Father Alan Boisclair honoured for Theology of the Body ministry
By Alistair Burns
The B.C. Catholic
(Caption: Father Alan Boisclair with his award for excellence in teaching the Theology of the Body. Photo credit: Alistair Burns / The B.C. Catholic.)
An international congress has recognized a Vancouver priest’s dedication to spreading an innovative catechesis. Father Alan Boisclair, a full-time teacher of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB), received an award July 9 in Philadelphia.
The local priest spoke to The B.C. Catholic on the award, why he was originally intrigued to learn about TOB, and the relevancy of the teachings to today’s Catholics.
Alistair Burns: What were your thoughts when you were given this award?
Father Boisclair: Two weeks ago, I went to the Philadelphia TOB Congress to give a conference to over 50 priests on this profound teaching from Pope St. John Paul II.
At the banquet, July 9, 2014, I received an award: "In recognition of pioneering achievements in the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II's TOB through a dedicated diocesan office.”
This award acknowledges that the TOB ministry, created and mandated by Archbishop Miller four years ago, is something distinct in North America and Europe. My ministry is unique as a full-time exclusive teacher of TOB throughout the archdiocese for a diocesan priest.
In the coming year, as I teach my 11 Week / 22 hour TOB courses throughout the archdiocese, I will give particular attention to providing a foundation to the entire Marriage Preparation Program.
With the recent emphasis of Pope Francis on TOB as a foundation for the upcoming Extraordinary Synod for the Evangelization of Families, urgency is given for this teaching to affirm the dignity of persons and families throughout the archdiocese.
AB: What is the Theology of the Body?
FB: It is a catechesis on the authentic Christ-centred study of our humanity "In the image & likeness of God," given by Pope St. John Paul, composed beginning Dec. 8, 1975, (Feast of the Immaculate Conception) and he completed it before his election as Pope.
As Pope John Paul II he decided to divide what would have made a 400-page opus into 133 Wednesday Audiences, which he delivered over 5 years.
The most amazing insight of TOB is that the Creation of Man recorded in Genesis was so that the human body could make visible the "sincere gift of self in a communion of Persons" of the Trinity, through the two-in-one flesh of Adam and Eve.
This was the first or primordial sacrament; human flesh as the sacred sign or efficient conduit of the infinite holiness and love of the Trinity. Therefore, holiness and love is the core reality of our creation and fulfillment.
As Pope John Paul II stated: “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for Himself, His life is senseless, if love is not revealed to Him, if He does not encounter love, if He does not experience it and make it His own, if He does not participate intimately in it” (Redemptor Hominis #25).
Even more amazing is the awareness that the Logos, the Son of God, is our Yahweh/Creator, and our Christ/Redeemer/Messiah (Is. 54:4-10). His Incarnation not only redeems us from sin and restores our access to salvation (God's life, grace), but He restores human flesh as a sacrament.
Moreover, human flesh in Jesus Christ becomes equal to divinity and must be worshipped by all of creation since, as Son of Man, He must be worshiped as God, since He has the full authority, dominion, power, and glory of the Father.
At His Ascension, our humanity is taken to the "heart of the Father." This means that the ultimate definition of our humanity is to be the bride of Christ, in the “heart of the Father,’ as ‘one in Christ as He is one with the Father.”
In fact, for Pope John Paul II, when we receive the Eucharist, Christ makes us one with Him, the Bridegroom to make us one with Him, as his bride; already this is the beginning of the eternal nuptial banquet of heaven. This is a call to holiness that raises us higher than angels.
To realize how close we were to God in Genesis is truly a revelation. But realize that in the Incarnation, Christ makes grace infinitely closer to us than ever before. He makes love and grace completely available to us.
In fact, where sin abounds, grace abounds more. This call to holiness has meant an entire change in my life and for those who have studied, prayed, and lived this profound teaching from Our Lord through Pope John Paul II.
AB: Why did you first become interested in teaching TOB?
FB: The very origin of my vocation to the priesthood was the realization, during a vocation live-in at Mission, that God is real, that He created me, and that He made me for a purpose.
It was only a year later that I entered the Seminary of Christ the King in Grade 11. (I was ordained July 29, 1985, and have been ordained 29 years.)
However, a few years later, as a seminarian going through my philosophy and theology classes, I found that a firm confidence in God, the Church, the Bible, sacraments, holiness, and prayer, was not only lacking in our culture but even in some of us in the Church.
This was confirmed by Cardinal Ratzinger in his opening address of the 1990 Synod of Bishops affirming that the Catholic Church had not only failed to address the old 16th century arguments of the Reformation but had actually embraced them through many theologians, priests, and bishops after the Second Vatican Council.
Against this, I was delighted to learn of the work of Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow in his 1960 publication of Love and Responsibility.
Cardinal Montini considered his work foundational for Humanae Vitae. As Pope Paul VI, he tried to ensure that Archbishop Wojtyla was part of the 1966 Preparatory Commission on the Family.
But since Archbishop Wojtyla was not allowed to leave Krakow by the Communists, the unfortunate resulting leaked 1967 Majority Report entirely contradicted Church teaching on contraception and abortion.
For Archbishop Wojtyla, this dissent from the Church, by not only theologians, but also priests and bishops, meant that we had entirely failed to teach basic Catechism right from the Seminary.
Instead, Archbishop Wojtyla called his own Commission in Poland, resulting in the "Krakow Deliberations", delivered to Rome, Feb. 1968, as a foundation for Humanae Vitae.
This report not only had complete confidence in God, the Church, the Bible, Sacraments, holiness and prayer, but also insisted that the tone and style of the Church's teaching had to speak to the human person, and to the heart and experience of each person, if it was to be practical and convincing to the modern world.
Although Cardinal Wojtyla was eagerly welcomed by Pope Paul VI as support for Humane Vitae, despite Cardinal Wojtyla's best efforts to include the "Krakow Deliberations" in the final version of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI … simply did not understand how much society and the Church had changed, resulting in a teaching that was not wrong but unconvincing to a world that had changed so significantly.
While Cardinal Wojtyla agreed with the content of Humanae Vitae, he feared that the final approach and tone would not come across very well to modern society; he was right. Not only did society reject the teaching of the Church, but major theologians, priests, and bishops did so as well.
Curious about TOB and the new evangelization, I went for advanced studies, in marriage and the family at the International Theological Institute in Austria. I studied under Dr. Michael Waldstein who is the author of the new translation of Theology of the Body entitled Man and Woman: He Created Them.
When I returned from studies seven years ago, I had learned that Pope John Paul II’s teaching was (actually) the foundation for Humanae Vitae, and the source of the New Evangelization.