When I was a young father like many other fathers I helped coach my daughter’s T-Ball team. My daughter Chelsea played only two seasons of T-Ball and my wife and I came to the conclusion that baseball/softball was not her sport. She just didn’t have the coordination for the game or so we thought. The following summer, right before the start of school, we took Chelsea to the eye doctor for a check-up and found out that her vision was very poor and that she would need glasses. I remember when she first put them on she began to read road signs and store signs and we were amazed because she said she could never read those before and she always thought that was “normal”.
A couple of weeks later I was playing pitch-and-catch with her in the front yard and lo and behold she could catch. Why, because she could see! She had new lenses as to see the world. She saw and experienced things she never had or could before.
I tell you that story because it is similar to my own faith journey. When I think back on my faith journey, I often think of the story from Mark’s Gospel of the “Blind Man from Bethsaida”, (Mk 8:22-26). To refresh your memory, in the gospel passage the man ask Jesus to give him sight and Jesus spits into some dirt and smears the mud on his eyes and ask him if he sees anything. He tells him, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” Jesus has to lay hands on his eyes a second time for full vision to be restored. The first time Jesus touched my “eyes” was as a young child through the faith that was given to me by my grandmother and other friends and family that God had put into my life. The second time Jesus touched my “eyes” was through the study of Pope John Paul II and his writings on The Theology of the Body.
I was first introduced to Theology of the Body while in graduate school at St. Meinrad School of Theology where I received my Masters Degree in 2006. As I read and studied this brilliant work by our great pontiff, the faith started to make more sense to me. Things began to be clearer, especially in the area of morality, more specifically sexual morality. As I studied in class I began to bring these teachings into my life and my classroom at Trinity High School. I knew that this was certainly “Good News” that needed to be heard by all. However, last June I had the privilege to attend a week-long immersion class in Theology of the Body in Pennsylvania through the Theology of the Body Institute. It was here that Jesus gave me “New Lenses” to even see more clearly not only the church’s teachings on sexual morality, but how these teachings in morality touches every facet of our lives from how we worship to how we treat our neighbors; from how we give our stewardship dollars to how we vote.
Through the Theology of the Body we come to see the full purpose of man’s existence and the purpose of the body itself. What I learned from John Paul and the Theology of the Body was 1) What does it mean to be human and 2) How do I live my life in a way that will bring true happiness? We first must learn the true meaning of our sexuality and the true meaning of family before we can solve the ills of society. The family is the building block of society and we have come to know, how goes the family is how goes the society and the world.
At the Institute we were immersed into John Paul’s documents for a whole week. We listened to lectures as we studied before the Blessed Sacrament. We had daily mass and confession. We studied alongside others from all across the USA and around the world. We studied with not only Roman Catholics but also Eastern Rite Catholics. At the end of the week it was as if I received “New Lenses” as which to see the world, just like my daughter did those many years ago. I see the Sacraments differently. I see social issues, relationships, my marriage, how I am to be a father and teacher in a whole new perspective. I see Sacred Scripture in a whole new light. I am seeing the Church’s teaching as a whole, not just social justice verses sexual morality. Now they are both/and together as one teaching. It’s as if I have put “flesh” on “the rules”.
I am truly grateful for my time at the Theology of the Body Institute and I have since had the chance to return to the Institute for a class on Catholic Sexual Ethics. I plan to return to further my studies as I would like to pursue a certificate in Theology of the Body Studies. My plan is to share what I learn from the Institute with my students, my parish, and all of the Diocese of Owensboro and possibly the world in any way possible. I like my new lenses. Things just keep getting clearer and clearer.
Joe Bland, MA
Trinity High School