Third Place - $100 Scholarship

Name: Vincent McCauley
Age: 15
Parish: Holy Family Parish,
Syracuse, NY

Third Place Essay

There is a world where war, greed, sex, lust, betrayal and death rule. There is a world where the news is filled with different scandals and different celebrities getting arrested on a daily basis. There is a world where a child can seek out, and find, pornography in a matter of minutes. This world I speak of is, unfortunately, where teenagers like me, are growing up today.

This shouldn’t be news to anyone.  You just need to look around, and look around is exactly what I did, at the beginning of this year. Just starting high school, I was worried about my future.  I knew that things were going to change drastically, and I didn’t want to be dragged into the temptations that are all around me.  Thankfully, my family and I are active members in our church, so when our Pastor spoke, to the youth of our church, one Sunday about the Theology of the Body program, I signed up immediately. 

I was curious to find out what Theology of the Body really meant. Theology is widely understood to mean, the study of God. So Theology of the Body really is the study of our bodies through God and that is exactly what I learned when I started classes.   I learned that each, and every one of us, are children of God and we deserve love.  Love, like the Father gives us, not fleeting, lustful “love”.  We are created in this life for one other person.  This other person is the one we’ll marry and bear children with. God intended it to be like this but, in the world we live in, it’s not always like this. Sadly, most people look for multiple partners for one reason; lustful satisfaction. But God didn’t create us for this, in fact Pope John Paul II once wrote, “The human body bore in itself, in the mystery of creation, an unquestionable sign of the image of God.”  We are all “images of God”, and we are meant to try our best, in our daily lives, to act with never ending virtue as He does.

As a young man I face many urges, and difficulties in the daily tribulations of life. I find it hard, sometimes, to always be holy and pure. But thankfully I was given the tools from God in the sacrament of reconciliation to be forgiven of my sins and move forward to try to be the man God created me to be. 

Through the teachings of the Theology of the Body I’ve been able to speak to my friends about how to love fully and fruitfully, and how the gift of their virginity is meant for the woman they are to spend the rest of their life with, after marriage. At first when I brought these subjects up to the guys, in the football and lacrosse locker rooms, I was immediately put down by my friends, but I expected as much. But I prayed for the strength to not be afraid of persecution and for the courage our savior, Jesus, and his apostles showed in their testimony.

The next day, at school, when a conversation was started, with defiling images of a girl in our grade, I mentioned what I was taught.  I was put down, once again, but I was persistent and did not give up.  Finally, one day, one of my teammates approached me and asked for advice. He and his girlfriend were, in his mind, ready to go forward and have sex but he had listened to what I’d been saying and he wanted to know what he should do.  I discussed with him that she was made to be loved as God loves her, not to be used and possibly discarded. He should love her for her, not for what he can obtain from her.   

My friend came to me, days later, and said that he and his girlfriend decided to wait. He smiled when he said those words and I knew, in his heart, that he was happy with his decision and that, in his own way, he had become closer to our Lord. After this experience I was filled with such faith and happiness; I praised God for everything he had given me. Eventually the guys left me alone, and soon it was as good as new between us all. They knew my beliefs and they respected them. 

I had another experience months later, during the early winter, when a new boy transferred to our school. He immediately expressed his homosexuality and was very open about everything he believed. This boy would soon intersect my life when we were both in the school musical and I learned he had a crush on me.  

My mother’s sister had a brain injury at birth.  She and my mother were teased, relentlessly, as children.   I was raised to never tease anyone, and to respect each person as a child of God.  Many of my peers laughed at and mocked this boy but I met with him, privately, to discuss his feelings towards me.  I told him how strong my faith was and how active I was in my local parish. He immediately turned bitter and said that I must hate him, like the church does, due to his sexuality.  I was shocked at this statement. I had learned in my Theology of the Body classes that the church does not allow gay marriage but, most certainly, does not hate homosexuals. 

I then backed up my statement with the word of God and a quote from Pope John Paul II.  I told him how in the first chapter of Genesis we are told that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God and is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh.” “Through their spiritual and bodily union, they form a communion of persons.”

After explaining this much, I told him God created a man and a woman to form a bond after marriage. This bond cannot be made between a man and another man; this is why our church does not allow gay marriage. The boy looked at me, and was truly awed for a moment. He explained how he thought due to his sexuality the church would turn its back on him, and that God did not love him. He spoke of the turmoil he felt thinking he did not have a God to pray to, and of the deep sorrow that soon turned to bitterness towards the church and other Catholics. He looked at me after professing all this, and at that moment he cried, and I sat amazed at the power of God, and how much His love can deeply move someone. 

After many hours of deep prayer and reflection I see how different my future is becoming since I enrolled in the Theology of the Body course.  I’ve also come to realize, through my interactions with others, that this experience is far bigger than me.   It has touched the lives of my friends, my teammate and his girlfriend, and especially the boy who thought he had no church and, no God.  Each person that I testify to is also touched by the teachings of the Theology of the Body. 

A personal hero of mine, the great Pope John Paul II, created the Theology of the Body.  It’s one of his many legacies to us.  He also left a simple six word statement that I try to live by every day. These words propel me forward and inspire me to help make the world the loving, lust-less and faith-filled place God created it to be. 

"The future starts today, not tomorrow."