows, not only in the
gift of our own bodily existence, but in the gift
of the incarnate Son as our redeemer. Christ has redeemed
us — both in soul and in body — and
at the price of his agonizing death on the cross!
revelation of such love evokes in us the experience of
wonder. It is precisely this deep wonder, rooted in love,
that instills the driving force which propels the New Evangelization.
“In reality, the name for that deep wonder at man’s
worth and dignity is the Gospel, that is to say:
the Good News. It is also called Christianity. This wonder
determines the Church’s mission in the world and, perhaps even
more so, ‘in the modern world’” (John Paul II, Redemptor
On Oct. 12, Pope Benedict XVI revealed just how
close the New Evangelization is to his own heart. By
promulgating the motu proprio entitled Ubicumque et Semper (Everywhere and
Always), he established a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.
The newly created Vatican office is charged with coordinating plans
to renew the vigor of the faith in regions where
it was once dominant but has lost ground to the
forces of secularization — notably Europe and North America.
he gazes from his lighted Vatican window, calling briefly to
mind the dedicated promoters of the theology of the body,
Pope Benedict must be smiling.
Legionary Father Walter Schu is a
moral theologian and the author of The Splendor of Love:
John Paul II’s Vision for Marriage and Family (2003, New
Hope) as well as numerous articles on theology of the