Another aspect of human formation needs to draw our attention and that is instilling in our children a respect for their human body as created in the image of God. Each of us has been given the gift of life through a participation in the ongoing creative action of God the Father. Created in God’s image, we understand our human body to be the temple of the Holy Spirit and means by which we attain salvation: as stated in the Catechism 1711 “Endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from [ones] very conception ordered to God and destined for eternal beatitude.” We are not disembodied souls floating freely across creation but embodied creatures with an ordered purpose in life.
Even more so, when Christ took on our humanity he raised up our fallen humanity as the new Adam, created once again as God intended from the beginning. By virtue of baptism, we begin to participate in this new created order directed towards our and the world’s salvation. Just as the basic foundation that parents give their children of learning right from wrong and respecting others and their needs forms a foundation on which the teaching of Christ can then grow, so, too, instilling in our children a healthy respect for their bodies and the necessary care one must take in fostering that gift of life allows for the deeper Christian belief to take root.
So when we tell our children that they are beautiful creations and a gift to us and treat them as such, we then have a foundation on which to speak of them as created in God’s image. When we teach our children how to eat well, how important good hygiene is, how they need to take care of themselves by getting enough rest and how to protect themselves from danger, they can better understand what it is meant when we speak of the care we take with the gift of life that is from God. When we teach our children about respect for their bodies and proper behavior towards the bodies of other children, when we teach them what is appropriate and in appropriate behavior in dealing with adults especially as it pertains to their bodies, and as they get older and we begin to teach them about the gift of human sexuality that allows for the possibility of procreation, we can then build on this with the Christian teaching that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that part of the beauty of human sexuality is that it allows a man and woman to share in the ongoing creative action of God through the creation of a human family. Furthermore, when we teach our children to use the resources of this world wisely, to care for things that God has given us by avoiding waste, seeking to lessen pollution, to recycle, they can then more easily understand what is meant when God told man and woman to “be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth” not as one who conquers creation but as one who cultivates and husbands what God has given as free gift.