I love the way Lent encourages me to work on my spiritual health. One offering I am making this Lent is to read all (or most, at least) of the books I have piled up on my desk. Here's the very first one I tackled--it's been sitting on the top of my pile since September: TOBET's (Theology of the Body Evangelization Team) Theology of the Body Marriage Preparation book.
Author Monica Ashour created this book with her TOBET team. (You may remember other books by Monica Ashour I've reviewed before: her Theology of the Body board books for toddlers and paperbacks for children.)
Here are some of the things I love about TOBET's marriage preparation book:
- IMAGES! Full-color charts, diagrams, and images pop out of the pages, making deep theological concepts come to life. Every once in a while certain charts struck me as overly complicated, but by and large the graphics are inspired.
- WORDS! The pages scatter pithy quotations from Pope St. John Paul II like Mardi Gras beads. Here's a gem: "The body, and only the body, is capable of making visible the invisible realities: the spiritual and the divine." Ah, I miss that man! Other great food-for-thought quotations appear on the pages, from sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Peter Kreeft, and the BIBLE, naturally.
- LOVE! The tone throughout the entire book is joyful, compassionate, and respectful. My husband and I have helped with several marriage preparation programs, and we're often frustrated that the materials sound either confrontational--presuming the engaged couples are living in sin--or condescending--presuming the couples are uneducated and uninterested. This book actually embodies the respect it inspires in its readers. When Ashour quotes Romans 12:10 ("Love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor"), she practices what she preaches.
The book focuses on couples preparing for marriage, of course, but anyone wanting to learn more about the Theology of the Body could benefit from its clear, innovative format. Perhaps my favorite part of the book is a series of pages on personal health (16-18). This section proposes an integrated view of the human person, providing checklists for assessing physical, emotional, and spiritual health. How providential that I picked this book back up during Lent! The health checklists help me identify areas of personal growth I can cultivate intentionally during these 40 days before Easter.
Couples already married might also enjoy the book's synthesis of many popular sources of wisdom. For example, I have read or heard friends talk about Gary Chapman's "Love Languages" and Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace." Both concepts appear in the book.
Marriage statistics, the sacramentality of marriage, communication, finances, fertility--all of these concepts appear in Theology of the Body Marriage Preparation in a clear, gracious way. If you're looking for a little theology to read in a new way, I highly recommend TOBET's book.