Getting good, moral advice at theology of the body conference

SIMPSONVILLE—Most Catholics would probably agree that today’s culture is hostile toward anyone trying to live a moral life, and secularism and hyper-sexualized pop culture make it especially difficult for families trying to raise children.

More than 250 people spent a sweltering weekend in the Upstate learning how an understanding of the teachings of Pope John Paul II, known collectively as “the theology of the body,” can help make these difficult tasks easier.

“Theology of the Body for Families: Hope and Healing,” held at St. Mary Magdalene Church July 6-7, was sponsored by the Diocese of Charleston’s Family Life Office and Family Honor Inc., a Columbia-based organization dedicated to teaching families how to communicate with each other about God’s gift of sexuality, chastity and pro-life issues.

Workshops and keynote sessions addressed topics such as how to teach children about chastity, natural family planning, dealing with same-sex attraction issues in a loving way, discipline, and the role of single Catholics in today’s church.

Brenda Cerkez, executive director of Family Honor, said the event attracted people from all over the nation.

She hoped the conference provided guidance and resources for people and families to deal with “some of these very tender and delicate issues.”

The weekend’s speakers included six popular experts on the theology of the body.

Ray Guarendi, an Ohio-based clinical psychologist, author and radio host gave a talk on “Standing Strong as a Family when the Culture is No Longer on Your Side.”

Guarendi said the main problem for families is that parents have surrendered their authority in the interest of being buddies with their kids.

“Many parents today are guilt-ridden, tentative and lost, unwilling to be mom and dad in their own home,” Guarendi said. “You discipline your children because you can’t teach them morality without it. You are the best teacher your child is ever going to have. Discipline without love is harsh, but love without discipline is a disaster.”

Katrina J. Zeno, an author and host of a 13-part EWTN series on the theology of the body, and Father Thomas J. Loya, a Byzantine Catholic priest from Illinois, spoke about the role of single Catholics in the church.

Zeno said being single is particularly difficult today’s “where it’s almost as if you don’t exist if you’re not part of a couple.”

She said single Catholics have a valuable role to play because they often have the time to discover their true passions and skills and often use them to help others or enrich the life of the church.

Father Loya encouraged singles to learn how to use their gifts in forming productive relationships with others and building up the message of the Gospel in the secular world.

It’s important to get out of yourself and let God take care of the rest,” he said. “God is doing something through each and every one of us that he will never do again.”

Bob Schuchts, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Florida, talked about ways for families to begin healing after a crisis such as a divorce.

“Healing is a restoration of communion with God and one another,” he said. “The human family, starting with the fall in the Garden of Eden, has experienced many divorces at all levels. We’re divorced from ourselves, from the people we’re closest to, even divorced from nature by using it uncaringly rather than acting as stewards.

Read more in the July 26 edition of The Miscellany