The Theology of the Body for Everyone

Here’s my column that appears in this weekend’s print edition of The Catholic Post.

Earlier this month, I was wretched in the throes of a nasty stomach bug going around. I couldn’t get comfortable. I was achy and dreaded any hint of food or noise. I (half) jokingly asked my husband to put me out of my misery.

As I started to recover, the soothing predictability of HGTV shows like “House Hunters” were the only thing my brain was capable of processing. I couldn’t imagine actually making it out of bed again, much less stand up long enough to brush my teeth, and I knew I would never, ever, eat again.

Being that miserably sick, and being better now, reminds me of a question I once asked a confessor. “Who’s the real me? Is it when I’m at my best, having the right amount of sleep, good food, exercise and caffeine? Or is it when I’m extra cranky because I’ve been up all night with a sick child? Or when I’ve been sick myself, or haven’t been taking care of myself?” He responded, “They all are.”

It’s a fascinating conundrum—how our souls, moods and bodies being connected and so affected by each other, for good or bad. Why did God make us this way?

A new book by an author with local roots begins to unpack some of the answers to this question.

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In These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body, Emily Stimpson (originally from the Quad Cities, but now a Steubenville, Ohio-based writer), ambitiously seeks to explain why our bodies matter, and why what we do with them matters.

Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, is not exclusively about marriage and sex, as people often understand it. It’s about living a “sacramental life” in all areas of life—taking care of our bodies, the importance of labor, our leisure time, our work and our interactions with each other.

A number of things stand out about These Beautiful Bones:

First of all, just reading the introduction makes me want to hop on a plane to Rome to see many things, but among them the Capuchin bone church, if only to see the memento mori lines, “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”

Stimpson has a careful, nuanced writing style that lends itself well to this topic. She tells real-life stories and . And, sometime I always appreciate, the book is carefully designed and produced and has a great “feel.”.

But most of all, These Beautiful Bones helps readers see how rich and multi-faceted the Theology of the Body is in all areas of life, from how we relate to each other to how we take care of our bodies. Our bodies matter, and everything we do with our bodies means something.

As Stimpson so beautifully puts it, “When we live the theology of the body, when we live a life of self-gift in the smallest moments and the smallest ways, we live a life of witness. And in that, we bring people face to face with the Gospel.”

These Beautiful Bones is an excellent introduction to help readers understand all aspects of the Theology of the Body— how all of us are called to live the truth that our bodies speak in our actions.

Look for a future post on other Theology of the Body books that are well worth reading.