Dignify and Deploy 6: Masters of Integration, Part 2
‘Man must enter into Him with all his own self; he must appropriate and assimilate the whole reality of the Incarnation and redemption.’ Pope St. John Paul II
One of the reasons I love Theology of the Body is that it unites my best self—man made to love woman responsibly—with a real process of realizing that self. John Paul helps me own my ‘ethos’ (murky motives, good intentions, maturing emotions) in route to the biblical ‘ethic’ of becoming Christ-like for Annette.
Pope St. John Paul II united foundational truth with the human heart. Just as John Wimber built a bridge on which many Christians became dynamic agents of the Spirit, Karol Wojtyla built a philosophical bridge, plank by plank, between an objective basis for truth and the subjective experience of that truth.
Let me explain. Catholic thought is significantly founded on Thomas Aquinas and his integration of Aristotelian metaphysics, biblical truth, and Church teaching. A not uncomplicated system of thought, ‘Thomism’ evolved from its medieval origins into a somewhat heavy-handed version known as scholasticism that struggled to engage with modern philosophical systems. The latter emphasizes subjectivity, how a person experiences reality.
Wojtyla fused the objective and the subjective. He believed that somehow, we could grasp the truth of things (unchanging philosophical Reality based on God, e.g. Thomism) while getting to the heart of things, our lived experience of that truth.
That is where Wojtyla’s Christian spirituality comes in. Steeped in Carmelite mysticism (Sts. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila) which emphasizes ‘spousal union’ with God, Karol believed that what is most personal in faith probed and authenticated what is most true in persons. ‘Jesus reveals man to himself’, he concluded. Spirituality thus became a bridge for Wojtyla in conversing with modern philosophers who emphasized ‘personalism’, that is a philosophical embrace of the personal, the experiential, and the psychological.
Wojtyla embraced this personalism. At the same time, he knew that subjectivity without bedrock truth left humanity vulnerable to an emotional and moral fog. Wojtyla believed that humanity could know the good, then aspire responsibly to realize it. Yet that too was a uniquely human freedom—to act on the capacity to become moral, authentically good in one’s truest self. That truest self is founded on Christ: Author and Finisher of all truth.
By bridging the bedrock truth of Thomism with a dignifying ‘yes’ to every unique self, Pope St. John Paul II made a way for moderns like us to know Christ in a profoundly personal way and so become Christ-like.
“Help us, O God, to rejoice in the truth while engaging honestly with our unique blends of virtue and vice. As we get ‘real’, we trust that Reality is taking more and more ground in us.
Come Holy Spirit, liberate what is true and beautiful from what debases us. May we not settle but aspire to the dignity of our sexual humanity. May we grow into ‘mature expressions of the gift’ by helping others to do the same. Deployed to dignify, we ‘harness the John force.’”