Surprisingly few Catholics understand the Church’s opposition to surrogacy and egg donations, research suggests. They also crave guidance on matters of gender identity. These pressing moral issues will be addressed by two acclaimed pro-life speakers coming to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The information and inspiration they aim to provide has never been more needed, they told The Catholic Spirit.
First Christopher West, a leading expert on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body who lives near Philadelphia, will speak at St. Joseph in Lino Lakes Jan. 28 and at All Saints in Lakeville Jan. 29. Then comes Jennifer Lahl, president of The Center For Bioethics and Culture Network, a California-based think tank, speaking at St. Odilia in Shoreview Feb. 4 and at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul Feb. 5.
Their presentations can help empower Catholics to defend Church teachings against powerful secular pressures and a multi-billion-dollar fertility industry. Two stories highlight their work. See also: Jennifer Lahl decries exploitative fertility industry
Man on a mission
Christopher West, 50, has devoted the past 25 years to teaching St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and the father of five appears to be just hitting his stride. He has refined his message and molded his presentation into a two-and-a-half hour experience with sacred art and live music called “Made For More.”
“I think we’ve landed on something that really pierces the heart,” he said.
West launched the “Made For More” event in 2017, and his 2020 tour has 18 stops, including Minnesota, where he will encourage Catholics to embrace the late pontiff’s teachings on sexuality. In an era of gender confusion — from debates about public restrooms to the surge of gender-reassignment surgeries — West believes his message is more vital than ever.
“Made For More” explores the most fundamental questions: Where do we come from? Where are we going? What does it mean to be human? The answers, as spelled out in the Gospel and illuminated through the Theology of the Body, orient our lives and point us to true fulfillment, according to West.
“John Paul II’s Theology of the Body gives us the ability to truly diagnose what ails the modern world, which means we can then recognize the cure,” he said.
The impact is profound, as evidenced by the number of attendees who are following up to learn more. (West’s Philadelphia-based Theology of the Body Institute is an obvious next step, as is his online community.) “We often hear right away or shortly after of attendees who encounter an incredible healing of deep, perhaps generational, wounds. They see, maybe for the first time, the great wisdom and beauty in the Church’s teachings — including the ‘tough’ ones — on what it means to be human. The rapid growth of our event schedule tells us we’re tapping into a great hunger, and they want to learn more about God’s vision for their lives.”
That vision is an affirming one. “We want to show men and women how beautiful they truly are,” West said. “Our bodies, our humanity, tells a story — a love story — an absolutely stunning, world-rocking love story. So few, so few have heard this before.”
West articulates it in noble language, calling on each attendee to “be a poet.”
Theology of the Body teaches you to do that, no matter your vocation or profession, he said. “Mechanics, plumbers and cashiers can see the glory of God in everyone they meet and, when they love what they do, can find poetry in their work.”
Mike Mangione, a singer and guitarist from Milwaukee, has had that experience, thanks to his embrace of Theology of the Body.
“The inspiration to try to understand and describe these universal mysteries of the human experience is open to everyone no matter what their occupation is,” said Mangione, who sings throughout “Made for More.” “Pope John Paul II touches on this in his ‘Letter to Artists.’ The pope highlights that every human person is a co-creator with the Creator in the artwork of their lives. This event is an attempt to help people see this potential within themselves.”
In doing so, they can form healthy relationships with others — a skill that young Catholics may need more help with these days. “Social media can be a great tool, but when it becomes our main means of interacting with the world, we forget how to relate with real flesh-and-blood human beings,” West said. “Look at those two words: social and media. God created us as social beings, as beings who need to be in relationships of love with others. And the medium God created for us to live that out is our bodies. As the pinnacle of all expressions of love, God himself says: ‘This is my body given up for you.’ Social media in today’s world is, in many ways, a terribly disembodying experience. The ‘Made For More’ event helps us reconnect with our real, embodied humanity — and through that, learn to love as Christ loves.”
“Made for More”
St. Joseph of the Lakes, Lino Lakes
7–9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28
All Saints, Lakeville
7–9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29
Purchase tickets at corproject.com/events