Editor’s Note: If you enjoyed Charisse Tierney’s thoughtful essay “Coffee Break” a few weeks ago, you’ll be delighted to know that Charisse has agreed to join CAPC’s regular writing staff! Charisse is a professional musician, Catholic writer, and stay at home mom of four. She and her husband, Rob, teach Natural Family Planning and Theology of the Body for Teens through their parish in Newton, Kansas. Their family enjoys living the attachment parenting lifestyle and growing in their Catholic faith together. Charisse will be focusing on Theology of the Body in her CAPC articles. Welcome Charisse!
I just spent the morning enjoying God’s creation with my four children. We hiked, we collected flower petals and leaves, and we delighted in spotting beautiful butterflies and creepy crawly roly polies on the woodland floor. We laughed, told goofy jokes, and smiled at each other. We did not sit and have lengthy conversations in which we poured out our love for each other in Shakespearean fashion, but at the end of the adventure we all felt closer to each other. We felt joyful. We felt loved.
How was this accomplished? Not through the words we spoke, but through the great language of our bodies. I watched as my children played tag, gave each other piggy back rides, and physically guided the toddler of the family back on track when a particularly interesting pile of dirt distracted him from the trail. The joy emanated from their faces as their bodies moved through the beauty that God created. They danced in the sunbeams and leaped between rocks. They exuded the security of being part of a family unit whose foundation lies in respect for the God who created them.
Just as we marveled at the deep yellow of a particular flower petal, so do we marvel at the way God made each of our bodies. The patience of my older children to wait for a toddler’s little legs to catch up reflects the patience of my husband as he respects the cycles of my body while we navigate the intricacies of Natural Family Planning together. The big sister’s hand that provides gentle reassurance for a toddler’s unsteady step reflects the nurturing my body provides to my nursing children. The big brother who offers to carry a tired younger sibling reflects the comfort Rob’s and my bodies envelop them in as they sleep next to us at night.
These languages of the body can be explained in words, but they can only truly be learned through experience. As Rob and I live our marriage sacrament and as we love each other with free, total, faithful, and fruitful love, our children can feel the love of Christ pouring out from us. There is no fear in our children’s hearts of ever losing the graces of our marriage. They are completely secure in our love for each other, our love for them, and our love for their future siblings.
It is assumed in our house that, God willing, one baby is followed by another. There is never any doubt that any baby would not be fully embraced with love and dignity as one of God’s creations. This is what makes my children feel so loved: the knowledge that they, too, were loved before they were even conceived.
My husband demonstrates what it means to be a man by the way he wrestles with the boys, respects me for the way God made me, and cares for our home through manual labor and working to finance our future. I demonstrate what it means to be a woman by embracing the “feminine genius” (Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women) and using my body for which it was created: bearing new life, providing comfort and nourishment at the breast, and embracing wounded bodies and hearts with soft arms and a shoulder to cry on.
My husband and I demonstrate together what it means to love as Christ does by living the Natural Family Planning and Attachment Parenting lifestyles. These lifestyles demonstrate respect for one another’s bodies, a willingness to sacrifice for the good of others, and an openness to God’s plan for our lives. The reality of these lifestyles consists not of tangible substance, but of an authentic truth that radiates naturally from the way our bodies interact with each other.
It is a foundation such as this that gives my husband and me confidence to navigate the teenage years using the same principles on which we base our marriage. Chastity, self-control, generosity, charity, and all of the other fruits of the Holy Spirit are demonstrated daily in our household. When we fail to model these virtues well, contrition and forgiveness restore the grace we need to inspire our children to holiness.
Blessed Pope John Paul II was so wise when he said, “The body expresses the person” in one of his great Theology of the Body talks. What does your body say about the type of person you are to your children? It is this language that your children will most remember, look up to, and want to emulate.
The joy pouring out of my children’s bodies on our nature walk this morning was beautiful to behold, but the perfect ending to such a wonderful morning was seeing the peace on my toddler’s face as he nursed to sleep, savoring the love that flowed from one body into another.