US speaker: Church needs ‘new language’ for faith

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Filipinos for Life chairman Mike Mapa has a personal Q&A session with Theology of the Body speaker Katrina Zeno during a the first day of aTheology of the Body (TOB) training on May 7 – 8 at the San Carlos Seminary Auditorium. (Photo: Nirva Delacruz)

MAKATI City, May 16, 2016 – While the Church’s message never changes, her methods and language can and should, said a US-based international keynote speaker and author during a Theology of the Body (TOB) training on May 7 – 8 at the San Carlos Seminary Auditorium.

According to Katrina Zeno, a Theology of the Body resource person from Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona, there is a real need to propose the “heritage of faith with a new language … creating a bridge between the language of the church and of modern society.”

“Our doctrine doesn’t change, but the language does. Because the language of the Church is what I would like to call ‘churchy language’ and most people can’t relate to that,” explained the coordinator of the John Paul II Resource Center for Theology of the Body and Culture, Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona.

New doctrine, new language

She said the bishops came to the same conclusion of this new “challenge” presented to the Church at the Synod of Bishops on the Family in October 2015 as well as during the 2014 Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

Zeno, whose personal interest in TOB began after an singular encounter with then pope St. John Paul II in June of 1992, said this is precisely what the pontiff did when he came up with the Theology of the Body, the saint’s teachings on marriage, human destiny, and God’s promise.

“He’s not inventing new doctrine but a new language… hopefully, to reach people’s hearts, to introduce us to Christ,” said the author of Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Woman’s Journey.

Among other things, TOB proposes that the human body reveals God; man’s destiny is to share in the Trinitarian God’s eternal exchange of love in heaven; and that man can only find himself when he gives a total and eternal gift of self to another.

St. John Paul II’s original text is not exactly light reading, admitted Zeno, which is why lay people need to reintroduce TOB using everyday language to reach more of the faithful.

Language leads to love

“Sometimes, the language of the Theology of the Body is ‘churchy ‘language… because it’s theological and philosophical.. [Which is why] you and me have to be translators from English to English, from ‘churchy’ language to more ordinary language that more people can relate to,” she explained to more than 140 participants of the said training, which gathered top Couples for Christ (CFC) leaders, officers from Filipinos for Life, and people serving in the dioceses.

This much-needed “translation” can have implications on the wider Church and on ordinary members of the faithful.

“If you have langugae, you can think. If you can think, you can choose. If you can choose, you can love… Language is all about love,” explained Zeno, who will be in the Philippines until May 19 for a series of TOB workshops and trainings.

The Theology of the Body is a series of talks given by Pope John Paul II during his weekly Wednesday audiences from September 1979 to November 1984. (Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz / CBCPNews)

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