Forty-one years ago today, Pope John Paul II stepped onto his balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square and delivered his first Wednesday audience on the “Theology of the Body”. One year ago today –on the 40th Anniversary– I began recording myself as I read aloud the text of each Wednesday audience delivered by Saint Pope John Paul II in Vatican City. This is a dense text to traverse…as my friend DJ Heunemen at Ruah Woods said, “Reading the TOB Audiences is a bit like wading through concrete.”
Indeed! The text of TOB is certainly not something one might pick up and begin reading for pleasure. Should you be intrigued and decide to wade into the deep of this ocean of human anthropology, know that it took St. JPII five years to present this profound teaching to the world! It was said that the Holy Father went to bed each night around 1am and awoke at 5am every day of his pontificate. Talk about discipline!
During his papacy JPII wrote an average of 3,000 pages per year. Yet, this masterpiece which he chose to begin his extraordinary legacy as our Holy Father was something he had planned to publish as a book while still a Cardinal Archbishop in Krakow, Poland.
He began writing the TOB text on December 8, 1974 –the Feast of the Immaculate Conception– with the words “Totus Tuus” [Totally Yours] dedicating the work to Our Lady. These were the same words he would enshrine as his papal motto, and his Theology of the Body came right along with it!
During the papal conclave that would elect John Paul I, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla brought with him the manuscript (a work in progress) which he hoped to work on should he have time during the conclave.
After the election of his predecessor, Cardinal Wojtyla returned to Poland and completed that manuscript; then, as my teacher Bill Donaghy once said, “It was almost like [while the final ink was still drying on the page] the Holy Spirit tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Come with me…'”
Just weeks later, in October of 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope John Paul II and within the first year of his papacy he began using that completed manuscript–not as a book, but as a teaching tool to evangelize the unbelieving world he had inherited.
Now, by God’s grace and the direction of the Holy Spirit, Family Renewal Project is honoring JPII’s commitment to Marriage and the Family. I’ve come to realize four main principals of FRP: Family, Formation, Friendship, and Faith.
First, we want to become a trusted resource throughout the area for building strong Families.
Second, we hope to establish FRP as the area leader for Formation & Education in JPII’s Theology of the Body.
Third, to emphasize our friendship and collaborative spirit with our Families and Educators, we hope to establish Good Shepherd Institute of the Bluegrass as the trusted Catholic psychological services provider in the area.
Finally, and most importantly, none of this would be possible without the gift of Faith in Jesus Christ and His Church – ours and yours! Without the prayerful support, participation, and generosity of so many FRP would not exist. And my simple attempt at mimicking JPII’s TOB Wednesday audiences would’ve never gotten off the ground. Praise You Jesus Christ, now and Forever! We Trust in You!
John’s recordings of the TOB audiences can be found on the FRP YouTube Channel.