NFP speaker encourages people to read theology of the body

SPARTANBURG — South Carolina Catholics can gain a deeper understanding of the importance of the theology of the body and spousal love by reading Catholic documents, including their own bishop’s pastoral letter, according to a nationally known speaker on family planning issues.

Benedictine Father Matthew Habiger, with the Natural Family Planning Outreach in Oklahoma City, Okla., spoke on natural family planning and the theology of the body to about 70 people at Jesus, Our Risen Savior Parish in Spartanburg Feb. 15. He told the group that it would be helpful to read Pope John Paul II’s writings on the theology of the body as well as the most recent encyclical on Christian love by Pope Benedict XVI. He also said that Bishop Robert J. Baker’s pastoral letter, released last year, discusses the need for education about the theology of the body in a society that is confused about sexuality, chastity and celibacy.

In his pastoral letter, Bishop Baker writes that a central part of the theology of the body is that “faithful, self-donative love, and the communion which results from the giving and receiving of the gift, is the creative dynamic which reflects the inner life of the Holy Trinity.” Father Habiger said that understanding the connection between love and the Holy Trinity gives people a rich insight into who they are as human beings.

God was motivated by love to create men and women, he said.

“He wanted other persons who could respond in kind to his own love of life. He made us persons with an understanding to realize with a will that could choose with freedom and a heart that could love so that we could freely respond to his love,” the priest said.

Jesus is an obvious example of someone who understood self-donative love, he said. “Jesus gave his all; that is self-donative love — the willingness to die for others’ welfare,” he said.

The church’s teachings are important in continuing adult Catholic education, especially because now more than ever people are faced with a lot of questions, he said.

“If God teaches that marriage is to be permanent and calls for total fidelity, and he does so in a country with a 50 percent divorce rate, why does the church teach what she does,” Father Habiger asked. “Can this plan be livable in these times?”

His answer was that the redemption of the body is important because it helps Catholics understand God’s plan for marriage. To help people understand Church teachings on spousal love, he used Adam and Eve as examples.

“Adam gives the total gift of self, the total gift of his person to Eve,” he said. “Eve accepts that gift and accepts Adam just the way he is. In return, Eve makes the total gift of herself to Adam. Adam accepts the gift. This is what love is.”

Natural family planning is important because it carries out the total gift of self to one another, he said. It helps men and women understand that fertility is a gift.

Colleen Daves attended Father Habiger’s talk and said she thought he did a very good job of connecting the Holy Trinity with spousal love.

“It’s good for married couples to understand this,” she said. Information on natural family planning and the theology of the body would have been helpful to know in high school and college, she said.

For more information

“The Redemption of Our Bodies” is available online at the Diocese of Charleston’s Web site at