After thirty-three years in part- and full-time Catholic ministry, including counseling training, Bible colleges and schools of evangelization, I thought that I knew it all, well, almost all, especially about human sexuality from a Catholic perspective. I was for a short period a pro-lifer and even did a Marriage Encounter Deeper Weekend with my wife Angela over 30 years ago.
Why, then, did I decide to devote three precious days of my very busy life to attending a "Theology of the Body" (ToB) seminar?
For several reasons, one being that the seminar would be given by Valentine and Anna Coelho, our family friends since several years, whose Catholic orthodoxy and orthopraxis greatly reassured and edified me.
Another was the testimony of a young unmarried youth (J) who read just a few chapters of a book on ToB and testified in our home that it turned his life around. He witnessed that he had been struggling with several Faith issues after being mal-influenced by a Muslim girlfriend and eventually he had difficulty accepting certain basic Christian tenets as well as the place and role of Mary in salvation history. But Pope St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body changed all that for him.
A third reason was that certain ToB nuggets casually shared by Vally and Anna with me over the years whenever we used to meet made me realize that there was a lot that I didn't know but really should be knowing as a Catholic husband, father, grandfather, and lay person in ministry.
And I abhor avoidable ignorance in a lay person in ministry. So, I enrolled.
What did I learn?
My intention here is not to give a synopsis of the ToB but to tell Catholic readers (of any age; I was only one of two married participants, and I was at least twice as old as any of them) that attending a the ToB course is imperative for every Catholic. It should be a part of the Church's Marriage Preparation Course, participants felt.
What I did was just a basic capsule, I understand.
I was so enraptured from the outset that I did not take down a single line or reference in the note book that I had carried along with several pens and a pencil.
Instead, it was my Bible whose pages I kept flipping through, from Genesis through the Song of Songs to Revelation.
God's loving plan for humanity was brilliantly unfolded to us in the sex act between husband and wife, and so too, a new perspective of the relationship between the three persons of the God-head and that of the Father with his Church in Jesus Christ.
I repeat that I am not attempting here a summary of the contents of the course so this account must not be criticized theologically. Neither must it be seen as an emotional reaction.
I realized that if (my wife and) I had had the privilege of attending a ToB session (much) before we were married (in February 1973), not only our lives but the lives of all those we encountered and those of our progeny ... and theirs .. would be today much more different and beautiful and pristine and in line with the plan and will of God, than what they have been or are.
I went in with an "academic" or "intellectual" interest but, like "J" after reading a portion of a ToB book, I returned with a beautiful faith-experience.
For a few days in Bangalore and after my reaching Chennai, people kept telling me that I looked different and that my face was "shining".
I pray that blessing for the reader, too.
Michael Prabhu Chennai