The word “theology” has something of a bad rap in our postmodern world. For many a soul, it conjures up images of dusty books, dry speculation and generously proportioned friars debating the number of angels who can dance upon the head of a pin. 

To a certain extent, theology has earned that reputation. It can and has been made deadly dull by those who make a living by it.  

But theology isn’t just the province of priests and scholars. The word “theology” literally means “the study of God.” And since God calls all his children to study him (as part of that whole “know, love and serve God” thing), studying theology is likewise something he calls all his children to do.  

For everyone 

This is particularly true of the theology of the body — the study of the meaning and purpose of the human person and what we reveal about the One in whose image we were made. It’s a practical theology with practical implications for how we eat, dress, worship, work, use our time, spend our money, decorate our houses, raise children and make love to our spouses. 

Theology of the body has changed lives, marriages, families and parishes. It’s changing the Church. And it can change the culture. 

Not, of course, because what it teaches is anything new. In many ways, the teachings are as old as the Book of Genesis. What is new is the delivery system — the language, structure and approach that gets the Church’s sacramental worldview into the minds of men and women raised in a sexually crazed and morally confused world. Which is why that delivery system is meant to be studied by accountants, lawyers and the guys working the line at the Subaru plant in Lafayette, Ind. It’s theology for everyone who needs its. And we all need it. 

Body of resources 

So how do we get it? 

That’s what the pages that follow are all about. In them, you’ll find programs available for your parish, speakers to invite to your diocese, and the best books and study guides for your personal reading. This guide isn’t comprehensive. The movement is growing so rapidly that assembling a compendium of resources on it is about as easy as shooting a moving target. But for those wanting to learn more, this guide is a good place to start.  

And it really is time to get started. 

Emily Stimpson is an OSV contributing editor. She attended the first gathering of the National Theology of the Body Congress near Philadelphia in July.

Top point people 

Just 10 years ago, if you wanted to invite someone to your parish to speak about the theology of the body, you would have been hard-pressed to find anyone who knew what you were talking about, let alone who could give a clear and engaging presentation to tired parishioners on a Thursday night.  

But now it’s an entirely different story. Over the past decade, dozens of men and women have dedicated their lives to teaching the theology of the body to the Catholic laity, and are ready, wanting and waiting to introduce Pope John Paul II’s catechesis on the human person to people in your parish, school or diocese. 

So who are these people? And how do you find them? You can start by reading the profiles below.

Greg and Julie Alexander 

It took a near divorce to bring Greg and Julie Alexander back to the active practice of their faith. As they discovered the beauty of the Church’s teachings, they rediscovered the beauty of their marriage, and in the years since, they’ve dedicated their lives to helping others discover the beauty of their own marriages as well. As founders of Alexander House, co-hosts of EWTN’s “Marriage Works in Christ,” and regular presenters on the theology of the body at parishes and conferences around the country, they’ve helped countless couples get back on the right track, and helped countless more start their marriages off right. 

Contact: Alexander House (www.thealexanderhouse.org)

Monica Ashour

After 18 years in high school classrooms and a few more as a campus minister at Texas A&M University, there’s not much Monica Ashour doesn’t know about young people. That may explain why her presentations to teens on the theology of the body are so accessible. Although Ashour, who co-founded the Texas-based Theology of the Body Evangelization Team, speaks to adults as well as teens, there are few speakers as experienced and gifted as Ashour at reaching young Catholics.  

Contact: The Theology of the Body Evangelization Team (www.tobet.org)

Bill Donaghy 

Well before he began speaking on the theology of the body, Bill Donaghy worked as an evangelist and missionary in and through the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. For the past several years, he has divided his time between teaching high school in the Philadelphia area and traveling the country delivering parish talks on the theology of the body. In addition to talks introducing the concepts of Pope John Paul II’s catechesis, Donaghy also gives presentations applying the theology of the body to areas such as prayer and the Eucharist. 

Contact: The Theology of the Body Institute (www.tobinstitute.org)

Jason and Crystalina Evert 

Jason Evert and his wife, Crystalina, wrote the book for teens on the theology of the body. Literally. Along with Brian Butler, the Everts co-wrote the Ascension Press curriculum “Theology of the Body for Teens: Discovering God’s Plan for Love and Life.” The curriculum benefits from the Everts’ years of experience speaking on chastity, dating and romance to Catholic, Protestant and secular youths. Few Catholic speakers have spoken to as many high school and junior high students as the Everts, and few continue to have as much of an impact as a couple. 

Contact: Catholic Answers (catholic.com

Father Roger Landry 

As a newly ordained priest, Father Roger Landry told Pope John Paul II that he wanted to dedicate his priesthood to spreading the pope’s teachings on the theology of the body. And, for more than a decade, as a pastor, writer and speaker, he’s done just that. Currently serving as a priest in the Diocese of Fall River, Mass., Father Landry speaks with wisdom and humor on the theology of the body as it applies to marriage, chastity, the priesthood and more. 

Contact: Catholic Preaching (www.catholicpreaching.com)

Father Thomas Loya 

An Eastern-rite Catholic priest based in the Chicago area, Father Thomas Loya learned about the theology of the body from the source. During the years Pope John Paul II first delivered the series of Wednesday catecheses that became known as the theology of the body, Father Loya was a seminarian in Rome. He regularly attended those audiences and has studied and talked about them ever since. A classically trained artist, he uniquely and engagingly applies the theology of the body to topics such as masculinity and femininity, marriage and celibacy, and the problem of pornography. 

Contact: Tabor Life Institute (www.taborlife.org)

Damon Owens 

A trained natural family planning teacher since 1993, Damon Owens is the founder of Joy Filled Marriage NJ, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support for married and engaged couples. As a speaker, Owens draws heavily from his own experience as a husband and father, and is particularly adept at connecting the Church’s teachings on natural family planning to the theology of the body, then applying those teachings to dating and marriage. 

Contact: The Theology of the Body Institute (www.tobinstitute.org)

Anastasia Northrup

Both as president of the Theology of the Body International Alliance and through her family’s apostolate, Our Father’s Will Communications, Anastasia Northrop has promoted the study of theology of the body nationally and internationally since 2000. She is also the author of one of the first study guides on Pope John Paul’s teachings “The Freedom of the Gift,” and the founder of the National Catholic Singles Conference. Northrop speaks with ease and authority on all aspects of theology of the body, especially what it has to say to those currently living the single life. 

Contact: Theology of the Body International Alliance (www.tobia.info)

Christopher West 

Nine years ago, Christopher West helped launch the theology of the body movement in the United States, attracting widespread attention to the teachings through his popular talks on the Catholic understanding of human sexuality. In the years since, through his many books, talks and tapes, he has introduced more people to Pope John Paul II’s catechesis on the human person than most other speakers combined. His dynamic presentations focus on the meaning and purpose of sexuality and are easily accessible for Catholics and non-Catholics of all levels of faith. 

Contact: The Theology of the Body Institute (www.tobinstitute.org

Katrina Zeno 

Over the past decade, Katrina Zeno has written and spoken nationally and internationally on the theology of the body, applying it to the single life, the genius of women, chastity formation, parenting, marriage, and the Eucharist. The host of three 13-part television series on the theology of the body and the feminine genius (one for EWTN, two for Catholic FamilyLand TV), Zeno is currently the director of the Theology of the Body Resource Center in Phoenix. 

Contact: Women of the Third Millennium (www.wttm.org)

Organizational aids 

If you’re looking to start a theology of the body program in your parish, launch a theology of the body study group on your college campus, or simply learn more about Pope John Paul II’s teachings yourself, you don’t have to go it alone. Several organizations are there to help.

Family Honor  

For 22 years, Family Honor has helped couples, families and parishes integrate the theology of the body into their daily lives. Through talks, leadership training seminars and other programs, this South Carolina-based apostolate seeks to promote family-centered chastity education. Notably, they were the sponsors of the first national Theology of the Body Conference in the United States in 2002. 

Contact: www.familyhonor.org 

Our Father’s Will Communications:  

For 10 years, Our Father’s Will Communications has traveled the country, recording and videotaping talks and retreats by Christopher West, Father Thomas Loya, Janet Smith and many others. Those talks, most of which are available nowhere else, can be found on its website, along with a comprehensive multimedia collection of theology of the body DVDs, CDs, books, study guides and more.  

Contact: www.ourfatherswillcommunications.com

Ruah Woods 

Located in Cincinnati, Ruah Woods sponsors retreats, study groups, marriage preparation weekends and other classes to educate individuals about the theology of the body. They also offer training courses that enable attendees to lead theology of the body programs in their community. In addition to the training, they provide participants with materials for launching and promoting theology of the body programming. All events are held onsite at Ruah Wood’s conference center on Cincinnati’s west side.  

Contact: www.ruahwoods.org 

Tabor Life Institute 

Dedicated to helping men and women see their bodies and the world with Catholic eyes, the Tabor Life Institute sponsors talks, retreats and multi-media programming that introduce people to the Catholic worldview. Its website also features audio programming, cultural commentary and links to additional theology of the body resources. 

Contact: www.taborlife.org 

Theology of the Body Evangelization Team (TOBET) 

This Texas-based apostolate sponsors workshops, retreats and conferences to introduce teens and adults to the theology of the body. Their speakers’ bureau is a resource for parishes and schools looking to bring in experts on the teachings, and numerous talks are easily downloadable off their website. 

Contact: www.tobet.org

Theology of the Body Institute 

Dedicated to educating both clergy and laypeople, the Theology of the Body Institute offers a wide variety of programming, from parish workshops and retreats to weeklong immersion and certification courses for those seeking personal enrichment and for those seeking to become certified theology of the body teachers. The website also features a comprehensive directory of Church documents about and related to the theology of the body. 

Contact: www.tobinstitute.org 

Theology of the Body International Alliance (TOBIA) 

Founded in 2003, TOBIA assists individuals and parishes wishing to begin theology of the body study groups in their area. In addition to recommending the best resources and methods to use, they also facilitate an ongoing conversation between study groups around the world about how to conduct the studies and apply the lessons learned to practical apostolate work. Its reach extends to 13 countries around the world. 

Contact: www.tobia.info 

Parish programming 

Looking to do more for your parish than just sponsor a weekend conference on the theology of the body? Then check out these resources for ongoing parish programming, all based on Pope John Paul II’s teachings.

Adult faith formation 

An Introduction to Theology of the Body: This eight-part, DVD-based program hosted by Christopher West introduces adults to the core teachings of Pope John Paul’s catechesis. Materials include four DVDs, a leader’s guide and student workbooks. (Ascension Press, $119.95) 

Into the Heart: A 16-part, DVD-based study also hosted by Christopher West, which builds on the material presented in “An Introduction to Theology of the Body,” going deeper and focusing more intently on the sacramental worldview. Materials include eight DVDs, a leader’s guide and student workbooks. (Ascension Press, $219.95) 

The Theology of the Body Sampler: A six-DVD set that can be used in a parish setting to explore how the theology of the body applies to relationships, art, psychology, philosophy, parenting and more. Includes talks by Father Roger Landry, Father Thomas Loya, Philip Mango, Dave Sloan, Christopher West and Katrina Zeno. (Our Father’s Will Communications, $95.95)  

Marriage Preparation

God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage: This supplemental marriage preparation program designed by Christopher West, features six DVDs, with presentations divided into 43 easy-to-navigate segments, along with a leader’s guidebook, couple’s workbook and supplementary reading material. (Ascension Press, $139.95) 

The Psychological & Theological Dimensions of Marriage: Designed to complement existing parish or diocesan marriage preparation programs, this DVD presentation by Philip Mango discusses some of the key obstacles and challenges married couples face. (Our Father’s Will Communications, $69.95) 

Preparing to Live in Love: This parish-based program provides marriage formation through the partnership of mentor couples — young, married couples living the Church’s teachings on marriage and committed to sharing their experience with engaged couples. The program features a set, seven-week curriculum developed by the Pastoral and Matrimonial Renewal Center and encourages ongoing relationships between mentor couples and the newly married. (The Pastoral and Matrimonial Renewal Center, www.pmrcusa.org

Marriage Enrichment

Living in Love: Living in Love offers parish-based retreats and workshops for married couples. Designed by the Pastoral and Matrimonial Renewal Center, the program seeks to renew the joy of being in love through the practical application of the theology of the body. Both the day-and-a-half retreat and the weekly workshops feature presentations by trained local couples, followed by private time for each couple to discuss together the material presented. (The Pastoral and Matrimonial Renewal Center, www.pmrcusa.org

Covenant of Love: A parish-based program created by David and Julie Alexander, Covenant of Love is designed to help couples get to the root of the issues hindering their marriage and tap into all the sacramental graces at their disposal. The program itself consists of monthly parish meetings, led by parish staff or volunteer couples. Materials for launching the program and conducting monthly meetings, as well as ongoing support, are provided by Alexander House. (Alexander House, www.thealexanderhouse.org). 

A Marriage Made for Heaven: The Secrets of Heavenly Couplehood: A 12-session parish-based program designed by Greg and Lisa Popcak, Marriage Made for Heaven helps couples apply the Catholic faith and the theology of the body to their marriages and daily lives, addressing issues such as communication, sexuality, prayer and more. The complete package includes a scripted leader’s guide, brief DVD presentations by the Popcaks and couples workbooks. (The Pastoral Solutions Institute, www.exceptionalmarriages.com)

Teens & Young Adults 

Theology of the Body Teen Retreat: This DVD collection geared toward teens and college students presents six talks given by Father Thomas Loya, Father Mike Schmitz, Craig Osburn, Sarah Reznicek, and Brad and Libby DuPont. Ideal for youth groups or the high school classroom, the talks tackle topics such as dating, modesty, the meaning and language of the body, masculinity and femininity, and the Gospel of Life. (Our Father’s Will Communications, $95.95) 

Theology of the Body for Teens: A comprehensive theology of the body curriculum designed by Jason Evert, Crystalina Evert and Brian Butler, this program helps teens come to understand the gift of their sexuality, the dignity of their body, and how to guard both in an overly sexualized culture. The complete 12-lesson program includes a leader’s guide, parent’s guide, student workbook and DVD set featuring brief presentations by the curriculum’s authors. The presentations are designed to complement the leader’s presentation. Training videos for program leaders are also available. (Ascension Press, $134.95) 

Freedom to Love: A five-part, DVD-based study led by Christopher West, “Freedom to Love” helps college students and young adults learn the true meaning of freedom and learn how to use their newfound autonomy wisely. Tackling topics such as pornography, contraception and the difference between love and lust, the study helps young adults understand how the theology of the body gives them a plan for loving, living and giving of themselves as adults. The complete study includes the DVD set, as well as a leader’s guide and student workbook. (Ascension Press, $89.95)

Theology of the Body Basics (sidebar)

John Paul II’s theology of the body… 

… was given during the course of 133 Wednesday audiences, delivered from 1979 to 1984. 

… is an anthropology of what it means to be a human person, a union of body and spirit. 

… teaches that the body expresses the person and reveals how men and women are made in the image and likeness of God.

… reveals that the one flesh union of husband and wife points to the life-giving communion within the Trinity. 

… shows how using another person for our own pleasure violates the dignity of the human person. 

… illustrates how the celibate life is a sign of the total self-gift we are all called to make of ourselves to God. 

… calls all human beings to make a gift of themselves to one another in love.

Essential Reading (sidebar)

You don’t have to join a group or take a class to learn more about the theology of the body. Just hit the bookstore and look for these essential titles. 

Original text 

“Love & Responsibility,” by Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II) (Ignatius Press) 

“Man & Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body,” by Pope John Paul II, translation and introduction by Michael Waldstein (Pauline Press, $29.95) 

Study guides 

“Freedom of the Gift,” by Anastasia Northrop (Our Father’s Will Communications, $29) 

“Men and Women are from Eden,” by Mary Healy (Servant, $10.99) 

Theology of the body basics 

“Theology of the Body Made Simple,” by Father Anthony Percy (Pauline, $9.95) 

“Theology of the Body for Beginners, Revised Edition,” by Christopher West (Ascension Press, $12.99) 

“Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility,”by Edward Sri (Servant Press, $13.99)  

“Body and Gift,” by Sam Torode (Philokalia Books)  

“God’s Plan For You: Life, Love, Marriage and Sex (The Theology of the Body for Young People),” by David Hajduk (Pauline, $16.95) 

“Theology of His Body and Theology of Her Body” (Teens), by Jason Evert (Ascension, $11.99) 

Going deeper 

“Theology of the Body Explained,” by Christopher West (Pauline, $29.95) 

“Crossing the Threshold of Love: A New Vision of Marriage,” by Mary Shivanandan (Catholic University of America Press, $24.95) 

“Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Woman’s Journey,” by Katrina Zeno (Pauline, $10.95) 

“The Christian Meaning of Human Sexuality,” by Father Paul Quay (Ignatius)  

“Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body: What It Means, Why it Matters,” by Father Richard Hogan (Word Among Us Press, $12.95)  

“At the Interface: Theology and Virtual Reality,” by Sister Mary Timothy Prokes, FSE (Fenestra Books, $15.95)

There's Always More (sidebar)

Looking to go deeper into the philosophical, theological, psychological and cultural roots and ramifications of the theology of the body? Then check out these top-notch scholars and speakers as well. 

  • Father Brian Bransfield, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis; 
  • Mary Beth Bonacci, author, speaker and founder of Real Love; 
  •  Philip Mango, psychotherapist and president of St. Michael’s Institute for Human Sciences; 
  •  Gregory Popcak, Catholic counselor and founder of the Pastoral Solutions Institute; 
  •  Janet Smith, author and Father Michael J. McGivney Chair in Life Ethics, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit;
  •  Edward Sri, author and professor at the Augustine Institute in Denver; 
  • Michael Waldstein, Max Seckler professor of theology at Ave Maria University and translator of the definitive edition of Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body, “Man and Woman He Created Them.”

Additional Resources 

This is the third In Focus in a three-part series that unpacks the topics presented at the first National Theology of the Body Congress held outside of Philadelphia July 28-30. The first and second installments appeared in the Aug. 29 and Sept. 26 issues of OSV Newsweekly. For ordering information, call 1-800-348-2440.