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Theology of the Body

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Theology of the Body


What does it mean to be human?

What does it mean to be a man? a woman?

How can we find happiness?

These are universal human questions.  Pope John Paul II, at the start of his pontificate, addressed these questions in a series of talks that we know as the Theology of the Body. From 1978 – 1983 he delivered to the Church and the world a catechesis that addresses what it means to be human and to be happy: the nature and meaning of love; what it means to be created male and female; the human need for community; the meaning of sexuality; and the complementarity between celibacy and marriage.

In his work, the Holy Father presents the perennial teachings of the Church, but in a new way, one that is more accessible to the modern reader. In essence, he develops the Church’s teaching from the ‘ground up’ – challenging men and women to begin with their own experiences, to look at them deeply –  to learn from them, with the help of Revelation and of the Church, and to ask how they are congruent with Church teaching.

The text is available in a new translation by Michael Waldstein (Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body), which also has an excellent introduction.  You may find it a dense read, but well worth the effort.  The audiences in an earlier translation can also be read on EWNT's Library containing each of the related Papal Wednesday audiences.

There are many resources that have come available in the last 10 years – an annotated list is available on the resources page.  The Diocese of Oakland also offers periodic classes on the Theology of the Body.  Finally, there are study groups available in the area as well or, you can start your own.

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