I Do What I Do Thanks to JPII

MARY BETH BONACCI

Many of you know that, for the past 19 years, I have dedicated my life to speaking, writing and teaching about chastity. I’ve reached, praise God, literally millions of people with the message of respect for human sexuality.

But this work didn't happen because of me. It happened because of Pope John Paul II.

In 1985 I was a senior in college, planning a career in corporate communications. That year my school, the University of San Francisco, sponsored a four-part speaker series on chastity. They brought in respected theologians to speak about Catholic sexual morality — and specifically about John Paul II's Theology of the Body.

I was, quite simply, blown away at the Holy Father's work. All my life I had heard that I should save sex for marriage because I might get pregnant, or get a disease, or go to hell. But this message was completely different. It was positive. It was beautiful. It was about love.

I had to share it.

At that time, there was no such thing as a "chastity speaker." But I knew I wanted to become one — to share this beautiful message. I knew the world was hungry for love, hungry for the truth I found in the Theology of the Body.

I had no idea how to start. How does one embark on a career that doesn't exist? There were no listings in the want ads under "chastity speaker."

So I did what most people do in a situation like this — nothing. I graduated and got a job in the Silicon Valley. I kept reading about chastity — particularly the works of JPII. But I did nothing to make these talks happen.

Then a local pregnancy center called me. They were starting a speakers' bureau, and wanted me to join them, going into schools and speaking about chastity.

Holy cow — I actually have to do this!

I gave the first talk to 7th and 8th graders at Star of the Sea Elementary School in San Francisco. I was told their attention span would last about 20 minutes. An hour and a half later, they had voluntarily skipped recess, and were begging to skip lunch.


I gave the first talk to 7th and 8th graders at Star of the Sea Elementary School in San Francisco. I was told their attention span would last about 20 minutes. An hour and a half later, they had voluntarily skipped recess, and were begging to skip lunch.


I knew I was onto something.

That talk led to five other talks, which led to 25 other talks, and so on. I had to quit my job. (I was calling in sick to give talks during the day, and people were starting to worry about my health.) I had no idea how I was going to support myself, but I was determined to keep giving the talks. Then I got a call from a publisher who had just published a chastity series, and wanted me to come to work for them, promoting the series. That led to talks nationwide.

At the same time, I was taking an evening class on John Paul II's letter to families, entitled Familaris Consortio. In that document, he announced the formation of a graduate program dedicated to the study of marriage and family, and in particular to his Theology of the Body.

I moved to Washington D.C and enrolled in the first master's class offered on the U.S. campus of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.

John Paul II is directly responsible for this work in so many ways. First and most obviously, his work inspired me and became the basis for literally everything I say and do in my ministry.

But there's more. The spark that lit in my heart when I first heard the Theology of the Body didn't come from me. It came from the Holy Spirit. And the fact that this work literally happened to me — that didn't come from me either. I didn't go out and hustle and advertise to bring this "career" about. To this day, 19 years later, I do no advertising.

I honestly believe that this work is a direct fruit of the grace of the pontificate of John Paul II. That's why it "happened" to me. The Holy Spirit was active in my heart and in the events around me specifically because this holy man was Pope.

The thing is, it's not just me. Ask any evangelist working in the Church today. All of my fellow Catholic speakers, all of the leaders of lay organizations promoting the Catholic faith — they're all have their own stories, and they all begin the same way. "I discovered John Paul II."

Think about 1978, when he became Pope. Was there a "new evangelization"? Was there even an old evangelization? Were there Catholic speakers on a national level? Was there active, vibrant youth ministry? Were there scores magazines about apologetics, evangelization and living the faith?

No. It's all the fruit of John Paul II.

His impact on the Church was incalculable. I could write about it for weeks and weeks. In fact, I plan to. There is far too much to say to contain it to a single column.

But, in the mean time, say a prayer for his soul, and thank God for the amazing gift that was Pope John Paul II.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Bonacci, Mary Beth. “I Do What I Do Thanks to JPII.” The Arlington Catholic Herald (April 6, 2005).

Published with permission of the Mary Beth Bonacci.

THE AUTHOR

Mary Beth is an internationally known speaker who does frequent radio and TV work, and has even made several appearances on MTV. Mary Beth Bonacci is the founder of Real Love Incorporated and the the author of We're on a Mission from God: The Generation X Guide to John Paul II, the Catholic Church, and the Real Meaning of Life and Real Love: The Ultimate Dating, Marriage and Sex Question Book.

Copyright © 2005 Arlington Catholic Herald


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