In Pope St. John Paul II’s writings the language of GIFT is everywhere! The world is created as a gift. Man and woman are formed as gift. We are all called to live as gift. A favorite core passage of Pope St. John Paul II comes from Gaudium et Spes, “Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for himself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self.” The language of GIFT flows through almost every single writing of Pope St. John Paul The Great. Understanding the meaning and using the language of GIFT has been revolutionary in my own life. Understanding GIFT and the depths of this teaching, revealed through the lens of Theology of the Body, will be transformative for the world. Our mission at Ruah Woods Press is to catalyze this worldwide conversion through our ROOTED: K-12 Theology of the Body Curriculum.
I received an amazing GIFT last month, thanks to the recently imposed slower pace of life. My sister and I decided to sort through a box of family memorabilia that had belonged to our paternal grandparents. With deep Catholic family roots in Connecticut and Maryland, dating back to the American Revolution, it is striking to ponder ancient letters, 150-year-old receipts, and some very early photos of our ancestors. Both of my father’s parents were award winning educators and school administrators, so there were mementos from their dedicated classroom and school administration days. I am proud of my grandparents Cres and Kay Bride and the lives they lived as strong teachers and a loving married couple.
Retirement involved trips to dream destinations for Grandma and Grandpa Bride. They always shared their adventures with us grandchildren through postcards from each amazing site they enjoyed. I remember the postcards well and the excitement in receiving their loving note and shared escapade. I had not really thought of their journeys and paired correspondence in years, until unpacking the GIFT of this box. Between historical photos and letters was a stack of items from a 1970s pilgrimage to France. Unsent postcards depicting the incorrupt body of St. Bernadette (more TOB GIFT), a rosary in a bag, a paper candle holder from a prayer vigil at Lourdes and a little tiny Miraculous Medal in the shape of a heart.
As a perpetual student of Theology of the Body who has deepened my understanding of GIFT and been drawn so dramatically to The Blessed Mother through TOB, this Miraculous Medal find was as if God had dropped an intentional and personal sacramental GIFT from heaven into my hands! This past November, fittingly on the Feast of the Miraculous Medal, I officially opened my own side business to sell exclusive Marian scarves. Each personally designed, unique pattern has been adapted by a graphic artist and applied to stunning fabrics. Lovingly sewn onto each scarf is a tiny Miraculous Medal (uniquely in the shape of a heart, just like the one I found in the GIFT box!!). The scarves, a fashion sacramental, are created via watercolor illustrations of Marian apparitions and symbols such as Fatima, Guadalupe, Lourdes and more, proclaiming “The Immaculate Conception,” the one person, body and soul who was conceived without sin.
The GIFT and Marian dimensions of Theology of the Body come together for me in designing and supplying women with beautiful accessories to exhibit their faith in a stylish, holy and subtle way. “To say that man is created in the image and likeness of God means that man is called to exist ‘for’ others, to become a gift” (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, No. 7). It is my distinctive GIFT to share Mary and her extraordinary role in salvation history through the beauty of these scarves. Using a sacramental (the scarf and attached medal) to teach that the body too, is sacramental, is a fruit of my TOB studies.
“The body…and it alone is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it.” (TOB 19:4)
In several weeks, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary, the Mother of God, fully redeemed body and soul, embodies our hope, to live in eternity with our Creator, the Giver of all GIFTS. Through her Assumption, Mary models what we should all be striving towards, complete communion with her Son, body and soul for eternity. Mary’s Assumption reveals for us that Christ’s Incarnation indeed redeems the body.
There is a church legend that as Mary was being Assumed into heaven, St. Thomas the doubter, (whose Feast Day we celebrated at the beginning of July), received a GIFT into his hands seemingly from the clouds above. One version portrays Thomas hurrying back from India to witness Our Blessed Mother’s passing, only to have Mary drop her sash from heaven to him, as solid, sacramental proof of the redemption of her body and soul! Mary, THE most outrageous mom ever, bearer of the One True Gift given for all humanity, bestowed the GIFT of her sash (still preserved in Italy) upon St. Thomas.
The fullness of our Catholic faith is a GIFT. Theology of the Body points us to the sacramental nature of all creation, as God’s GIFT to the human person, lovingly made male and female as a body-soul unity. This is THE foundational teaching, the GIFT we must discover and understand, for the times in which we are living. ROOTED: K-12 Theology of the Body Curriculum is OUR GIFT from Ruah Woods Press for the world to teach and share these great, universal truths. Bring the enormous GIFT of truth, and authentic love found within TOB to life in your family, school, parish or diocese. Together, we can transform the whole world one heart and mind at a time. It’s time to receive and share the GIFT.
Laura Strietmann, Curriculum Consultant
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