WEST BRANDYWINE — The Respect Life Committee at St. Peter Parish in West Brandywine has sponsored and embarked on a series of monthly talks and presentations running from October 2011 through April 2012 titled “Life, Love and Sexuality — the Series.” These talks set the stage for God’s plan for living happy, healthy, holy lives from beginning to end, focusing on the beginning of life, chastity, the Theology of the Body, natural family planning, infertility and end-of-life issues.
On Monday, Nov. 21, renowned Catholic author and lecturer Christopher West presented a talk titled “Marriage and a Happy, Holy Sex Life” at St. Peter’s. West is recognized worldwide for his work promoting an integral, biblical vision of human life, love and sexuality. He especially focuses on Blessed Pope John Paul II’s series of audience addresses called the Theology of the Body.
The pope’s addresses, while intellectually stimulating, contain deep, philosophical language that can be difficult to grasp for those who haven’t studied philosophy. West takes John Paul’s writings and translates them into more reader- and audience-friendly language.
West, a faculty member of the Theology of the Body Institute in Exton, has offered graduate and undergraduate courses at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, Colo., the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
There were two key messages West focused on during his presentation. “First, God wants to marry us, and second, our bodies tell the story,” he said. “We all remember learning a familiar poem in first or second grade that says, ‘First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage.’ Believe it or not, we were learning something theological.”
West explained how the Bible starts in the book of Genesis with a marriage of two humans becoming one flesh, and ends in the book of Revelation with another marriage, of Christ and His bride, the Church. And exactly in the middle is the Song of Songs.
“God wants to give His Bride, the Church, eternal life, and JPII’s Theology of the Body gives us the frame with which to complete the puzzle,” he said. West said that a man’s body by itself makes no sense, and a woman’s body by itself makes no sense, but when joined together, they take part in the great mystery of becoming one flesh. “Every person reveals a part of the mystery of God through their body that nobody else in the whole of human history has ever revealed,” West added.
Patrice Peterson, director of religious education at St. Peter’s, enjoyed West’s presentation. “He would be wonderful in giving talks for Pre-Cana too,” she said.
Jason and Patricia Reed co-teach the second grade P.R.E.P. class, and they were enthusiastic about the lecture. “I wish I would have heard him 20 years ago,” Patricia said. “My uncle told us how dynamic he is, and came all the way from Yardley to see him,” Jason added.
West seeks not only to make the Theology of the Body more understandable, but also to steer people away from the Puritan notion that the spirit is good but the body is bad. “It hurts me to hear the body reduced to something merely biological; it is also theological,” he said. “Science and its discoveries are blessings, but sometimes we get blinded by science.”
“I found the presentation very inspiring, and definitely a different take on the value and importance of each human being as a creation of our almighty Father,” said Jack Scogna, who founded and directs Jubilate Deo Schola Cantorum, a group of men from St. Peter Parish who sing and introduce Gregorian chant at parish liturgies. “I think we, as a Church, need more of this kind of practical teaching of Catholic theology.”
George Gregory is a parishioner of St. Cecilia Parish in Coatesville.