Christopher West and Pope John Paul II’s ‘Theology of the Body’
“I knew I was holding a revolution in my hands!” Christopher West remembers saying in 1993, the year he began studying a series of 129 talks Pope John Paul II delivered between 1979 and 1984 during his Wednesday addresses. This series came to be known as the “Theology of the Body,” the first major teaching project of the Holy Father’s pontificate. Since then, West has devoted himself to deconstructing John Paul II’s lengthy and, at times, difficult meditations into a more concise message for Catholics of all ages around the world.
The life and work of Christopher West are explored in the February issue of St. Anthony Messenger in an article entitled, “Christopher West on the Theology of the Body,” by Candace O’Donnell. After January 20, the article will be posted at: www.AmericanCatholic.org.
Through numerous books, CDs, teaching seminars, parish workshops, an internationally syndicated column, radio interviews and appearances on EWTN, Christopher West is spreading the good news about the Church’s joyous and life-affirming view of love and sexuality, hoping to “unpack” the Holy Father’s meaning.
Although living in rural Pennsylvania with his wife, Wendy, and their five children and working at The Theology of the Body Institute in Exton, Pennsylvania, West travels nearly every weekend to evangelize about the sacramental beauty of marriage. His journeys have taken him as far as Brazil, Europe and Australia.
West carries with him a weighty message. Pope John Paul II, in his Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, exalted the human body, particularly in the nuptial union. He saw it as a sign of “God’s own mystery, the sublime icon or symbol of Christ’s love for His bride, the Church.” It is from this perspective that John Paul II wanted to study the human body; not merely as a biological organism, but as a study of God.
West distills the often academic text into language that audiences can understand. In his presentations, he couches abstract theology in concrete human terms. He leavens profound thought with earthy one-liners that evoke loud belly laughs. West sprinkles his talks with pop-culture allusions from Saturday Night Live’s Church Lady to rock songs such as (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, by the Rolling Stones. He also speaks about the perversions and abuses of God’s plan for sexual desire such as abortion, AIDS, Internet pornography, clergy abuse and homosexual marriage.
And West doesn’t shy away from specifics, either. He explains why “every contracepted act” keeps us from the love we long for. Prefacing this bombshell with, “Are you ready for this? This pope is no prude. Brace yourselves,” he shares John Paul II’s way-ahead-of-his-time advice to a husband to delay his climax so that it coincides with his wife’s.
When asked about the most difficult concept to convey, West answers, “To get across the integral reality of the body and soul. We tend to see the body as an appendage.”
Although he’s articulate enough to popularize many varied Church doctrines, West is confident that concentrating on the Theology of the Body will provide him with a lifetime of study. “These are the most compelling, revolutionary insights our faith has to offer today’s sexually confused world,” he insists. “The Church will be unpacking this for centuries!”
Permission is granted to reprint this release.
The other article posted will be “How to Be a Dynamic and Evangelizing Parish” by Father Norman Langenbrunner and Jeanne Hunt.