Community and Its Impact on Holy Intimacy (and Friendship)

depressed boy window

[Guest post by Hudson Byblow] wp-engine

Recently, I received an inquiry from a parent who was looking for a “healthy online community for a young person graduating from high school.” The parent went on to mention that “same-sex attractions may be an issue.” Though I am joyful that this parent wants what is best for their child, their inquiry drew me to think about community (or a lack thereof) and how that may impact a young person’s development overall. This strikes particularly close to home for me, since growing up in a solid Catholic community was instrumental in my eventual return to the Catholic Church.

Negotiating The Jungle

There is nothing wrong with a healthy online community. However, there is something wrong when that online community becomes a substitute for face-to-face community.  This is true even in the context of a faith development community. The main reason is because an online community offers people a lesser degree of opportunity to navigate verbal and nonverbal cues given by others. This is important because the less a person understands these cues, the more likely they are to inadvertently contribute to their own exclusion. This is because when people don’t know the “unwritten rules” of face-to-face communication, they are all the more likely to break them. And if this breaking of the “rules” is seen as not advantageous by the rest of the critical mass, they will distance themselves from said “rule-breaker.” In other words, peers jockeying for position in the jungle of adolescence tend to exclude those who behave inappropriately enough to bring down their own social status through association. For that reason, it is in the best interest of people (of any age) to learn how to negotiate those invisible “rules” so that they will be less likely to commit social faux pas that could contribute to their exclusion, or worse yet, bring about the situation where the critical mass of peers might turn on them.

Cause and Effect

The topic of exclusion is important because when people are excluded, they are deprived of opportunities for positive and appropriate physical contact. Where appropriate physical contact norms are learned, a person would be less likely to be fearful of that very same appropriate contact. And this is significant because if one is fearful of such contact, they are more likely to avoid situations where they might encounter it. However, the aversion to appropriate contact (which may result in the lack of contact) brings with it a lack of holy contact. And without experiencing holy contact, there will result a deficit in understanding holy intimacy. And where there is a deficit in understanding (and knowing the joys of) holy intimacy, people will be less likely to seek it out for themselves. Instead, it will remain off their radar. And this will impact the type and quality of friendships that a person will be able to have.

Holy Intimacy

Holy intimacy is necessary for all persons because it provides for us the optimal space to grow in relationship as opposed to isolation. It is optimal because truly holy contact is devoid of the commission of sin and thus it is less likely overall to draw people towards sin. In addition, holy contact honors what God has authored, and draws people closer to Him and the pursuit of virtue (even if a person doesn’t recognize this gradual transformation at the time). With holiness and virtue as an underlying objective, a person reveals that their primary intention is to strive to draw another person into a deeper intimacy with God Himself.

The Cultural Narrative…

Though God made us (including our bodies) good and holy, without a foundational understanding of holy intimacy, intentional physical contact itself may become perceived as something reserved for only sexual/romantic circumstances. As this perception takes root within a culture, people may be drawn to withdraw from appropriate non-sexual/non-romantic contact altogether for fear that it may be interpreted as something romantic/sexual when it is not intended as such.

Despite the over-sexualization of our culture, however, people seem to be increasingly deprived of holy contact altogether, let alone holy intimacy. However, the basic needs for holy contact and holy intimacy remain. As a result of the increasing absence of holy intimacy, people seem to be increasingly seeking out ways to fill that void. It is predictable that people strive to do this in the only ways they have come to learn (which in this culture, largely involve sexual/romantic exploration). A person engaged in this pursuit ought to not shoulder all the blame, for they are products of our culture. Indeed, their expectations may have become set in this way on account of any number of factors, including the lack of holy intimacy being modeled within our world today.

As Catholics, we are called to strive to live that holy intimacy with Christ and reflect that to others, and we might do well to ask ourselves about how well we have reflected that to the world. Truly, it starts with us.

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[This commentary originally appeared on HudsonByblow.com and is reprinted with the author’s permission.]

Hudson02Hudson Byblow is a Catholic speaker, author, and consultant who lives in the Midwest where he has a career in education. He has presented at National and International conferences in the United States and Canada and also presents to clergy, schools and parishes. Additionally, Hudson serves as a consultant to various Catholic agencies, speakers and educators. His website is www.hudsonbyblow.com and he can be booked by emailing info@hudsonbyblow.com.

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The Rosary and TOB: Exploring More Deeply the Mystery of Man

jpii praying in front of rosaries

[Guest post by Debbie Staresinic]

Many who are familiar with Theology of the Body (TOB) know that St. John Paul II identified the problem with the modern world as a fundamental lack of understanding of the meaning and purpose of the human person. Said differently, if we don’t know who we are and why we’re here, we’re going to have a difficult time reaching our true destination. To fill that gap and thus open up the mystery of man, the Holy Father wrote Theology of the Body and delivered it in the form of Wednesday audience addresses from 1979-1984.

Less well-documented is St. John Paul II’s belief in the value of the Rosary to more deeply explore these same truths. In his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pope St. John Paul II wrote about the anthropological significance of the Rosary. He said, “Each mystery of the Rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man.” Hence, we can perceive the mutual effect that the Rosary and TOB might have in aiding our understanding of the human person. This is what fueled a project to bring these two devotions together in the form of Theology of the Body Rosary meditations.

Are Friendships a Thing of the Past?

 

Two happy friends talking in a balcony at sunset

[Guest post by Hudson Byblow]

Recently, a female friend shared with me about her relationship with her friend who is of the same sex. Her words struck me to the core, especially in this over-isolated and over-sexualized culture. Here is what she said:

“I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with [name]. I care about her so much; we talk almost every day, we have a lot in common, and we genuinely care about each other. When I first met her, she was so beautiful and so cool that it really caught me off guard. I found myself really drawn to her and I really want to be her friend — strictly her friend — and at first, that scared me. I had to remind myself that it is okay to want to be around someone of the same sex, to be close to someone of the same sex, to be intimate friends with someone of the same sex. And that intimacy does not require sexual/romantic interaction (in thought or action). It just seems as though society has forgotten this.”

Again, her words echoed in my heart. Friendship. What does that even look like anymore?

How the Theology of the Body Made Me a Better Filmmaker

Few filmmakers have captured the gaze of the male and female character relationship like this classic scene from “Casablanca.”

[Guest post by filmmaker Matt LaFont]

Movies are still considered to be one of the youngest art forms of storytelling. With the invention of the motion picture camera in the late 19th century and the evolution of the editorial process, films have entertained audiences all over the world for many years.

As one of the most labor-intensive art forms, filmmaking itself requires an enormous collaborative effort of many different talented artists who all contribute to the same goal of creating an entertaining story for people to experience.

The process at times can be stressful, but after immersing myself in St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB) and working in the film industry for almost a decade, I’ve found my work more rewarding as it relates to the human experience. With the ups and downs of reality in my own life, it can be easy to connect with a compelling fictional story through beautiful images, a complementary score, and realistic sound design. Life’s biggest questions always seem to reveal themselves as the story unfolds, but during the creative process, you need to dig a lot deeper to find that story which awakens the sleepy heart. Even from my early childhood, I always sensed this was a career path I should take and JP2’s TOB constantly reaffirms this calling.

Art has the ability to engage the body through the senses with a variety of perspectives. The art of filmmaking has a unique way of taking someone’s mind away from reality for the duration of the film. Usually if someone responds to a film, it is because they engage their minds and hearts with certain characters of a story. Like any story, characters are usually faced with a conflict that needs to be resolved, and it is our job as filmmakers to guide the viewer throughout the journey of resolution.

In the cutting room, which is where the bulk of my work comes from, the editor must analyze the character’s inner soul through his or her body language in each shot, keeping the overall character arc consistent throughout the film. Observing these qualities of a character, which is a whole and complex human being, the editor can determine the emotional climax of any given scene. With my experience in editorial department, this careful examination is simply encountering the body and inner soul with a creative eye, and I feel the Theology of the Body has enhanced my craft as an editor.

My first glimpse of this “new way of seeing” was during my first feature-length documentary “Dog Man.” As the interview process began, it was hard to feel the full scope of emotion during the interview as everything was happening in real time. Once in the cutting room, I was allowed to play back and replay back what he or she said, hearing and seeing them laugh or cry again. Then it hit me… these are human persons who have intrinsic dignity, and it was my responsibility to show the truth regarding the things stirring in their hearts (since they permitted me to share their story in the first place). It wasn’t that I didn’t respect them during the interview, but that I was blind and did not truly see this dimension of their dignity as a human person. I had a deeper connection with them in a sense… not realizing that I was encountering God.

Almost like a interviewee in a documentary, the actor places a trust in the director’s vision as they work together to bring a character to life. It’s fair to say that most of Hollywood would not know anything about JP2 and his teachings, but you can’t deny that they are in touch with their inner desires as fallen and broken human beings. This is exactly why Christopher West uses movies to bring out themes of the Theology of the Body. You cannot separate the body from the soul, and during the actual filmmaking process, this is more evident than ever. I would argue that this is what makes or breaks a film. Just like a porn movie separates the soul from the body by allowing the indulgence of our desires with no limits, so too does the “so-called” Christian film (with good intentions) separates the body from the soul by forcing the Christian message in their art and only relying on the spiritual dimension of the human person. The fact is, God is already present in our art. God is present in His creation as He already speaks through us, through our bodies and through our souls.

Recently, I decided to answer God’s call to produce a narrative short film that is close to my heart. The story is about a man who discovers a beautiful woman expressing interest in meeting on his dating app. But after they meet, neither of them will see the other in the same way again. One of the greatest gifts you can give a person is a good and honest story. Stories can leave questions in a person’s heart… questions that awaken the desire for true love. In a world with so much sexual tension and confusion, it is hard to fathom how the healing process can begin. A simple short story can make people ponder life’s biggest questions without judging someone’s heart.

Please click the button below to learn more about the project and consider making a contribution (large or small) to help make this project a reality and possibly make an impact in today’s hungry world.

Click to Support Matt LaFont’s Short Film Project Connected

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matt lafont CROP

After completing his bachelors at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2010, Matt LaFont has been working at River Road Creative (rrc.la) for 8 years as an editor for title designer/filmmaker, Richie Adams. During his time at RRC, LaFont has traveled from L.A. to NYC on commercial projects, and even as far as France at the Festival de Cannes, where LaFont served as an on-location editor for filmmaker/talent interviews for client, Variety magazine. See Matt’s commercial reel and other highlights at his website MatthewLaFont.com

 

Matt edited the feature length documentary, “Dog Man,” which the Times-Picayune cited as one of the top 10 films to watch at the 2015 New Orleans film festival. LaFont served as assistant editor for Adams’ acclaimed narrative feature, “Of Mind and Music,” and most recently was the co-editor with Adams of “American,” an award-winning short film starring George Takei about the internment of Japanese Americans in the U.S. during WWII. He continues to edit commercials, mini documentaries and title sequences for feature films. With vast experience in the cutting room, Matt is excited to make his directorial debut with “Connection,” a short film about the lost of the “original” union between human beings. Please support his project here. Check out his IMDB page here.

7 Effective Ways to Respond to the Sexual Crisis in the Catholic Church

Crisis, accusation, and the revelation of sin has left a wake of sorrow and devastation in the Catholic Church over the last few weeks. Bill Donaghy and Christopher West have collaborated to write a short resource to guide us through these times. This resource intends not to fix the problems in the Church today, but rather forms a path ahead for believers who are a mixture of righteous anger, frustration, horror and hope for justice and conversion to happen in the hearts of our shepherds and in the broken structures of the Church. God of Justice, deliver us. Merciful Lord, heal us. Immaculate Mary, pray for us!

Click to Download ‘7 Effective Ways to Respond to the Sexual Crisis in the Catholic Church’ PDF

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