Forty years ago, today on September 5, 1979 St. John Paul II delivered his first presentation of Theology of the Body (TOB) on St. Peter’s Square in Rome. In the first part of the 20th century the Holy Father observed the growing societal confusion about the meaning of the human person as male and female, and so confusion about the meaning of marriage and family which arises directly from it. This led him to conclude that the crisis of our age is the crisis of the human person. This crisis has only deepened since his passing. In recognition of this this forty-year anniversary I’m sharing a post that I wrote as a guest for Christopher West’s COR Project.
Many who are familiar with TOB know that St. John Paul II identified the problem with the modern world as a fundamental lack of understanding of the meaning and purpose of the human person. Said differently, if we don’t know who we are and why we’re here, we’re going to have a difficult time reaching our true destination. To fill that gap and thus open up the mystery of man, the Holy Father wrote Theology of the Body and delivered it in the form of Wednesday audience addresses from 1979-1984.
Less well-documented is St. John Paul II’s belief in the value of the Rosary to more deeply explore these same truths. In his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pope St. John Paul II wrote about the anthropological significance of the Rosary. He said, “Each mystery of the Rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man.” Hence, we can perceive the mutual effect that the Rosary and TOB might have in aiding our understanding of the human person. This is what fueled a project to bring these two devotions together in the form of Theology of the Body Rosary meditations.
Many of our readers already have a devotion to the Rosary. Our Lady of Fatima, who identified herself as Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, asked us to pray the Rosary — every day. Since the Rosary is a powerful spiritual weapon through which countless miracles and victories have been won, let’s explore further how the Rosary prayed through the lens of TOB could bring about miracles and victories for the dignity of the human person.
In an interview with Cardinal Caffarra, founding president of the JPII Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, Fatima visionary Sr. Lucia prophesized “the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be over marriage and family.” Sr. Lucia’s words seem to have been meant for us to read today. The attack on the triune-God has been gaining ground for years in the form of contraception, abortion, pornography, divorce, same-sex union and more recently under the guise of gender ideology.
The abuse scandal within the Church is bitter fruit of this attack.
In Theology of the Body, St. John Paul II revealed to us how marriage and celibacy are two sides of a coin. Both involve sacramental vows; both demand a sincere and fruitful gift of self. Just as husbands and wives promise to love and be faithful to one another, priests and bishops promise to embody Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church. A world that so willfully supports a disordered view of God’s plan for man and woman in marriage must eventually find itself confronted with a crisis of spiritual leadership. In a recent article in The Catholic Thing, Dr. Carrie Gress writes “When the fundamental piece of society – the family – has been shredded, it shouldn’t surprise us to see similar fallout in the Church. We expect bishops to know better, and to be holy and good, but they too are a product of our torn-asunder culture.”
We must help the world and each other to reclaim our identity and dignity as sons and daughters of God and embrace His loving plan for us. This conviction inspired the creation of the TOB Rosary project and the following two books of Rosary meditations based on Theology of the Body.
On a Mission to Love: Rosary Meditations for Children and Families has as its goal to help people of all ages cultivate a daily habit of praying the Rosary. Its decade-a-day format demands less than five minutes, making it a practical tool for busy lifestyles and busy school days. One-line meditations following each Hail Mary employ scriptural stories of Jesus and Mary to illuminate the meaning and purpose of the human person.
Theology of the Body Rosary Meditations: Contemplating Christ’s Love for His Bride the Church offers a deeper theological perspective on TOB. The theme of God’s spousal love is central, echoing the love story of the Bible: the profound truth that God wants to marry us.
Each book offers rich meditation on the mysteries of the rosary while contemplating more deeply the truths of Theology of the Body and the mystery of man.
As we continue to defend truth in the battle for marriage and family let us remember the words that St. John Paul II so boldly proclaimed: “Be not afraid.” We have been given the tools to win and have good reason to be filled with hope. Scripture promises us that in the end the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church; Mary promises us that in the end her Immaculate Heart with triumph. So, let us unite and beg the intercession of Pope St. John Paul II. Let us place ourselves under the loving guidance and protection of our Blessed Mother, trusting confidently in her promise.
About the Author
Debbie Staresinic is the author of two sets of Rosary meditations inspired by St. John Paul II. Her most recent book “On a Mission to Love: Rosary Meditations for Children and Families” was written with Catholic schools and families in mind. The optional decade a day format helps cultivate the important habit of praying the Rosary daily while instilling the truths about the human person as revealed by Jesus in the Gospel. To learn more about the book, you may go here. The book is also available as a gift set which includes a beautiful children’s rosary.