By Karen Baker, Contributing writer
Christopher West brought his “project of the heart” to Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Mandeville on Dec. 2, and almost 250 people were there to learn more about how to embrace and live God’s divine plan for man and woman.
West, bestselling author, teacher, Theology of the Body expert, and founder of the Cor Project (“cor” is Latin for heart), was invited to speak on “Living the Joy of Love” by the Marriage and Family Life ministry at Our Lady of the Lake.
“This message is extremely important,” said Kadee Krieger, mother of four and member of the Family Life ministry that organized the visit. “As a mother of teens, I know the world gets in their head and they don’t see God’s plan for marriage and family.”
“We are so excited to have him,” added Gina Scheuermann, who leads the Family Life ministry. “We have had other events such as Supper and Substance and a marriage retreat, all which were successful and fruitful.”
Fulfilling the synod
When the committee decided to look for a speaker, West’s name came up and “seemed very appropriate” inlight of many things, including one of the priorities of the Ninth General Synod for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. That priority, to minister to family, youth and young adults, inspired Our Lady of the Lake synod liaison Allison McInnis to encourage the Family Life ministry to look for a speaker.
Father Mark Lomax, pastor, agreed that the parish could bring in Christopher West to spread his message, which offers God’s plan for the family seen through the lenses of St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” and Pope Francis’ “Joy of love.”
‘Hungry heart’ for God
West did not disappoint. Through stories and music by Mike Mangione, he framed his talk around a tale: A young couple finds a quiet spot to be alone one dark night, not realizing they are on the grounds of a rural church. A priest walks out, looks kindly at the couple, points to the sky and says: “What does what you are doing here have to do with the stars?”
The relationship between man and woman, West continued, has everything to do with the stars. Our longing for union is our longing for transcendence, for God. “In the words of the prophet Bruce Springsteen, everybody’s got a hungry heart,” West said.
Everyone, he said, has a longing for more. The problem, he said, is that the yearnings of our life are often directed the wrong way. Nothing will satisfy our deepest desires except God.
“We worship what we think will satisfy our hunger,” West said. “The culture awakens our ache and aims it at a product” when, in fact, our ultimate yearning should be aimed at the infinite, at God. “These yearnings should launch us, like a rocket, to the stars.”
But lately, he added, our rocket engines have been inverted and we aim our yearnings the wrong way. West led those in attendance to consider a cultural shift from what he called “starvation diet” – in which the message was, “Sex is bad, dirty, evil; save it for the person you love” – to a “fast food diet” – in which anything goes.
Sacred purpose to sexuality
There is something in between, West said, and it is beautiful.
“I am here to proclaim good news about the great mystery of human sexuality,” West said, adding that Christ came into the world to change everything. “He comes into the confusion to set us free. … He came to satisfy the ache; he knows we’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places. He came to restore the world to the beauty of creation.”
Put another way, West said: “God comes to redirect our rocket engine to the stars.” After all, he added, “We are all called to become aspiring mystics, to aim our passion at the stars.”
We are called, West said, to trust in God’s providence, to “stay in the ache and know he will satisfy the desires of your heart.”
For those who attended, West’s message hit home. “The beauty of love and the body has been lost. We need to pass this message on to our kids,” said Michelle Nader of Mandeville.
Father Lomax, who said his only job was to say “yes” to bring in West, thought the day was important for couples and families.
“He’s got a good message about the sanctity and sacramentality of marriage,” Father Lomax said. “We can give couples this retreat so that he can speak to their souls and hearts.”
For more information on Christopher West, visit the Cor Project at http://corproject.com.
Karen Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.