Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A new book brings together effective methods for teaching the Theology of the Body to teens in a variety of settings.

"Without fail, every time I have presented the concepts of the Theology of the Body to teenagers [in this way], I have seen their eyes light up, as if light bulbs were going on in their heads, and they were making connections they had never made before."
David Hajduk, author "God's Plan for You: Life, Love, Marriage, and Sex"

The need it meets
Young people are barraged with false messages about marriage and sex, but they have the innate desire for true love, authentic relationships, and a fulfilling life. Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body cuts through the falsehoods. David Hajduk began sharing this message with teens: his own students as well as youth groups, retreats, and youth conferences.

Where it came from
David Hajduk was teaching a Family Life Class to 9th graders at a Catholic high school. Dissatisfied with the resources at hand, he began teaching the concepts of the JPII's Theology of the Body in a way teens could grasp and relate to. These classes eventually led to Mr. Hajduk’s writing God's Plan for You: Life, Love, Marriage, and Sex (Pauline Books & Media).

How it works
Written in a conversational style, the book is filled with real life applications, humor, and interesting stories, all anchored in Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the writings of Pope John Paul II.
Every chapter begins with a Scripture passage as a "springboard". Then there is an opening anecdote, story, or analogy that gets developed into a theme from Theology of the Body.
Each ends with thought-provoking questions which can launch group discussion, as well as words from the Catechism and John Paul II.

The results
Young people report developing a new understanding of themselves and their sexuality.
Students begin using the language of the Theology of the Body; it shapes their way of thinking.
God's Plan for You has received the endorsement of Bishop Arthur Serratelli (the Chairman for the USCCB Committe on Doctrine), Mary Beth Bonacci, Pam Stenzel, Tony Melendez, Steve Angrisano, and Father Frank Pavone.
It has received positive reviews in Our Sunday Visitor and the National Catholic Register and was awarded 2nd Place for Best Book By a First-Time Author by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada for 2007.

Key elements
Creating an environment of ongoing dialogue with teens is key.
Offering an alternative vision that will reach their hearts and expose the false messages that are empty and unfulfilling.
Trust: Teens have an innate hunger for the truth, yet their openness to the truth is often dependent upon how much they feel they can trust you -- how authentic you are.
Understanding: Trust, in turn, is often based on how much they think you understand them and genuinely care about them.

Both parents and youth ministers/catechists/religious educators need to be proactive in creating this sort of environment. Within this context (or even as a way of creating this environment) God's Plan for You can be a useful tool.

How to implement it
This book may be used in a classroom setting (from which it was originally developed).

Some parishes have used it for teen discussion groups.
Catechists and youth ministers can use each chapter as an outline for a CCD class or a youth group.

Parishes have given God’s Plan for You to the newly confirmed.
Empower parents: help them to communicate with their teens about God's plan for life, love, marriage and sex.

Present an overview of the Theology of the Body at parents' nights, explain why it is an effective way of presenting these life issues to teens, then offer suggestions for using God’s Plan for You in the home.

Fr. Richard Rusk is pastor

No comments: