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TWO FIRSTS (actually three): LARGEST TOB Gathering in History & Flagship “Head & Heart” Course Available ONLINE

I just spent the afternoon pouring through the outline of my TOB Immersion Course workbook, and what an incredible refresher it was! That week was one of the most life changing and important weeks of my life, for it brought me out of my self-inflicted desperation and prepared me for my true calling in life. Theology of the Body is God’s great gift to humanity in our times, as was its composer, St. John Paul the Great.

I was in 8th grade when JPII passed away on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday that year, just a week after my Confirmation, and since then, I have felt directly affected by his prayers in Heaven. My introduction to this Theology of the Body happened just a couple years later as I entered high school.

It was then that I found myself enamored with the message of authentic love between men and women, especially when the dating world has become so confusing and chaotic! He gave me the answers to my deepest questions, and thanks to Christopher West’s beautiful translation of the deeper theological language, my 16-year-old self could understand it!

That’s when I decided in my heart to attend the TOB Institute one day, though at the time, I knew the cost would be the most significant obstacles to a teenager getting ready to enter college. How could I have known that just 10 years later, I would be driving to the first official TOB Immersion Course that was being offered in Dallas, TX in March of 2017! Now, by God’s grace and through the generosity of an incredible donor, I have completed eight courses at the Theology of the Body Institute and will finish my certification program by April of 2021!

Family Renewal Project was founded in the midst of this incredible journey, and now, we are beginning to offer wonderful opportunities for people of all ages to have greater access to this message in Louisville! One day, we hope to offer more in-depth, retreat-like courses similar to the Institute, but in the meantime, we remain grateful for their unique ability, and the breadth of their wisdom and experience!

This past weekend, the TOB Institute offered the largest TOB Gathering in Human History, with almost 80,000 people who registered and took advantage of over 30 hours of powerful presentations and live discussions offered through this beautiful lens! Theology of the Body, after all, gives us the answers to two of our most burning questions: What is My Identity? and What is My Purpose? By delving into the full vision of what it means to be human, from our origin [beginning] to our history [now] to our destiny [future]—we can discover our story and see how each of us fits into God’s great plan for eternal happiness!

Now, for the first time ever, the TOB Institute is offering the same Immersion Course ONLINE! If you’ve ever considered attending this course at the Institute or had a desire to go deeper into the specifics of what it means to be human and how we can best live out our purpose and vocation, then this course is for you! This course will enhance your life, open up your senses to new horizons and only add to the incredible life God has planned for you. Sign up today to start your incredible journey to the Promised Land. https://corproject.com.securechkout.com/tob1onlinemay2020  [Registration Deadline: midnight Wednesday, May 13, 2020

* Another first: On May 5 FRP hosted our first ever online webcast. View the replay HERE.

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Team Spotlight: John Sohl

1. How long have you been with the FRP team?  I’ve known Donna Burry since 2013/14 and began collaborating with Family Renewal Project within weeks of its founding. My official employment began in February of 2019 after coming home from World Youth Day in Panama.

2. How did you get involved with FRP?  I got involved through my ongoing relationship with Donna Burry and Susan Gendron. I’ve known Susan since I was in 7th grade at St. Aloysius in Shepherdsville, KY (before it closed down!). I read The Good News About Sex & Marriage by Christopher West (a book I believe Susan lent my mom who gave it to me to read!) and  have been enraptured with Theology of the Body (TOB) ever since. I’ve been involved with many TOB-related ministries within the last few years and in March of 2016 was granted a very generous gift that allowed me to attend the necessary graduate-level courses at the TOB Institute toward completion of my Theology of the Body certification. Family Renewal Project was founded only 2 weeks after I completed the first of eight TOB courses and because everything FRP offers is through the lens of TOB, joining with them seemed like a logical next step. 

* OF SPECIAL NOTE: Literally, today John is completing the last day of his final TOB immersion course. He will soon begin his practicum and once completed & accepted by the Institute he will be the ONLY person in the ArchLou who has earned the TOB Certification! 

3. What is your favorite thing about FRP?  My absolute favorite thing about Family Renewal Project is that it serves as a vessel for major transformation! I believe FRP is positioned to become a beacon for men and women seeking healing and renewal in their lives, understanding their purposes, and their family relations. Our TOB Crash Courses have already taken 100’s of people on a deeper dive into their own family and faith formation and are set to become a catalyst for incredible healing and renewal (and now we have the option for professional, Catholic psychological assistance when needed). 

4. What’s one of your favorite FRP memories to date?  I will ALWAYS remember the day in March of 2019 when we came together as a TEAM for the first time [in the Reide Room at Holy Family Church] and began facilitating the powerful message of TOB to people from across the ArchLou. Praise God for such incredible timing and openness to the Holy Spirit! 
5. What’s one of your favorite things to do?  Beyond spending time with family and friends, I absolutely LOVE to act in theatrical performances. I have been Nephew Fred in my parish’s production of A Christmas Carol since I was 15 years old, I’ve also played the Prince in Cinderella, and had parts in comedies and other short skits. Acting and producing plays is one of my greatest passions; I never knew it would become so near and dear to my heart. One day I hope to write and produce a play on the lives of the Saints through the lens of what the ideal modern + messy Catholic family might show us! 

6. What’s one of your favorite books and/or movies?  Without saying the obvious choice–the Passion of the Christ—I would say my favorite movie of all time is a more obscure movie called Frequency. It’s got Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid, but my oh my it is a thriller and a beautiful story of father and son finding a bond they didn’t think was possible, all through a mystical encounter from above. That’s all I’m gonna say about that!

7. If you could learn to do anything right now, what would it be?  It would definitely be to play the piano near perfectly and with effortless ease. I’ve taken lessons off and on for years, but I’ve always longed to be able to sit down and play anything (and everything!) for the sake of my family and friend’s enjoyment…AND for the ability to compose my own music!

8. What’s one place on your travel bucket list?  Rome! My parents visited Vatican City/Italy in 2005 and I’ve been mesmerized with their stories ever since. It not only changed their life, but I think it positively changed the life of our family from that point forward. (Jerusalem will be checked off the bucket list for me and my wife next month, when we go on a “Theology of the Body” Pilgrimage to the Holy Land — the place where God became man and took on a BODY!)

 9. What’s the last experience that made you a stronger person?  GETTING MARRIED! October 5, 2019 Crystal Ann Rose Sohl and I entered into the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. So much goodness, beauty, and truth has come from that day, and I’m so excited to renew our vows every year and deepen our relationship with Christ together as husband and wife!

10. What’s one of your favorite Bible verses?  My all time favorite Bible verse is Psalm 139: “You have formed me in my inmost being; you have knit me in my mother’s womb. Behold, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” I love the whole verse, but that’s the most recognizable part of it.

Our incredible Formation Coordinators – John and Cathy!

John and his wife, Crystal

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FRP, TOB and Respect Life

Emails, text messages, coffee dates, carpools…our lives are short, but FAST! Many lament about the affects of our fast-paced lifestyles and yet can’t seem to slow down if they wanted to!

But when you get a minute--usually right before you go to bed or maybe as soon as you wake up in the morning–do your thoughts ever bring you to a subject you know not of? In the silence of your heart…What do you wonder about? Are there any “existential questions”–resting just below the surface–that perhaps really only pop their head up in those moments when you’re confronted with silence? 

Questions like: “Is there more to life than what I do on a daily basis?” ” Is there more to love than what I see around me?”  “What the heck am I even here for?” 

If your answer is “Yes!” then could we venture to say: you probably don’t know why? WHY those thoughts are there or what you should do with them? One could argue, if we wanted to, we could banish that silence from our lives completely.  A quick click of the remote or swipe on the smartphone makes it pretty easy. Notice, I’m not saying that’s a good idea (it’s actually a very bad idea), but it is possible and even desirable to some.  But why?

There is deep within each of us the desire to be loved.  Intensely… Immensely… Unconditionally… But then more questions pop up.

What would happen if I actually let myself feel and connect with that desire?  Wouldn’t I just end up being disappointed?  Can anything REAL even come close to satisfying?

I think a good place to start is to think about where that desire comes from. I propose that it is “written in our DNA” and it calls out from within us.  God created you and has inscribed His very own love in your heart.  He loves you with that kind of love and He made you for that kind of love.  You are: Unrepeatable!  Irreplaceable!  Indispensable! 

Do you believe that? When the current world population is estimated at 7.7 billion…and when you imagine the count of all the people who have lived throughout history and will live in the future….how is it possible that you are unrepeatable, irreplaceable, AND indispensable? 

We’re talking about it! October 22nd.

If you attended the “Made for More” event(s) in Louisville this September, the theme of this presentation will feel familiar. We’re giving you MORE about the uniqueness of YOU and every person. WHY it’s so important that we respect ALL life. And HOW we can do more of that in our daily lives–busy or not!

No registration is required. It’s going to be a great night at Holy Family Parish (The Reide Room) and we hope to see you there!

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Theology of the Body + YOU!

Hey everyone, summer is beginning, the days are growing long and the warm nights are perfect for hanging out with friends, discussing and debating the important things of life. You might have heard that the FRP team is excited about a huge event coming to Louisville in September called Made for More!  It will be a multi-media experience, involving all the senses and directing our hearts, souls and minds to reflect on the creation of the world, the Creator and the significance of being created HUMAN.  

In preparation for this event, we are offering a four part series based on St. John Paul’s teachings.  Not often available locally, we want to be sure to invite YOU!  

By learning about John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, you will have the answer to the questions:

1)    What does it mean to be human?

2)    How can I live my life in a way that will satisfy the deepest longings of my heart?

Sadly, the world and our culture seem to be unaware of the beauty and goodness that is naturally in created reality!  We no longer allow ourselves to contemplate this mystery and be wowed by the fact that we humans are made in God’s image, having been given divinized bodies.  Instead, we have accepted the lie that our bodies are separate from our spirit, which is another way of saying that all that is spiritually exciting, beautiful and meaningful is totally unrelated to what the physical body finds exciting, beautiful and meaningful.  

This is a grave error and a complete distortion of the magnificent order God created from the beginning of the world!  Subsequently, some of us find ourselves aimlessly wandering from one idea to the next, or one relationship to the next, in search of the truth, in search of a love, goodness, or beauty that satisfies that deepest ache and longing – and we never find it!

This 4-part introductory series is free of charge and includes video presentations each week by Christopher West, followed by discussion and reflection.  Many people leave the series wondering “Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”  

Why?  Because no one understood and explained it this way before!  St. John Paul II’s teachings are a gift!  

There is a tidal wave of cultural change sweeping America and the world.  Many feel lost, swept up in fear, seeing only confusion and uncertainty.  Now, with JP II’s help, we dive deeper into the mystery of creation itself.  Using Scripture as his guide, JP II helps us to see the absolute goodness and beauty of God’s creation of man and woman from the very beginning, and our ability to image God in love in a way we have never heard of before!   It is stunning, and it will take your breath away!

I hope you do not delay!  Get out your planners, check your calendars!  Then, please, sign up for Introduction to Theology of the Body to learn and hear for yourself what God had in mind when He created YOU!! 

WHO:  Cathy Blandford and John Sohl have been trained at the Theology of the Body Institute in Philadelphia and will facilitate the discussions.

WHERE:  Holy Family Parish, Poplar Level Road, Reide Room.  (Look for signs)

WHEN:  Tuesdays June 11, 18 and July 2 and 9. Choose afternoon 1:00 – 4:00 PM; or evenings 6:30 – 9:30 PM.

SIGN UP: https://www.familyrenewalproject.com/event/intro-to-theology-of-the-body-a-4-part-series/

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The Sacrament

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church. 

Ephesians 5:31-32

Marriage is obviously the mystery Paul refers to in this verse and proves how intentional God was when he patterned marriage after the relationship between his Son and the Church. 

But how exactly?

We were uniquely + individually created to represent God’s love…through the Spirit within us and the body given to us. This is why our bodies—individually as male and female AND through the union of the two—reflect God. Particularly: (1) His participation in an eternal exchange of love (the spousal analogy) and (2) His bodily sacrifice as a perfect gift of self. When they become “one flesh” man and woman (1) fulfill their purpose and (2) foreshadow the eternal union of Christ and His Church.  

Paul continues…

“[Therefore] be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”

Ephesians 5:21-25 

In Ephesians, the spousal analogy takes on another dimension: the wife is a symbol of the Church and the husband is a symbol of Christ. We can clearly see that this biblical calling of a wife’s submission to her husband isn’t blind passivity or weakness. God intended it to be unabashed love–much like He offers us. 

And the man, taking on Christ’s persona, should not take his wife’s submission in a self-serving manner. For Christ came not to be served, but to serve—to lay down his life for His Bride. 

This holy, sacrificial love is what John Paul II calls, “The Sacrament.” Marriage, like every other sacrament, has both a divine and human dimension. We’ll look at the divine dimension now. The Sacrament of Marriage, right from the beginning, “prepared the way for God’s wedding himself to US in ‘one flesh’.” In the beginning, God’s mystery became visible through mans union with woman. At the end of time—at the eternal “Supper of the Lamb”— the mystery becomes visible through Christ’s union with the Church. 

These two signs form one great sacrament (The Sacrament). The great mystery comes full circle…in that we see the purpose of our creation. Not just as man and woman, but in the relationship between God + mankind and it’s being brought to fulfillment through Christ.

Christopher West poses a great question: If the union of spouses in “one flesh” truly reveals Christ love for the church, why, then, are we so prone to think of sexual union as something unholy and defiling? How can we reclaim a true sense of the holiness of sexual union in God’s plan? 

Let us know below! We’d love to hear your thoughts! 

As always, thanks for reading! 

The FRP Team

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What happens to your body…

If you type the words “what happens to your” in the Google search bar, the second result is “…to your body when you die.” Seems to be a pretty intriguing question to most people!

1 Corinthians 15:44 says: 

They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.

After all God has to say about the body’s significance, did you think he’d leave it out after death? 

According to that verse in 1 Corinthians, our “heavenly” bodies will be significantly different from our earthly bodies.

How? 

“The powers of the spirit (the Holy Spirit—spiritual and divine) will permeate the energies of the body” (TOB 67:1).

Why?

The spiritualization and the divinization of our body is how we will participate in the “divine communion” God intended for us. This is promised to us from the beginning when we—as man and woman—are created in God’s image. We image God’s eternal exchange of love on earth as He does in Heaven: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

This is the communion God foreshadows for us in our earthly marriages (the union of one flesh). However, the “union of the sexes” as we know it now will give way to an infinitely greater union: the union of Christ and the Church.  

Because of this, we must remember our earthly marriages are…as Christopher West puts it…a glimmer…or an icon…of something infinitely greater. 

That is what we can expect after the resurrection of our earthly body. That is why we exist! 

As Pope John Paul II so eloquently put it, “All people—regardless of their vocation—are called to prepare and perfect themselves for eternal union with God.” 

What does eternal union with God look like? 

Perfect love. 

An end to all suffering. 

Ecstatic, never-ending happiness. 

Perfect justice. 

Healing of all wounds. 

Ending of all sadness and despair. 

What great hope we have in these things! So prepare yourself emphatically. Pray for these things unceasingly. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

If you’d like to learn more about what God has to say regarding the rising/resurrection of our bodies, keep reading! 

(Continued: 1 Corinthians 15:45-57)

“The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.

What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.

But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Thanks for reading! 

The FRP Team 

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Now Serving…

We’ve learned that eros—the longing—inside of us for Love was an intended part of our makeup. God created us in His image and, because of His communion of love in accordance with the Trinity, we are made for Love.

At the same time, he continuously warns us to guard our hearts from the perversion of Love:  lurking lust and the sin of adultery. 

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

Sounds pretty clear cut, right? But don’t misunderstand His point! Although we must guard our hearts from lust, Christ encourages us NOT to suppress our desires for Love…instead, he asks that we purify our hearts towards a holy desire.

The process of purification is not a strict set of standards. Christ does not want to impose laws on us… he wants to transform our hearts to “free us from the law” (Galations 5:18) and help our “eros” reach it’s true height, according to the Creator’s original plan.

(Theology of the Body is not only an invitation, but a “road map” to understanding what this means for each of us.)

As we’ve learned, our sexuality is a major part of God’s plan for humanity. As followers of Christ, we must mature and learn to distinguish between (1) what composes the riches of sexuality/sexual attraction and (2) what compels lust. This requires what God continuously calls us to perfect: our self control. 

To grow in purity, we must train our hearts and minds to control our “passions.” It’s an act of the will. 

Christopher West uses the example of exercising a muscle. The more one sacrifices bad habits and devotes themselves to training, the stronger that muscle becomes. 

However, he rightly notes that only half the “training” comes from our own will. We MUST surrender our struggles to grace and let Christ give our desires a new, pure form. Only He can give us the power to love in God’s image.

It is NOT an easy process!

JPII writes, “Lust is not always plain and obvious; sometimes it’s concealed, so that it passes itself off as ‘love’… Does this mean we should distrust the human heart? No! We must remain in control of it.”

Sometimes lust looks a lot like love. Sometimes, it looks a lot like “fast food.” As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, Christians often feel our only two options are fast food or “starvation.”

From “A Four Letter Word for Love:”

“Erotic love (as intended), like much in our culture today, has been completely defiled. And like many spiritual things, its original intention isn’t properly understood, resulting in rejection and a sense of disgrace… leading its new meaning to be rejected and disgraced by the very people God created it for: the Church. This is a mindset we must reverse.

In the confusion, we find ourselves at a crossroads: either (1) by a pure act of the will we become stoic by repressing our desires, condemning them as “bad” or unholy…OR… (2) once we realize that “starving ourselves” of our deepest desire is not possible, we give up the fight by “consuming” immediate gratification — in whatever form it takes. —> Can also be known as “fast food” love.  

Enter: Jesus. 

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” Matthew 16:24

A process like TAKING UP OUR CROSS (in this case, controlling our *given* desires) is not.going.to.be.easy. 

Christopher West describes it as “emotionally and physically wrenching at times.” 

Dying to lust—letting the Lord crucify impurity—is a birth of authentic love and a life as God intended it. 

However! We know that God has prepared a banquet (an everlasting wedding feast, actually—see Revelation 19:7) for those who follow Him. So there’s no such thing as “starving ourselves” and fast food can be a thing of the past! 

We pray that you’ll find peace and strength if you surrender your burdens to the Lord today. We can testify that you’ll actually lose nothing and gain everything (even though it feels like losing a lot of the time!). 

Want more Theology of the Body? 

We’re announcing a new introductory series in JUNE! Stay tuned for more information next week. 

Thank you for reading! 

The FRP Team