MADISON -- Sex has almost become a religion, said Christopher West at a talk on “Your Call to Greatness: God, Sex, and the Meaning of Life.”
||Christopher West spoke to a crowded auditorium at the Bishop O'Connor Center. (Kat Wagner photo)
“We live in a culture that is sated with sex, but it remains starved for love — and I think the reason that is, is because we have separated God from our sexuality,” he said.
The crowd that filled the auditorium at the Bishop O’Connor Center to near capacity for the semiannual St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture Series February 19 was comprised of a wide variety of singles, families, religious Sisters, priests, and young adults. A talk held February 18 at the Memorial Union on the UW-Madison campus had reportedly drawn a large crowd comprised mainly of young adults and college students.
Together, the talks reached nearly 1,000 people with the message of how society’s trend toward the casual treatment of sex has twisted the truth about how our sexuality reflects the triune nature of God and the beautiful plan he has laid out for us.
West is an author of the bestselling books Good News About Sex & Marriage, Theology of the Body Explained, and Theology of the Body for Beginners, a research fellow and faculty member of the Theology of the Body Institute, and a popular speaker in Catholic circles today. His simplification of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB) has been praised for opening the integrated vision of the human person — mind, body, and soul — to a wider audience than might be ready or able to pick up the more theologically dense work.
His talk at the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture follows last year’s series of life-affirming lectures related to the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on the dignity of human life and the regulation of birth.
“Theology of the Body is really an outgrowth of Humanae Vitae,” Andy Galvin, associate director of the Diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
“We didn’t really plan it this way,” he said. “The opportunity really fell into our lap. But it does make sense.”
Share the message
The message of love and human dignity expressed in the Theology of the Body (TOB) is not meant to be a secret — find out how to help spread the Good News:
• Share the message with your parish through an introduction to TOB.
• Introduce young people to TOB through the r(evo)lotion of Love series, which continues April 11 in Stoughton.
• Help build strong marriages through marriage preparation’s “God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage” classes.
For more information, contact Andy Galvin in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, 608-821-3160 or
Sociologist Bradford Wilcox presented social statistics that show the importance of marriage and family, he said. Rachel’s Vineyard founder Vicki Thorn showed medically, with scientific reasons, how Humanae Vitae has an impact on our society and our bodies. Catholic housewife Patti Schneier shared a personal testimony of how Humanae Vitae affected her own life.
“And then we get to Christopher West, and he laid out how as men and women, our sexuality reflects God’s plan and how God is calling us to something far greater.”
The culture’s fast-food diet
As a glimpse of pop culture will tell us through songs, movies, and television, we are all yearning for love — but we don’t find it there.
“The culture is selling us what you might call ‘fast food’ to satisfy our yearning,” West said.
But the immediate gratification of the sexual equivalent of “greasy chicken nuggets,” he said, only leads to us being like the guy in the 2004 movie Super Size Me who ate only McDonalds’ food: unhealthy and spiritually ill.
A quick show of hands revealed that few of the Catholics in the room had been brought up on the vision of sexuality as reflecting the mystery of the triune God and pointing us toward heaven. “Less than one percent of us have been raised with what I call ‘the banquet of God’s plan for love,’” West said. “It’s no wonder we go for the chicken nuggets.”
Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, is “really wrong about sex and has been a wrecking ball on the culture — and we have to untwist it,” he said.
A reflection of the triune God
What’s the first thing you think about when you hear the word sex? West asked.
“Actually, I don’t want to know what you think about, but it’s probably not Ephesians, chapter five,” he said, referring to the verses that read: “For this reason a man shall leave (his) father and (his) mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:31-32, New American Bible).
“But that’s because we’ve been evangelized by the likes of Hugh Hefner,” he said.
The worshipping of sex in our culture is only the twisting of something great and beautiful, West said. Our sexuality is like an icon — a window to Christ.
“But if we bow down and worship the paint and wood, that icon becomes an idol,” he said.
In the sacrament of Marriage, the union of two leads to a third — and through that union we catch a glimpse of the triune God. It’s only a very, very small glimpse of the mystery of love, he said, but as John Paul II said, “it’s an illusion that we can build a culture of life if we don’t understand God’s plan for man and woman.”
Our bodies manifest a divine mystery, West said. “That’s what we mean by Theology of the Body.”