Second Place - $750 Scholarship
Name: Krista Shaw
School: Pope John Paul the Great Catholic
High School, Dumfries, VA
Second Place Winning Essay
It is ironic that I thought I was a slave to other people’s ideas and principles before I learned about Theology of the Body, because in reality, I was a slave to myself.
I had been brought up in a steady, very traditional home, and I resented the rules of morality that my family, church, and school held, classing them as old-fashioned, judgmental, and out of touch. Part of the problem was that I was offered no real reason to prove that a life of virtue was the only authentic way to live. Instead, I heard negative reasons to prevent me from doing the opposite, what I felt was fun and normal. When sex was mentioned, it would invariably be hinted at with dark glances and threatening words about getting pregnant and contracting STDs. I was repeatedly lectured on purity and modesty, but I was never told why they were so important for love. Soon I had learned to associate the concept of purity with prudishness, and I assumed that modesty was for people who did not have any fashion sense. The way of life I had been taught seemed boring and strange. Besides, I was sure that the common lifestyle of the world was a quick way to find love and happiness. I so wanted to feel validated by the love of another person, but I did not even understand other people, myself, or love.
I spent my first year of high school rebelling against my parents, feeling insecure about friendships and relationships, and struggling with a sense of the meaninglessness of life. Nothing mattered to me except feeling loved and important, but since neither of these desires was ever met, I had given them up as idealized, impossible daydreams.
At my Catholic High School, The Human Person was a required class my sophomore year. I walked into the classroom with preconceptions about people trying to take away my freedom and narrow-minded teachers “forcing their morality” on me, but I was soon surprised when we began discussing Theology of the Body.
First came the realization that I was settling for less than I deserved and for less than I should have demanded from myself. Theology of the Body taught me to value myself as a part of God’s creation, a woman entrusted with so many gifts and responsibilities. I learned that humans are created with the desire for relationships that I had so often experienced. I soon saw that healthy relationship should be seen as an opportunity to give to another person, not a means of making myself feel special. I had previously allowed people to use me in various ways, and I had pretended like their behavior did not hurt me because they told me that they loved me. Now, I knew enough to respect my own dignity and demand the same treatment from others. I also saw that I had ignored Pope John Paul II’s personalistic norm in my treatment of other people because I had viewed people as objects, using them to feel good about myself, and not seeing them as subjects who deserve love.
Now that I can see humans as inestimably valuable, I can look at my life and my relationships with different eyes. Suddenly, my life takes on immense meaning because my personhood shows me I was designed for true, fulfilling, self-giving love. Since I know the value of others, I now know that in my relationships, I must try to reflect the love Christ showed on the cross by sacrificing my own wishes for the good of the other person.
Through Theology of the Body, I soon began to understand that my body was not dirty or shameful, but it was actually one of my greatest gifts. I learned that my body and my soul are united to form my person, and the Holy Spirit resides inside my body. Rather than thinking that my actions are not associated with who I am, I have begun to see that my actions are my body’s way of speaking, and it is just as important to be truthful with what my body says as it is to tell the truth while talking aloud. Because I saw that the language the body speaks is so meaningful and the body itself is a wonderful gift, it was obvious to me that physical affection should also be guarded as a great prize. It is not because sex is terrible or vulgar that unmarried people should avoid engaging in it. On the contrary, it is because sex is so sacred, that it is only appropriate in certain situations. The important gift of one’s body must be bestowed upon a worthy recipient, and because the gift is total, it can only be for one person. The language of the body speaks a vow of complete faithfulness and commitment, and therefore, a couple must be married to confirm the promise their bodies are making. It is only in this situation that the union of two people can express true love and bear fruit, because there is no selfishness or deception, there is only truth.
When I finally understood the reasons for the proper context of sex, I could not deny the logic of the Catholic Church. I was no longer subjected to the lies that the world around me advocated, and I was instead freed from the prevalent culture of selfishness and deception. More importantly, I was free from my own false opinions. I was free of the constant anger of rebellion, the pressure of wanting to feel good about myself, and the pain of leading an empty, seemingly pointless life.
Through Theology of the Body, I learned to treat everyone, including myself, as a human person deserves. I understand now that people must be loved because of who they are, not because of what they can do. I also discovered that because my body is such a wonderful creation, it must be saved for one deserving person. If I give myself away too quickly, I know I will be lying with my body, and I see that lying can only hinder relationships, but the truth will fulfill me and give me the chance to share my love.
Now, I am waiting for the man that deserves my total gift of self, but I am not afraid or bored or sad. I can only be happy because I am free from slavery and open to love.