Development of 'A New Language'

The study guide,  A New Language, grew from an idea proposed by Marianne Luthin of Women Affirming Life.  She wanted to find a way to make the Theology of the Body developed by Pope John Paul II accessible to people in parishes, students, religious, and clergy. 

Dr. Mary Shivanandan, another member of Women Affirming Life, had written a book on the Theology of the Body called Crossing the Threshold of Love.  Marianne proposed to Mary that they develop a study guide based on Crossing the Threshold of Love.  The study guide would be used by study groups founded on two principles:

  • People learn best when they participate actively in prayerful study and exploration; and
  • Each participant’s experiences are valuable to the participant and to all the other members of the group.

With the help of Suzanne Shaffer of Women Affirming Life and Mary Stanford and Tatiana Lesko, graduate students at the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family, the study guide was written with readings from Crossing the Threshold of Love, discussion questions, excerpts from The Theology of the Body by John Paul II, biblical passages, and references to The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The first pilot group was formed at Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, Maryland.  The group was so successful that a grant was obtained from The Our Sunday Visitor Foundation to print the first edition of A New Language.  Women Affirming Life announced the new program at its national conference in 2000.

A New Language soon began to spread around the country, to Canada, and overseas.  In 2005 a second edition was published incorporating suggestions from the dozens of groups that had used the original.  A third edition with the readings integrated into the guide was published in 2011.  A Spanish edition has been published and an Italian edition is in preparation.  There is also an edition comprising the first half of the guide, covering the fundamental concepts of the theology of the body in only twelve sessions.  The study guide is now in use in Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and Nicaragua.    The response from individuals, parishes, dioceses, and universities demonstrates that this is an effective way to spread a message that is much needed in our world: the sacred nature of marriage and sexuality and the dignity of each man and woman, gifts of God and gifts to one another.

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