It has been a while! I’m sorry I haven’t blogged lately; I have been very busy! I have 90 girls registered for my Vera Bella Arizona Program along with a Virtual Program starting in August and am knee deep in details and organization! My children and Vera Bella are keeping me very active in wonderful way so I can’t complain! This past Tuesday I flew to California to join two youth groups who have been coming together to participate in summer talks on the Theology of the Body. They invited me in to speak on one of the topics. Actually, it is one of MY FAVORITE TOPICS to speak on! Below, I share much of what I spoke about at this event.
In The Theology of the Body, Blessed Pope John Paul II says, “The body speaks a language of love.” In 1984, he wrote“…the most profound words of the spirit—words of love, of giving, of fidelity—demand an adequate language of the body. Without that they cannot be expressed.” This means that unless our words match our actions, love cannot be expressed. We must say what we mean and mean what we say.
We know that the body speaks a language! Before I was dating my husband, I saw him at an event and grabbed his arm while I was animated in conversation. He said it was electric! His body spoke a language of attraction based on a simple gesture I made. Most of the day our bodies are speaking stronger words than our mouths can express. When we smile, laugh, get angry, get sad, or hug someone our bodies speak a language.
The question to ponder is, what language is your body speaking? Is it speaking a language of love? If God is love, and we are made in his image, then this divine language that the body speaks of love is actually our native language. But, why then when we look into the culture, do we see many people’s bodies speaking a language of use, abuse, and lies?
Love and truth is the language our bodies should be speaking, but sin, corruption, temptation and lack of knowledge sometimes leads people to live a language of lies.
Blessed John Paul II shares that the most profound language of love the body can speak is through the marital sexual union. It’s the total gift of self. It’s a language that says I will love freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully. It’s a language that frees love from selfishness, use, aggression, and lust.
So many young people desire to be loved, to know love, and to show love. They desire this so much that they end up rushing into and engaging in relationships or encounters with people (often through pre-marital sexual relationships) and in turn the opposite happens, their bodies speak a language of lies instead of their heart’s intent. They believe they are speaking a language of love, but without the commitment of marriage, it will never be an authentic expression of the divine love that our hearts crave.
Sexual union speaks a language of love by insisting that the two people entering into the act will be bonded for life, will be open to children, and will love the other exclusively.
So what do young people do during a time when they desire so deeply to love and be loved? Pope Benedict wrote in Caritas In Veritate, “Charity always manifests God’s love in human relationships.” Therefore, acting charitably with our bodies is how we can express God’s love to the world! If you want to know how to express a language of love with your bodies, start with becoming charitable! Smile. Sit with the person that nobody will sit with at school. Help someone in need.
Blessed John Paul II, also said, “Man cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself.” When our bodies speak this language of charity, sincerity and honesty, we become a gift to another, and in turn, we find out who we are! In addition, I believe it is when we see other peoples’ bodies speak a language of charity, it is an indication that they are capable of truly loving rightly.
It is the language that Christ spoke on the cross with his own body as he suffered pain and agony for us, for our souls, and for our freedom. He didn’t just wear a sign around his neck that said, “Hi, I’m Christ and I love you.” It was the language of his body that revealed his love, and his love was rooted in charity. It was rooted in complete self-donation for another.
It was acts of charity that brought me to the Lord. It was acts of charity that made me fall in love with my husband. It is acts of charity that helped me survive my darkest moments.
In high school, I started going to a Catholic youth group by the forced actions of my mother. She signed me up for a youth group trip without my knowledge or permission and then drove me to the site and dropped me off despite my attempts to get her to let me out of going. The truth is, at the time, I liked my friends at school just fine. I had started at a new school and was making friends with a lot of the popular crowd. I was getting invited to parties, and I was getting into trouble. To me, all was fine. My mom saw things differently. She saw the girl she raised becoming swayed to say and do things that were contrary to my character. My mom worried. She then decided that maybe sending me to Church camp would solve all these problems.
I remember getting on the bus at midnight to go to California with a group of strangers. I didn’t want to be there and quite frankly, I didn’t care who knew it. I was just going to get through this trip and get back to life as normal. But it was this trip that made me see that maybe “my idea of normal” was missing the one thing that the depths of my heart longed for—joy.
I was sitting slumped down in the scratchy cloth seat, with my headphones on to drown out the talking and laughter I was surrounded with as others conversed. My eyes were closed when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I unhooked my headphones from my ears and turned around to see this beautiful blond girl introducing herself. She said, “Hi, I’m Melanie.” I said, “Hi, I’m Melanie, too.” We shared the same name, but we did not share the same joy. Hers beamed as she spoke. I could see it in her eyes. I could feel it in the way she acted. Her body spoke a language of love. She seemed fearless of rejection and was comfortable in her own skin. She is who I wished I was. It was her charity in reaching out to talk to me where I saw a kind of joy I did not see in my friends back at school. I began meeting others on the bus and they, too, had this joy. As I followed them, I saw them pray, I saw them invite, I saw them serve, and I saw them reach out to people they didn’t know. Their charitable acts were done with joy. And the closer I came to their joy the more I realized the source. It was God.
St. Francis once said, “Preach the Gospel and sometimes use words.” My peers at this church by their actions lead me to seek out a relationship with God when I was a sophomore in high school. Their charity towards me is responsible for my transformation of heart. Their bodies spoke a language of love and it was so pure that it lead me right to the Lord.
I came back a changed girl. I wore a cross, went to Mass weekly with a smile, started going to prayer group, stopped going to parties, broke friendships with bad friends, and began to serve regularly at the Missionaries of Charity and with a community in Mexico. My heart was full. I was comfortable in my own skin and the love I so desired to give another was given to the poor person I served in my mission work. I was becoming fully alive as I offered myself as a gift.
I thought my faith was unshakable. I was strong! Then, I went off to college and lived in a co-ed dorm with a bunch of new strangers. Without even realizing it, I began to make small decisions that soon left me looking in a mirror unable to recognize myself.
It all came to a head, one Sunday morning as I walked out to go to Mass and saw one of my new guy-friends who had known me for four months by this time. He said, “Where are you going?” I said, “To Church.” This was actually the first time I had told one of my new friends that I went to Mass on Sundays. I was nervous about what he would think. He laughed and said, “No, where are you really going?” Confused, I said again, “Church.” His pitch got higher, “What! No way, not you.” I felt the need to defend myself, so I began to tell him how I had been going to church and prayer groups for years, and how I served the poor. He said, “Well, I would have never guessed.” I said with a frown,” Why?” Then he said the words that I will never forget. He shared, “With the way that you dress, the way that you flirt, and dance around here, I would have never guessed you to be a Catholic girl.”
My heart broke. I sold-out! That was the moment I realized my body was speaking a language about me that I did not intend. It was speaking a language of lies against the person I knew myself to be. I had to change. I had to take an inventory of my new choices and actions and decide if they spoke a language of love or a language of lies. It was hard, but not impossible and eventually, I found myself back to experiencing the same joy I had craved in high school, but had slowly fading with my bad choices.
Later in my 20’s, I was traveling and speaking so much that I wasn’t giving a whole lot of thought to dating, until Doug caught my eye. We met and became friends, but it wasn’t until his body spoke a language of charity that I began to fall in love. First, what caught my eye was that he got up early every morning and went to daily Mass. Secondly, my car broke down near his house full of guys, so I called the house and he came to help me. He was in nice clothes, but he lifted the hood of my car, and actually laid on the dirty ground and inched himself under my car to discover a leak. I felt stressed that he was getting his clothes dirty and mentioned it. He didn’t care; he just wanted to help me. He gave me a ride home and I invited him into my house full of girls. He looked at my backyard and was astonished at how high our grass and weeds were. I saw his look and said, “Yeah, with a house full of girls, the backyard suffers.” He said, I will be by on Saturday to clean it up for you. Shocked and feeling like my independence was being compromised, “I said, “No, thanks.” I can’t have you do that. It’s too much; I’ll figure it out. He and I went back and forth about it because I wasn’t accustomed to guys being so ready to serve. I felt I need to be guarded. Finally, he said, “See you Saturday.” I replied laughing, “No, I won’t.”
Saturday, the doorbell rang and there was Doug standing in my doorway with yard tools. I let him in and he cleaned our back yard for four hours. Eventually, the house of girls felt so bad, that we went and helped him not knowing what to do.
Something in me began to stir as Doug silently went about cleaning my yard. It was a flood of emotion. I felt vulnerable as this man was serving me without expecting anything in return. We weren’t even dating.
His body spoke a language of love to me that day that pierced an openness in my heart. I began to think that a man that serves so selflessly is a man who may be able to love me rightly.
We did date, got married, and had children. Doug continued to serve me throughout it all, not because he had to, but because it is who he is. His body speaks the native language his Father in Heaven has inscribed on his body. It is first nature for him.
And, when I suffered an amniotic fluid embolism during childbirth that left me dead, revived, and in critical condition, Doug continued to give. He continued to love and to serve in the midst of being a witness to this tragedy, and in the midst of his own emotional pain. He committed in marriage with his words and his actions to love me freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully in sickness and in health and he honored that commitment even in the hardest of circumstances.
When I returned home to recover, I had to sit on a couch unable to really participate in life. Doug went to work all day while my mom took care of the children and me, but then he came home after a long day to feed the children, bath them, read them stories and put them to bed. Then he would wake all night to feed our new-born and rock her back to sleep. For three months he sacrificed every hour of every day, not with his words, but with his body.
He reminded me of Christ. Doug’s body spoke the ultimate language of love. This marital language of love does not leave when things get hard, it endures all things, it waits, it suffers, and it sacrifices; it is a love that speaks of permanency. It’s honest, respectful, and it allows for vulnerability. It required courage, faith, hope, and determination. The language the body speaks in marriage is that of divine love.
It was the charity of others that allowed me to see that beauty of love. It was the very thing that allowed me to be open to authentic marital love. It was the very thing that taught me to pour my heart out in charity for others to master the art of real sacrificial love, the kind of love it takes to have a joy-filled marriage.
“…the most profound words of the spirit—words of love, of giving, of fidelity—demand an adequate language of the body. Without that they cannot be expressed.” –Blessed John Paul II