The Gospel Truth

A Fore-Touch of Heaven II | May 6, 2012

Anytime I really get into something new, as I have with massage therapy, I try to learn everything I can about it.

My massage therapist’s special skills have inspired me to research the history and philosophy of the art of the massage.

A form of massage therapy dates back to ancient China and Greece.

In 300 B. C. Chinese sources refer to the therapeutic value of massage as one of the ways to complete health.

It was Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine who saw the advantages and benefits of a full body massage.

The Father of Medicine

Massage was commonly used by athletes, in combination with aromatic oils and herbs, to improve performance and help avoid injuries.

Biblical references from around 500 B. C. mention daily oil massages as part of a beauty regimen.

Unfortunately, massage techniques declined in popularity throughout the Medieval and Renaissance periods largely because of religious scruples about the human body.

This is the sad thing about the Christian religion.

It had totally lost sight of the importance and the naturalness of the human body.

Too often the body is thought of as something to be totally hidden because it is evil, corrupt— the plaything of Satan, instead of the handiwork of God and the reflection of His own supreme good and beauty.

When I was in grade school all the nuns and priests shrouded themselves in somber black garb, partly to obscure the fact that they had bodies like the rest of us.

While it added a bit of mystery to their vocations, it reinforced in many of us the idea that there was something so inherently bad about our bodies that we had to hide at all times.

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Sometimes sent the wrong message

Having been an only child with extremely modest parents, I was in the dark just about everything that related to the human body.

Part of the problem was that for centuries the Catholic Church had been has been infected with heretical strains of Augustinian Manicheanism, Catharism, Jansenism, and other philosophies that disparaged the human body.

His Manicheanism lasted for centuries

Personally I think this kind of thinking is an affront to God.

Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and we should treat them as such.

The Bible still tells us that we are all made in the image and likeness of God–the Imagio Dei-— and that includes our complete bodies.

This of course challenges us with the responsibility of modestly clothing our bodies when necessary.

But there are times when the human body can be displayed, not for the solitary pleasure of others but for  conjugal relations, medical examinations, therapeutic contexts, such as massages, and even a few group recreational pastimes.

I think all these must be pleasing to God.

It was not until the Enlightenment in the 17th century that the art of the massage regained some of its lost popularity.

The benefits of massage were documented and observed through the 17th and 19th  centuries, though few innovations occurred until what is now known as Swedish Massage was developed.

During the world wars, massages fell into disrepute thanks to the so-called massage parlor, which was little more than a front fpr prostitution.

Massage therapy’s worst enemy

I have stood in line at a local restaurant and told people about my experience with massage therapy.

A few men, even older than I am kind of grinned and started telling me about their massages in Tokyo and Bangkok during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Even today some of that residual shame and ridicule lingers with the word—massage.

Massage therapy needed a savior and like Joan of Arc that woman came along in the early 1980’s.

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needed someone to save them

Wielding, not a sword but a pair of soft hands, this Catholic nun valiantly took it upon herself to undo all the years of bad press and elevate the legitimate massage to its proper place in the health care world.

Born in 1929, Minnesota Catholic nun, Sister Rosalind Gefre started by offering a healing massage to the elderly in a nursing home for free.

A true pioneer of therapeutic massage, Sister Rosalind began practicing massage when it was associated with massage parlors* and the sex industry, a fact that created controversy and difficulties for her not only with her own religious community, but with the secular community as well.

In 1984, when she first opened her business, she was arrested by the police, so great was their sensitivity toward the sex trade industry.

Since then she has led the way in changing the local legislation covering massage and has opened three clinics and five schools.

Not only is there physical healing in massage, but there is also a spiritual healing, says Sister Roz, as she is known throughout the Twin Cities.

As she was quoted by Catrina Genovese in a Time Magazine article in 2002,

People are skin hungry and God hungry.

Before Jesus helped people, he touched them, and that is the work we do.

Today there are five Sister Rosalind Schools of Massage and nine Sister Rosalind Massage Clinics located in two states.

There have been over 10,000 Sister Rosalind graduates in massage therapy since the opening of her first school in 1984.

Doing God’s work

Sister Rosalind has received widespread recognition for her important role in making massage an accepted and respected healthcare practice.

The Catholic Church has a saint for virtually everything.

They don’t have one for massage therapy.

I know I have checked.

When Sister dies and meets with her heavenly reward, I am putting my money on her as the first Massage Terapist Saint.

Sister Rosalind Gefre

Provide a fore-touch of the world to come

Like Lena Sister Roz has the magic touch that extended way beyond the flesh and touches the fringes of the soul.

Too many people fail to see the total integration of the human person in the art of massage therapy.

I told Lena that I really enjoyed the wonderful feelings she engendered in me but I did not want them to be merely ephemeral that is a group of fleeting feelings without any deeper meaning.

I told her my feelings had to be grounded in my Catholic faith, not in some New Age narcissistic spirituality.

That sounded too much what liberals or someone who dropped out of organized religion might say or believe.

My faith has to meet my test of reason.

Though the Catholic faith is not based solely on reason, even its mysteries and we have many, have to be reasonable, not something out of a science fiction novel.

The marvelous feelings I get from Lena’s touch have prompted to explore the revolutionary philosophy of the late pope, John Paul the Great.

Many agree that it is his Theology of the Body that will someday change how Catholics and others view the importance and sanctity of their own bodies.

Wass an athlete as a younger man

Years ago John Paul II established a new way of looking at the human body, when he wrote because God created it, the human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendor and its beauty…Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person…The human body is not in itself shameful ..Shamelessness [just like shame and modesty] is a function of the interior of a person.

The pope’s many skeptics raise the important issue of concupiscence, that is the residue of evil left us by our fallen nature.

There is no doubt this tendency for sin, especially lust is ever-present, but the pope taught how to defeat it by cultivating a purity of heart when encountering the ubiquitous pulchritude of the female gender.

Working with a purity of heart

I have actually been practicing this since I was in high school.

The pope’s guidelines were also instructive because getting a massage usually involves varying degrees of nudity.

Therefore it was important for me to have a clear understanding of just what were the moral boundaries of personal nudity.

Of course it goes without saying that massage therapists are bound by laws that establish legal boundaries as well.

I will assume it works similarly for females as well.

As for my theological connection with the massage table, it dawned on me just a few weeks ago as if in a pure moment of clarity just what that link is. will assume it works similarly for female massage therapists as well.

Jesus promised His faithful that whatever pleasures, delights and happiness we experienced on earth would be  nothing compared to what He and the Father had prepared for us in the next life.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Massage is then my special fore-touch of Heaven.

*Like original sin, the infamous massage parlor’s stain refuses to go away.

A new cable series, entitled The Client List has already aired a few episodes about a young mother who feels it necessary to work at such an illicit institution in Texas.

no purity of heart here

It stars TV star Jennifer Love Hewitt in a role that most likely will not hurt legitimate massage therapy.



  1. I wish I could find a massage therapist like yours. I am so crippled by scolosis that I suffer daily; Then there is modesty and purity to consider. Pax.

    Comment by Mary B. Lachney — May 7, 2012 @ 1:34 am

  2. The best massage i have ever had, was hard labor. It really is a knock out process that relaxes.

    Comment by Jim — May 7, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

  3. I worked for Sister Rosalind as a counselor at her St. Paul, MN School, a long time ago. The only reason God gave me the job was to allow me to meet, help and get to know Sister Rosalind. She is an amazing woman of God! She has done a great service to humankind by fighting, yes fighting as your blog points out, to make the science/art of massage a legally and scientifically recognized healing modality! I love Sister, and she is as close as we, in America, are going to get to her spiritual counterpart, Mother Theresa. In fact one of her favorite trips was to visit and see Mother Theresa at work in India. I have not seen or talked to her in years, but I still love and admire her! She gifted me with a copy of a wonder and insightful book about her life and feelings “Hands That Touch, Hands That Heal”; it is truly a good read. Marie P.S. Check out the book review at

    Comment by Marie — July 15, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at







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