Desire, design, and destiny: Christopher West brings Theology of the Body to Franciscan University

chris west


chris westOver 1,000 Franciscan University students and members of the local community attended “Fill These Hearts” on Oct. 2 in Finnegan Fieldhouse. Sponsored by Corpus Christi and Crown of Creation households, the widely anticipated event featured speaker Christopher West.

An expert on the late Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, West is known for explaining Theology of the Body in terms that can be understood by common folk as well as professional theologians. The theme in his talks and work is human sexuality and God’s plan. “Fill These Hearts” specifically addressed human desire. West expressed that God has placed a deep longing for something in all human beings. This desire is especially aroused by beauty.

In his talk, West introduced his newest book, “Fill these Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing,” explaining that the mysterious and powerful desire in human hearts points to God’s design. Creation and nature say something about God’s design. Our attraction to beauty in nature and art compels us to ask deep questions that cannot be answered completely by earthly matters, West said. In the design of human sexuality, God created male and female and intended union of the two as a sign pointing to man’s ultimate destiny: union with God in Heaven.

A sacrament is a visible sign of the invisible. The sacrament of marriage is not limited to the wedding ceremony. Rather, every time that the husband and wife engage in the marital embrace, they express their wedding vows with their bodies, and they become a sacrament and sign of man’s ultimate destiny. At its greatest, sex is only a glimmer of the eternal bliss that awaits in Heaven. The insatiable human ache longs for the infinite; therefore, only God can satisfy it.

West used an analogy to discuss where a common problem lies. Many people are raised in homes where the awe, beauty and reverence of sex are not healthily expressed. Questions about this desire are left unanswered, which West likened to being raised on a diet of starvation.

Popular culture attempts to make up for what many upbringings do not supply by swinging to the opposite end of the pendulum; popular culture offers the “fast food gospel” of immediate gratification and indulgence. This “gospel” can seem very attractive and appears easier to live off of than the starvation diet. But fast food is not healthy either and is actually very harmful to the body. Thus, consumption of this harmful “fast food gospel” message about desire and sex is ultimately destructive.

West explained that in Christianity, God offers a banquet. The yearning for the infinite can only be satisfied by the infinite. Not only can God satisfy, he longs to satisfy. He stamped the call to union in the human body. The man and the woman’s bodies complement and complete each other, and the life-giving one-flesh union gives an image of God’s love, which is communion and life-giving.

One of the attendees of West’s talk was freshman and pre-nursing major Jennifer Camilleri. “God loves us as a bridegroom loves his wife,” Camilleri shared from the talk, “and in the Eucharist He gives us His entire self.”

West had explained that the deepest meaning of union is found in the Eucharist. Until being in God’s eternal ecstasy, the Eucharist is what satisfies. Again, the desire for something more points to the design of union which ultimately points to our destiny.

The Theology of the Body is a series of audiences that the late Pope John Paul II gave during his pontificate, emphasizing the truth, goodness and beauty of the Church’s teaching on sexuality, and how God’s design is what ultimately satisfies man. As West frequently puts it, somehow God spoke to the celibate pontiff in a way that tapped deeply into the desires of the heart. Senior communication arts major Robert Batch, also an attendee of West’s talk, said, “There is a reason why they call John Paul II ‘John Paul the Great.'”

“Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing” is available at the campus bookstore, along with books and other materials based on the Theology of the Body.

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