A topic that has exploded in Catholic circles over the past couple decades is the “Theology of the Body.” There is a great demand for speakers and retreats focused on this topic so we recently sat down with Jen Messing from Into the Deep to learn more about what her organization does to promote the Theology of the Body.
First, What is the Theology of the Body?
The Theology of the Body is the common name for Pope Saint John Paul II’s meditations, based in scripture, on what it means to be a person made in the image of God. It is based on a series of 129 talks that the pope gave at his weekly Wednesday General Audiences between September of 1979 and November of 1984. These teachings, in short, teach us how to understand the body, how we are called to love, and the vocational call of each person in light of the scriptures. These teachings are somewhat dense and a little difficult to understand at times, but fortunately some great teachers have risen to the challenge of bringing this saint’s teachings to the people.
The History of Into the Deep
Jen Messing first learned about the Theology of the Body in 2001 and started studying the Pope’s teachings soon after. She began taking immersive week-long courses to pursue a certificate with the Theology of the Body Institute. Several of the courses offered are taught by Christopher West, the most well-known of English-speaking Theology of the Body teachers, as well as by Dr. Janet Smith, Peter Kreeft, Fr. Tim Gallagher, and Michael Waldstein. Jen also spent time as an intern with West in 2005.
Jen has been giving talks on the Theology of the Body for more than ten years, and along the way she decided to combine her passion for the Theology of the Body with her passion for the outdoors (Jen helped to found the Frassati Society of Minnesota in 2002). Jen completed training with the National Outdoor Leadership School to prepare for leading outdoor retreats. She also completed her Master of Theological Studies degree to fortify her theological training, and soon after Into the Deep was officially founded.
Into the Deep is a non-profit organization that offers Theology of the Body-based speaking engagements, seminars, study groups, and retreats. The stated mission of the organization is “to facilitate true understanding of our identity, reason for being, and dignity as body-soul persons made in the image of God.”
Currently, Into the Deep offers weekly study groups that dig into the original Theology of the Body texts, talks that introduce groups to the Theology of the Body teachings, and multi-day outdoor camping and hiking trips that double as Theology of the Body retreats.
Theology of the Body Talks
Many of the talks Jen gives through Into the Deep are for high school youth or adult groups who want to understand how to apply the Theology of the Body to their work. The concepts within the Theology of the Body can be adapted to any age, however, because the core theme is the meaning of being a human person made in the image of God. Jen has given talks to groups of elementary-age, middle school, high school, and college students, young adults, women’s groups, engaged couples, parents, crisis pregnancy counselors, and NFP instructors. The message of who we are, why we are here, and how to love like God loves applies to audiences of all ages, but older audiences are able to go deeper into certain topics regarding sexuality and moral issues.
Why Outdoor Retreats?
A major part of the mission of Into the Deep is to facilitate multi-day hiking and camping experiences called “I.D. Retreats”. As their website explains, these retreats infuse “outdoor adventures with Theology of the Body insight. I.D. Retreats bring the unique mission and vision of Into the Deep out to a setting we were made for.”
Part of the purpose of the outdoor retreats is to provide a better venue for helping participants to reflect upon our body-soul reality and other concepts found within the Theology of the Body. Outdoor retreats also allow for great discussion time around a campfire and plenty of time to think, pray, and reflect during the hikes. Even on these outdoor retreats, every effort is made to have regular Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and confession available to the participants.
Sometimes Jen likes to throw an added dimension of trust into the retreats. Into the Deep’s “Roam and Receive” retreats involve traveling to a certain part of the country for hiking and camping, but not making any specific plans for what happens between the start and finish of that retreat. Campsites are not booked and hikes are not planned. The group remains open to wherever the Holy Spirit leads them, and they delve into the Theology of the Body along the way.
Upcoming Into the Deep Talks and Retreats
If you are looking for a speaker to talk about the Theology of the Body for your group Jen is available to be scheduled for such engagements. You can contact her through the Into the Deep website Here.
If you are looking to join in on an outdoor Theology of the Body-based I.D. Retreat, there are a few options coming up in the summer of 2014. For more details about each retreat visit the I.D. Retreats page and scroll down for more details.
Hiking in the Adirondacks with Christopher West, July 11-15
First, Into the Deep will have a booth at the Theology of the Body Congress in Philadelphia July 9 through July 11. Immediately after the conference Jen, along with Christopher West, will be leading a hiking and camping retreat in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. The trip will start the afternoon of Friday, July 11 and end on the evening of Tuesday, July 15. It is open to anybody age 18 and older, but spaces are limited. More information about this trip can be found Here.
Roam and Receive, July 26-August 3
The second retreat of the summer is the Roam and Receive retreat, which will leave from Minneapolis and have Michigan as a target location. No camping reservations are made for this trip, adding to the retreat a level of adventure, trust, and receptivity to what the Lord will bring.. The trip lasts from Saturday, July 26 through Sunday, August 3 and is especially suited for those in their 20’s or 30’s, give or take a few years. More information about this retreat can be found Here.
Camping and Hiking in Northern MN for 5th/6th Grade Girls, August 11-15
Finally, a camping and hiking trip for 5th and 6th grade girls will be taking place from Monday, August 11 through Friday, August 15 near Duluth, Minnesota. More information about this trip can be found Here.
Theology of the Body Resources
If you would like to learn more about the Theology of the Body a good place to start is with Pope Saint John Paul II’s teachings. Text of all of the original talks can be found on EWTN’s website and it is also available in a book called “Man and Woman He Created Them.”
For more great resources on the Theology of the Body check out TheologyoftheBody.net.
And finally, to learn more about Into the Deep visit idretreats.org.