Subscribe via RSS Feed

News from Rome: An International Theology of the Body Symposium

November 16, AD 2011 14 Comments

Yes! The Church in Europe is more alive and renewing itself than rumors would have you think. In fact, Christ is constantly loving and sanctifying his Church all over the world. Or as John Paul II would say, “The quoted text [Eph 5:27] highlights that the same Bridegroom, Christ, takes care to adorn the Bride, the Church, in order that she might be beautiful with the beauty of grace, beautiful in virtue of the gift of salvation in its fullness…” (Theology of the Body 91:8).

This past week, an International Symposium on Theology of the Body took place in Rome (here are two articles at Zenit about it: one in Portuguese and one in English). I wasn’t able to go, but I interviewed someone who was: Daniel (who also happens to be my boyfriend!). Daniel is a medical doctor in Lisbon, Portugal and works in oncology.

1. How did you decide to go to this Symposium?

I had originally planned to go with my girlfriend, but then she wasn’t able to go. I was unsure because in my heart, I felt these teachings made sense, but it didn’t make sense in my mind. During that same weekend, an oncology congress was being held and I felt divided. I talked to a couple that advises us and they helped me think about what was most important. I realized I couldn’t be half-Christian, half-something else. It was during mass that I felt the call to go and decided I should be all-Christian, so I chose to go to the Symposium.

2. What were your expectations going into this Symposium and how did the experience match up?

I was afraid it would be a bunch of theologians talking about some rules and readings that didn’t make sense to me. The theologians were there. However, to my surprise, they made a lot more sense than I had expected. They really touched my heart. Living the sacraments together with the teachings made me go deep inside myself and start a conversion process that I want to continue now that the Symposium is over.

3. What was your most memorable experience from this Symposium?

I would say two: praying in St. Peter’s Basilica and talking to Christopher West. I had already been to Saint Peter’s Basilica, but had never understood much about it. I used to think it was an unintelligent way to spend a lot of money. But in this Symposium, the seminary that hosted gave us a guided tour through the Basilica and explained the deep meaning of it all. Understanding the architecture, that in the very center of the Basilica is the tomb of St. Peter, that it all can be related to the Trinity and to some extent Theology of the Body was amazing. About Christopher West, it was so nice to see him with his son and how simple, honest and good they are.

4. What was your favorite thing that you learned?

That the only thing I can do is to show my wounds.

5. How do you think this Symposium impacted your spiritual life?

It helped me see that my spiritual life is really related to my bodily life. I live my spirit with my body. It pointed me to the fact that we are all called to an inner journey to search for our wounds and to expose them… that Christ can heal us.

6. How did it impact the other areas of your life?

I really think the different areas of my life are related. They should all have Christ as the foundation. Living this is not merely intellectual, theological or spiritual exercise, but also a bodily journey. I am called to pure relationships, whether in my work with sick people or in my family life.

7. What did this Symposium inspire you to do and what do you hope to bring back to Portugal with you?

I was invited by Christopher West to go to his Immersion Course and I’d really like to. I think this teaching can be related to issues on suffering and dying, so I think I would benefit from getting to know more about it. Besides that, I feel called to live in relationship in my life. The Trinity is a community of persons in pure relationships (all giving), and I am also called to give with all my bodily matter… called to self-donation. I want to try to live that in my daily life: here in the hospital, in my relationships and in the Church.

Theology of the Body  is a compilation of 129 catecheses, a legacy given to us by John Paul II at Wednesday General Audiences, about human love in the divine plan. One national U.S. congress and three international symposiums have already been held with specialists on this topic, and the next international symposium is scheduled for early June of 2013 in Fatima, Portugal. Bookmark this site for future news!

Image sources here and here

Filed in: Religion • Tags: , ,

About the Author:

Julie Machado is a 30-year-old wife, mother and Portuguese-American who grew up in California, but moved to Portugal for college and has been there ever since. She has a degree in Theology from the Catholic University of Lisbon and has special interest in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. She blogs at Marta, Julie e Maria.

  • Jamie

    My husband went to this Symposium! And he thinks he saw the man who was interviewed! Small world. 🙂

  • Julie Rodrigues

    No way! That is awesome. How was the experience for him? Did he also love it?

  • I am a sucker for any pictures of the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica, very nice.

  • Nelson Brito

    Congratulations, Julie and Daniel!

  • richard

    The Church is indeed alive and resilient.

  • “4. What was your favorite thing that you learned?

    That the only thing I can do is to show my wounds.”

    Huh? What is that supposed to mean? What “wounds”, and who are we supposed to show them to? To God? He already sees them. To our neighbors? They’ll call the police. This boards on the utterly stupid, a phrase with as much meaning as “change you can believe in.” Could there be a better example of the foggy, confused, and utterly ridiculous logic of this generation of novus ordo/neo-con Catholics?

  • schmenz

    A respected theologian (with impeccable credentials) recently wrote to me that the Church will one day have to condemn this “theology” of the body nonsense. I hope it is sooner rather than later.

    With a world sodden with vice, both natural and unnatural, here we have a “theology” that throws gasoline on that particular fire. It is a theology that directly contradicts the sound teachings of St Thomas Aquinas and others who so admirably state that these lower passions are so overpowering that they are capable of making one forget reason. But John Paul II wants to sacramentalize these passions. It is mind-boggling, to say the least.

    Let us look back at solid and sound Church teaching from our 2,000 year old patrimony, and let us leave these novelties alone. The Church and the souls it protects will not be saved by trying to elevate the marital act to the level of Eucharist; it will be saved by prudence in these kinds of matters, and a holy reticence.

    • kim

      Yeah let^s go back To pope gregory the Great who hailed sex in marriage a necesary evil tainted with sin.Let^s go back to Innocent III who wanted a celibate priesthood because sex in marriage defiles a person.How about cutting the penis off as Origen a church father did because he disdained sexuality ? Lets go back to condemning the railroad as a work of the devil like pope gregory 16,lets go back & cindemn democracy & hail slavery as moral like Pope pius IX.While I am no fan of JPII,I know that crazy wacko Rad Trads are ignorant of Church history & theology

  • Ray

    @David Werling – to “show one’s wounds” is to be continually open to the grace of God to heal the ways in which we’ve been harmed/wounded/hurt over the years. To explain it fully here would be impossible. The short version, though, is that we need to be willing to expose our wounds to God and, yes, in some way, to neighbor so that we don’t try to hide our hurt, to repress what’s caused us pain. As for your “impeccable” logic of “God already knows” – you could apply that to anything. Why pray? God already knows what we need. Why go to Mass? God already knows we love him. Why love neighbor? God already loves them. Why feed the hungry? God already knows they need food. Why provide for the poor? God already knows their needs. Do try to read or understand anything before spouting off angrily.

    @Schmenz – You suggest that we need to subjugate our “lower passions” to the point of repression, as though mastery of them means pretending they don’t exist. Bl. John Paul and his work on Theology of Body suggest we need to subjugate those lower passions to the point of redemption. Our lower passions are part of who we are as people. They’re not some hideous anomalous appendage tacked on after the Fall. True, those passions and their direction have been corrupted and perverted by a fallen world, but nevertheless, they’re part of our personhood. We need to master them and redeem them so as to have a complete view of ourselves as persons, directing those passions to their proper use. If you care to suggest that the marital embrace and sexual desire are to be borne entirely on the back of the “higher faculties” of reason, intellect, and will -completely void of “lower faculties” such as passion- then I suggest sex for you isn’t terribly interesting.

    My question for both of you is, as it always is for such ardent opponents of this topic: Have you read Bl. John Paul’s talks? Have you read anything by Christopher West? Have you read anything by anyone who teaches and promotes this “Theology of the Body”? If you haven’t, then I humbly ask that you keep your entirely baseless and unfounded opinions to yourself, since you really have nothing from which to work. I could vehemently claim that the Ford Mustang is an infinitely superior car to the Honda Civic and that the Japanese were entirely stupid for ever thinking they could ever enlighten the world on new car technology, but since I actually know next-to-nothing about cars, it would be more or less like a clanging gong, no?

  • Thank you, Ray.

  • Julie Rodrigues

    Yes, thank you Ray! Wow, I definitely could not have thought of such fabulous explanations. And thank you also David and Schemnz. Even though I obviously don’t agree with your opinions, it’s always great to have a debate going.

    I would just say to Schmenz about “Let us look back at solid and sound Church teaching from our 2,000 year old patrimony, and let us leave these novelties alone. The Church and the souls it protects will not be saved by trying to elevate the marital act to the level of Eucharist; it will be saved by prudence in these kinds of matters, and a holy reticence.” …What church do you belong to if not the one in which we believe the pope is guided in a special way by the Holy Spirit when teaching about faith and morals? And if you read TOB, as Ray says, you’ll see in the introduction the reasons why it’s considered magisterium. And when you say “let US look back at 2000 years”… who is us? Me and you? Because that’s pretty much what JPII does with Theology of the Body.

  • Wow! What an awesome interview. JP II’s teachings on the Theology of the Body have changed my life. They have been a beacon of hope to me in a world where I mostly see despair. They have taught me so much about myself and about the beauty of God’s plan for humanity. I’m currently reading JP II’s “Love and Responsibility” and it is also truly enlightening. Thank you for this post!

    P.S.-How does one attend one of these Symposiums?

  • Julie Rodrigues

    Thanks Nadi!
    PS Attend just by signing up. You have to hear about it though, which might be the hard part sometimes! As far as I know, Fatima will be the next one, but maybe you can sign up for the TOB Institute newsletter ( to be up-to-date about events or try one of their immersion courses.

  • José Ledesma

    Great interview. I also had the grace to attend, and I can say the same than Daniel, even we share the same favorite thing that we learned.

    I would like to get in touch by email.