While facilitating discussion for the latest read in Ruah Woods’ TOB Chapter Chat, I often rhetorically ask the group, “Why is it that God often has to drop a piano on our heads to get us to wake up and smell the coffee?”
I think it’s God’s spiritual economy to make things happen. God presses us into a corner, and to alleviate the mounting pain, we are compelled to venture out, firmly resolved to find a solution.
But I often wonder why this economy doesn’t seem to play out when it comes to upholding the truth of the God given dignity of the human person versus falling for the counterfeit lies of our death dealing culture? Why doesn’t the pain wrought by the sexual revolution cause us to wake up and smell the coffee? Could it be that the wages of sin is death? Are we deaf, dumb, blind and stupid because of our sin or have we not heard and embraced the Good News of the Gospel?
Our little band of bookish nerds recently discussed Jennifer Roback Morse’s compelling book, The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along. In Chapter 16 titled, From the Ruling Class to the Leadership Class, Jennifer writes:
“When I point out that our sexual culture is not working for the vast majority of people, I often hear responses like these;”
- “Nothing can be done about it.”
- “Government cannot legislate morality.”
- “No one has the right to impose their morality on anyone else.”
Upon reading this, it reminded of an article I read several years ago titled Theology of the Body and the New Evangelization, by Christopher West. It was one of those “inflection point” reads and by the end of the article my heart was on fire! Christopher writes (emphasis mine):
“If the new evangelization is to succeed, we sons and daughters of the Church must first recover the sense of having an urgently important message for the salvation of the world. The Gospel of the body proclaimed by John Paul II is that message. How urgently it is needed!…”
“Put simply, there will be no renewal of the Church and of the world without a renewal of marriage and the family. And there will be no renewal of marriage and the family without a return to the full truth of God’s plan for the body and sexuality. Yet this won’t happen without a fresh theological proposal that compellingly demonstrates to our neighbors, friends and coworkers how the Christian sexual ethic – far from the cramped, prudish list of prohibitions it’s assumed to be – is a liberating message of salvation that corresponds perfectly with the yearnings of the human heart.”
And here’s the part that really got to me:
“This is precisely what John Paul II’s theology of the body offers us. As such it provides the antidote to the culture of death and a theological foundation for the new evangelization. So, I appeal too you – take up a study of the Pope’s theology of the body. Make it your mission in life to understand it, live it, and share it with everyone you know. If we do, together, we shall not fall short of renewing the face of the earth.”
And so…that’s what I did. When people ask what I do, I say…”What I do is going to save the world!” And. I. Mean. It.
As Executive Director of Ruah Woods, along with a gifted team of faithful lay Catholics, I have had the joy and privilege of being sent into mission territory every day – As George Weigel defines it — a territory increasingly defined by spiritual boredom and aggressive secularism. Ruah Woods is in the game changing business of confronting the cultural challenges that pulverize the dignity of the human person by unapologetically proclaiming Pope JP II’s message of Theology of the Body. It is the truth that will ultimately set us free, offering all men and women a deeply humane alternative to the soul-stifling, narcissism of the cultural zeitgeist of today.
As I prepare to retire from my position as Executive Director, and look forward to God’s next assignment for me, I look back in awe at the milestone markers over these last 13 years. And we just
thought we would be this small ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio teaching TOB to adults. Well…the Holy Spirit had a few other ideas…
- 2007: Property to build Ruah Woods purchased
- 2008: Executive Director hired, 501c3 Application creating a non-profit approved, mission takes shape
- 2009: Onsite adult TOB classes commence, High School outreach begins
- 2011: Ruah Woods Psychological Services begins
- 2012: Middle School outreach begins, Writing Called to Be More High School TOB Curriculum begins
- 2013: Break ground on building The New Evangelization Center
- 2014: Holy Family School of Faith introduced, TOB becomes anchor strand in Archdiocesan curriculum, New Evangelization Center opens
- 2015: ROOTED: K-8 TOB Curriculum writing begins
- 2017: Two more clinical psychologists hired bringing total to three practitioners
- 2018: Called to Be More High School curriculum completed
- 2019: ROOTED K-12 Theology of the Body Curriculum completed, Theology of the Body Standards completed and launched
- 2020: Scaling to national ministry develops with hiring President, Ruah Woods Press, world class studio build for teacher training, national curriculum consulting team idea conceived
As I take my leave from Ruah Woods, several things come to mind that have borne truth in my life:
- If you do what you love you don’t work a day in your life.
- You can’t out-give God.
- God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.
- My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati we have a Prayer for Vocations which we say at every mass. It begins:
- “You have created us for some definite purpose. Grant us the grace to know the path you have planned for us in this life and to respond with a generous “Yes.”
Little did I know that my “Yes” would turn out to be an adventure of a lifetime! We all are called, by virtue of our baptism, to be missionary disciples. To be evangelizers of the Good News without compromise, but with the joy, courage and confidence that comes from living this side of Heaven.
Simply put, lies about the human person are destroying people’s lives and Theology of the Body is the antidote. It sets things straight regarding our Christian Anthropology as made in the image and likeness of God called to make a sincere gift of ourselves to others. I echo Christopher’s words:
“So, I appeal too you – take up a study of the Pope’s theology of the body. Make it your mission in life to understand it, live it, and share it with everyone you know. If we do, together, we shall not fall short of renewing the face of the earth.”
After working in corporate, higher education, and now non-profit Catholic ministry I often say, to make a tangible difference in people’s lives is the most rewarding work there is! I leave Ruah Woods with the peace of knowing a firm foundation is left behind to build upon with a mission more critical today than ever. I have a heart full of gratitude for my students, colleagues, board members and benefactors and pray in great anticipation of what’s next to come!
Written by, Leslie Kuhlman,
former Executive Director of Ruah Woods
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