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Apr 30, 2019

Catholic Clergy Formation and Theology of the Body

Fr. Thomas J. Loya, STB

Our culture is wrought with sex abuse, gender confusion, and deviancy. Fortunately, we have been given a gift that is a veritable dagger that we can thrust into the heart of the Culture of Death. It is a gift that can restore for the modern world the truth about human sexuality, life, and what it really means to be human, man and woman. That gift is a teaching by St. John Paul II commonly known as the Theology of the Body.

There is only one Great Mystery—the Incarnation, where an invisible, transcendent, ineffable, immeasurable, Trinitarian God, a union and communion of three distinct Persons yet One God, becomes visible, tangible precisely—and only—through the physical order of creation that God himself put in place. Through the incomprehensible miracle of the Incarnation, all physical matter points to, indeed participates in, the very nature of God. This is most particularly the case for the human person—the highpoint of God’s order of creation. The Theology of the Body is a delivery system, tailored for the modern world, for this incarnational worldview. It is a Eucharistic, sacramental-liturgical, mystical worldview. It is pure reality, the honest vision of life.

The Sacramental-Liturgical Vision

Our sexuality is what makes us most like God. Precisely through our sexuality we can form that union and communion of persons in love and we can love ‘spousally;’ as God loves. The Evil One, who since time immemorial has sought to dismantle God’s order of creation, attacks God’s highpoint of creation in the very place where humanity is most like God. The Church would do well to take up in earnest the weapon, the gift that God has provided us and reconfigure all of the Church’s ministries—and above all priestly formation—through the lens of the Theology of the Body.

As seen through the lens of the Theology of the Body marriage preparation, for example, begins at birth. Throughout a person’s entire life they should be raised with the sense of the mystical, a sacramental-liturgical ethos that imbues a child with wonderment, gratitude and gift. The child learns the spirituality of self-donation so necessary to the vocations of marriage and religious life.

In light of the sex abuse scandals, seminaries may feel the need to teach men to run from their sexuality. This could lead to yet more “do’s and don’ts,” more; “Watch out!” and “Be careful!” This attempt to make priests safe and pure will produce only more sexually disintegrated priests, and a phony purity of heart. The answer is to actually run headlong into our sexuality but with the sacramental-liturgical vision.

The Spousal Meaning of the Body

If we call priests, “Father” they must also be a husband. Their mystical husbandhood and fatherhood must become real to them. Manhood and priesthood define each other. Celibate males must see that their powerful sexuality is not an obstacle to their holiness but rather they can become holy precisely because they have a sex drive. We should not define celibacy in terms of what a man gives up, but rather in terms of what he has chosen to love spousally. He has chosen to marry himself to the Church in a mystical way.

Marriage and celibacy interpenetrate each other. One subsists in the other. Marriages will be holy and happy to the extent that couples can embrace elements of monasticism in their marriages. It is not a question of whether one is celibate or married, but rather does a person see and live their sexuality in a sacramental way, through the complete gift of self?

St. John Paul II said in his Theology of the Body:

“The consciousness of the ‘spousal’ meaning of the body–—constitutes the fundamental component of human existence in the world.”

(TOB 15:5)

Forming our children, our married couples, our single adults and above all forming our priests according to this spousal sacramental-liturgical, incarnational vision together with the necessary ascetical disciplines to live according to this vision, is the gift that God has given us to form a truly “safe” environment.

You May Also Like:

The Virgin Mary and the Theology of the Body (book)

Proclaiming the Theology of the Body: A Seminar for Priests (CD Set)

Into the Heart: A Journey through the Theology of the Body (study program)

About Fr. Thomas J. Loya, STB

Fr. Thomas J. Loya, STB, is the pastor of Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, Illinois. Fr. Loya, who has a master’s degree in counseling and human services, is very dedicated to evangelization through media where he is a regular guest speaker on several Catholic radio programs. His long running radio program “Light of the East Radio”—which can be heard on EWTN Radio affiliates across the United States—brings the beauty of the east to the western world. Using his many gifts, talents, and life experience Fr. Loya uncovers the ageless beauty and genius of the Sacramental Worldview. Anyone who has heard Fr. Loya speak might say that he has the soul of an artist, the mind of a theologian and the compassion of an ascetic.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

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