By Kate Ryan
Sun contributing writer
Vincent McCauley, 15, is discovering how to navigate the demands and pressures of high school while still keeping his faith strong. He plays lacrosse and basketball, participates in the school musicals and is an active member of his parish.
A member of Holy Family Parish in Fairmount, NY, Vincent recently won third place in the Theology of the Body for Teens Essay contest.
More than 150 students from all over the U.S. entered the contest. The essay contest was judged by editors at Ascension Press, publisher of Catholic books and adult faith formation programs in the areas of Scripture study, Theology of the Body, church history, catechesis, inspiration, and evangelization. The winners were announced June 2.
In taking third place, Vincent received an award of $100 that he is putting towards going to college and a $50 gift card that he has designated for his parish.
The essay required the teens to reflect upon the question, “How has Theology of the Body for Teens affected me as a young man or a young woman in today’s culture?”
Theology of the Body for Teens is a faith formation program for teens and pre-teens in Catholic schools, parish youth ministries, religious education, Confirmation, and home school settings. As the program’s website states, “Using a great mix of stories, real-life examples, activities, prayers, and relevant references to the culture, it (Theology of the Body for Teens) goes beyond traditional chastity programs by connecting the two hottest topics on the planet—God and sex.”
The learning series is based on Pope John Paul II’s Wednesday audiences, given between the years 1979 and 1984, in which he shared his “integrated vision of the human person – body, soul, and spirit.” Theology of the Body for Teens’ objective is to simplify these complex ideas of how God and the human body are connected into something that teens and pre-teens can understand.
In his essay, McCauley reflected on the type of world teenagers are growing up in today and the challenges he faces as he tries to act with virtue.
“I learned that each and every one of us are children of God and we deserve love. Love, like the Father gives us, not fleeting, lustful ‘love,’” he wrote. “We are created in this life for one other person. This other person is the one we’ll marry and bear children with. God intended it to be like this but, in the world we live in, it’s not always like this.”
He began the Theology of the Body program because he didn’t want to give in to all of the temptations that come with high school.
“As a young man I face many urges and difficulties in the daily tribulations of life. I find it hard, sometimes, to always be holy and pure. But thankfully I was given the tools from God in the sacrament of reconciliation to be forgiven of my sins and move forward to try to be the man God created me to be,” he wrote.
Vincent is a student at West Genesee High School and plays on both the lacrosse and basketball teams there. In his essay, he discussed being ridiculed for talking about his faith and his views of chastity to his friends in the locker room. It is difficult at times, and certainly presents a challenge for Vincent, when some of his teammate’s views are so different from his.
“It’s tough to be isolated in those moments when you want to be accepted, and it’s tough when you’re not,” Vincent admitted.
Through persistence, Vincent has been able to hold his ground, and his teammates now understand where he is coming from. “If they break you, they feel like they’ve won. If you stay strong, they come to accept your beliefs,” Vincent said.
One of his friends asked him for advice when he and his girlfriend were thinking about having sex. “I discussed with him that she was made to be loved as God loves her, not to be used and possibly discarded. He should love her for her, not for what he can obtain from her,” Vincent wrote in his essay. A few days later the friend came to him with a relieved smile saying he and his girlfriend were going to wait.
“I knew, in his heart, that he was happy with his decision and that, in his own way, he had become closer to our Lord. After this experience I was filled with such faith and happiness; I praised God for everything he had given me,” Vincent shared in his essay.
Vincent has also had the privilege of following in his older sister’s footsteps. She is his inspiration to stick with the Theology of the Body program. She and her husband both waited to have sex until they married. Now, they are married and have started a family, and Vincent sees how happy they are and he knows that it will definitely be worth the wait.
In his essay, Vincent also talks about how he was able to discuss his faith with a boy who was openly homosexual. The boy felt the church didn’t accept him, and inspired by the Theology of the Body for Teens, Vincent was able to convince him that the church did care.
In a culture that places so much emphasis on sex and lust, Vincent said that “music and the church are what keep me strong.” He is a member of chorale, an elite singing group at his school, and the principal trumpet player in the symphonic band. He has also taught religious education in the past and loved the experience. His dream is to become a high school music teacher.
Vincent concluded his essay by stating that through the Theology of the Body course and his interactions with others, the program has touched the lives of his friends, his teammate and his girlfriend, and “especially the boy who thought he had no church and no God.”
“Each person that I testify to is also touched by the teachings of the Theology of the Body,” he wrote. “A personal hero of mine, the great Pope John Paul II, created the Theology of the Body. It’s one of his many legacies to us. He also left a simple six word statement that I try to live by every day. [“The future starts today, not tomorrow.”] These words propel me forward and inspire me to help make the world the loving, lust-less and faith-filled place God created it to be.”