Christopher West elaborated on how his "mind was blown" when he first read St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body. "Many people say to me, 'Why doesn't everyone know about this stuff?," said West. (CECILIA PADILLA-FC)

Catholic speaker, musician sheds light on Theology of the Body

Palm Beach Gardens | What if someone told you that you are made for more than what this world is holding out to you? That you deserve to be seen and not just looked at? That the human body and soul deserve more than what today’s attitude towards sex offers?

These themes are at the heart of Christopher West’s presentation entitled “Made for More,” which he delivered at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens Jan. 23. West, a Catholic author and speaker, is best known for his work on St. John Paul II’s series of audience addresses entitled “Theology of the Body.” His extensive work on the late pope’s encyclicals resulted in West founding the Theology of the Body Institute, where he enlightens those seeking answers to the “sex and morality” issue through the lens of St. John Paul’s examination of man and woman’s sexual complementarity. “The central thesis of St. John Paul’s Theology of the Body is that the body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine,” West said. “It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God.”

Through a series of videos, music, and the creative use of visual props, West engaged the audience of Gen Z-ers, Millennials, Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers in a dialogue about the truth of human sexuality and the frequent misconceptions Catholics have about it.

“Growing up, I felt that I was raised on what I like to call ‘the starvation Gospel,’ meaning that I was taught that my sexual desires and feelings are bad. As a result, I attempted to satisfy my hunger by turning to a ‘fast food’ diet — porn, casual sex and too much partying,” West said. “But eventually the fast food caught up with me. I felt a new kind of desire, an ache, to find a love and physical relationship that was deeper than all of this. I knew I was made for more than what this life had to offer in the way of the fast food diet. In studying Theology of the Body, I discovered that Christianity is not a starvation diet; it’s an invitation to a wedding feast.”

West explained that the Bible can be summed up in five words, “God wants to marry us.” The Bible, said West, begins with the marriage of Adam and Eve and ends with the marriage of Christ and his Church. “A man and a woman don’t make sense by themselves. In light of each other, they are in Holy Communion with God, who literally imprinted his love for us in our bodies. Our sexuality provides a window, a glimmer, of the mystery of God.”

The “ache” West referenced throughout the evening is “eros,” the Greek root that gives us the word “erotic.” In Theology of the Body, St. John Paul II explained, although the word “erotic” is associated with a negative connotation, its original meaning calls for a fullness in desire through the spirit.

“When you’re attracted to something so beautiful that you gasp for air, that’s eros,” West said. “It’s an ecstasy of body and spirit, a holy eros. What matters is how you direct that feeling of ecstasy. We must aim this holy eros to the stars where we are called to participate in the eternal ecstasy that is exchanged with God.”

To emphasize the beautiful imagery used to describe the goodness of human desire, West partnered with musician Mike Mangione. Throughout the evening, West and Mangione volleyed between discourse and music to give the audience a fuller understanding of Theology of the Body.

Mangione illustrated the spirituality of sexuality and love in a song titled “Can You Love Me Falling.” One lyric went, “The strength of emotion can also make a man divine.” This brief line perfectly captured the central theme of the evening expounded upon by West. “How we feel is not bad, it is an inherent good placed there by God himself; it points us in the direction of love that is God. In that way, the unifying of flesh through marital union is the act that seals the Sacrament of Marriage.”

In the crowd of diverse audience members was Karen Gonzalez, a young woman who attended the event with her brother. “I was attracted to the way West and Mike Mangione dealt with the topic through art and beauty. It was a refreshing view of the body that we don’t get in society today,” Gonzalez shared. “I have not heard much about this topic from this angel before, but I will definitely be applying this material to my job as a counselor for teen girls.”

Christian Johnson, a high school student, attended “Made for More” at his mother’s encouragement. “I’ll be honest, I came because my mom told me about it. I was reluctant to come at first but after seeing this, I totally understand the Church’s teachings so much better. I liked how Christopher West explained the ‘starvation Gospel.’ I definitely feel that way sometimes, but now I have a new understanding.”

Sara Moreno and Elba Martin, both high schoolers, attended the event together. “I walked in here expecting a boring lecture about how to not have sex,” Moreno said. “What we got was an interactive discussion on the fact that sex is good, our feelings our good, and desire is what guides us. It’s opened my eyes to a whole new world of how I want my future relationships to be.”

To learn more about events in the Diocese of Palm Beach relating to Theology of the Body, contact the Office of Family Life at 561-775-9524 or visit diocesepb.org/familylife-marriage. For more information on Christopher West and the Theology of the Body Institute, visit corproject.com/about-christopher-west.

ADVERTISEMENT