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Self-Giving, Self-Mastery

St John Paul II on Men, Women and Conjugal Chastity

Alan O'Sullivan OP

The dignity of the person has always been a key theme of Pope John Paul II. Perhaps less well known is his emphasis on self-mastery as intrinsic to such dignity. In the love of man and woman, such mastery paves the way to self-giving and provides a richer, deeper experience of the union of persons. It also gives a new sensitivity to the beauty of masculinity and femininity as sexuality is seen in its original holiness: that is, by sharing in the Creator’s vision of the body. In this book, the author traces this daring portrait of human love back to the early writings of Karol Wojtyła.

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Chapter 3: Christ Appeals to the “Beginning”


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Christ Appeals to the “Beginning”


The re-presentation of virtue – especially of chastity – does not run ashore in the 1960s. It makes its way into a series of 129 catecheses which Pope John Paul II delivered between 5 September 1979 and 28 November 1984. The original title of the work is Man and Woman He Created Them but also bears a title Theology of the Body (“Teologia ciała”) in some archival materials. At the end of his five years of teaching the pope adds the title Human Love in the Divine Plan with a subtitle The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage. The history of the text is quite complex and has been documented by Michael Waldstein.1 As we continue our meditation on the relationship between “self-mastery” and “the gift of self” we cannot but stop here.2

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