The Gift of the Body

The miracle of the human body is epitomised through the healing vocation of Physiotherapy, and this skill is cultivated through the selfless gift of body donors.

Recently I was privileged to witness a budding group of Physiotherapy students participating in a liturgy held in honour of body donors and their families. Getting to know these students during my ministry, I notice the first time they begin the wet lab experience it’s quite confronting, but what becomes more real for these students over time is the appreciation of the gift that is body donation. One student said to me that she often thinks of the lives these people have led and how their bodies allowed them to live that life – but now the donor has given this gift of their body to her and for her learning and she secretly says a little prayer of thanks for that donor. 

Catholic understanding recognises profoundly that it is through our physical bodies that we live and interact intimately with the world around us, and through the many relationships we have in our lifetime. The profound dignity of the human person – the amazing miracle that is life – has been studied throughout history and continues to inspire awe and wonder about what human life is. This miracle continues to reveal God’s great power and majesty within our own physicality and well as the metaphysical reality of our existence. 

God took on human form in the person of Jesus and deliberately created us in his own image to show us just how intimately connected we are now, and will always be, with our creator. Jesus’ own body was the instrument through which he ministered to others and revealed his Heavenly Father to all humanity. Others have shown great sacrifices mirroring the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and so too are the humble sacrifices made by donors and their families.

The essential Christian understanding that we are all parts of the body of Christ is an incredibly important lesson for life. We are all called to live in harmony with each other – to live and die supporting, loving and embracing one another in this life into the next. The gift of giving life, healing and hope that these donors and their families have freely and lovingly given is an incredibly significant act of love for others. “Love they neighbour as thyself” is illuminated in this selfless act that will enrich the understanding in the mind and touch of the medical student, who in turn will then use that healing power to love, through service, another fellow human being.

These donors, and even more poignantly their families, have given selflessly, and without fanfare, in order for others to live better lives. We too can choose to give a gift such as this when we pass from this life into the next, however this act of giving also highlights another reality: that we also do not need to wait until death to give selflessly also. We can choose to give and use our bodies selflessly in life also, and what an incredible opportunity this is if we are open and ready to give when there is a need.


Bio: Tanya Kehoe has worked in Campus Ministry for seven years and loves the fact that she gets to authentically live out her Catholic faith in all areas of her life interacting with so many amazing people. Tanya has seven children and, along with her husband Bernard, manages a sheep farm in country Victoria. Tanya has a background in Education and the Arts and is currently working on a PhD in the area of Religious Education.

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