After interviewing Bill Donaghy from The Theology of the Body Institute about their upcoming Congress this September, I was filled with hope and joy for the Church. Bill lives out the core values of the gospel without pretention, probably because he is married with four children and is submerged in” the beautiful mess” of family life. One of his favorite quotes illustrates a profound grasp of what is essential,
“We, the women and men of the Church, we are in the middle of a love story: each of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we have understood nothing of what the Church is….” – Pope Francis
Ever since Bill discovered the first talks on The Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II at the age of 16, his life has been formed by this teaching. When he gathered in Rome with a few hundred other missionaries for the Jubilee in 2000, he was one of only 12 people picked to meet with Pope John Paul II. All he could do was beam in silence as the pope placed a cross around his neck with the powerful commission, “Go and bring Jesus back to your country.” After he returned to Philadelphia, Bill sheepishly admitted that he had been struck dumb in the presence of Pope John Paul II. Finally, a friend wisely affirmed his reaction to the pope by observing,
“In the presence of a saint, silence is a good response.”
Bill has served the Church since 1999. For seven years he spoke for TOB Institute part time while teaching at an all-boys Catholic high school and has worked with the Institute full time for another three years. Bill has given talks on the spirituality of mission to young people with the Pontifical Mission Societies and created a teaching ministry called Mission Moment.org. Although he holds an Associates Degree in Visual Arts, a Bachelors in Philosophy, a Masters in Systematic Theology and teaches at Immaculata University, he is relaxed and personable because:
Theology of the Body is a complete vision for humanity – a people fully alive! It incorporates the beauty and purpose of the human person made male and female. Theology of the Body proposes that the body makes visible an invisible reality, and through it men and women find joy, hope, freedom, and fulfillment.
The TOB Institute is hosting their 2016 Congress on the theme “Love, Mercy & the Gift of the Family” this September 23-25 in Ontario, California. More than 30 Experts in Catholic Family Ministry will present keynote talks, workshops, and lead panel discussions. Although most people initially attend TOB congresses expecting to simply hear classroom presentations on St. John Paul II’s insights on human sexuality, they are surprised after a day or two; these congresses are much more than mere lectures because they are wrapped in prayer and suffused with a peaceful, joyful Presence of Christ.
Wrapped in Prayer
During each Congress, people are invited to step way from the insanity of contemporary society for a few days and return to reality. In a community with other Christians, attendees bond with each other and get a taste of communion of saints. The congress is really more of a retreat with priests ready to hear confession and intercessory prayer is offered for the Congress. The result is that those who attend receive healing and mercy when they allow God to have His way with them. Many come away not only better-informed but also powerfully transformed by the Living God.
“The Beautiful Mess of the Family”
Bill will be talking about families at the Congress in a talk called “The Beautiful Mess of the Family”. When he speaks, he engages audiences by connecting personally with people right in the first few minutes. To snag his audience’s curiosity right at the beginning, Bill points out that our society is a mess, especially in regards to our sexuality. Then he asks, “What do we all really want?” His answer is universal; people want to be seen and to see others, to connect with others. Instead, we end up using others, rather than connecting with them.
Theology of the Body answers the questions of every human life: Who am I? Why am I here? How can I be happy? Through the Bible and Catholic tradition, Theology of the Body explains that our bodies reveal the deepest mysteries of God and humanity. Theology of the Body offers that God wants us to know Him through our humanity: our sexuality, our relationships, our joys, and our struggles.
Bill models what he talks about by inviting people to look at sexuality with fresh eyes. He does not preach but simply offers an invitation of redemption for the abused, those addicted to porn, those who are searching or confused.
Bill explains Theology of the Body with both simplicity and flare; it comes alive for his audience as he explains that TOB is a teaching on what it means to be fully human — male and female. TOB was St. John Paul II’s first major teaching project as pope. Basically, it is 129 short talks by the first non-Italian pope who shocked the culture by addressing sex. Written between 1979 to 1984, on the cusp of the sexual revolution, TOB is a counter sexual revolution. Saint John Paul II shone the light of truth on human sexuality by using 1,000 scripture quotes, quotes from the saints and his own personal experiences to discuss what it means to be a man or woman.
TOB is a grand proposal to the world of the deepest meaning of life and love made visible in the body. St. JPII talks about the history of sexuality and where are mankind is headed using scripture, philosophy, social science.
Theology of the Body proposes a fresh view of God’s love that leads to deep awareness of human dignity, identity, and purpose. This vision produces wonder, peace, joy, and a sense of reverence for oneself and others. Theology of the Body instills confidence in one’s ability to live life as a gift to the world.