by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Life comes with more than its share of questions.
And many of them boil down into one big one: Why am I here?
Deacon Dana Nearmyer, consultant for the archdiocesan office of youth evangelization and Catholic formation, hopes a three-hour experience in late October will offer hundreds of people life-changing answers to that question and others.
On Oct. 29, educator, author and theologian Christopher West, along with Mike Mangione & the Union, will present “Fill These Hearts: God, Sex and the Universal Longing.” The event will take place at Johnson County Community College’s Yardley Hall.
“Intimacy is something that we all seek in our lives,” said Deacon Nearmyer, “whether we’re celibates or married people or singles.”
A message through words, music and art
The evening utilizes art, music, dance, and video to illuminate the teachings of the late Pope John Paul II on human sexuality. It is described as an “evening of beauty and reflection” on his theology of the body.
“This presentation has really been sculpted to help the wisdom of John Paul II just pour out into [people’s] regular lives,” said Deacon Nearmyer.
West, who has been embraced by the Kansas City community after previous presentations, is an internationally known speaker on this topic.
Mangione’s band released its album “Tenebrae” in 2008 and, since then, has performed an average of 150 shows per year. Mangione is well known to the archdiocese from his performances at Camp Tekakwitha sessions at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg.
West, the band and other artists will join forces for Fill These Hearts and explore questions of human desire and the possibility of fulfillment.
“There’s a great authenticity to this,” said Deacon Nearmyer. He believes it has the potential to impact the lives of several generations of Catholics — from older teens and young adults, to people who have been married for decades.
Deacon Nearmyer estimates that 25 men — “faith-filled, great people” who are in their 50s — have approached him after studying the theology of the body. What they say is sobering.
“I wish I had the first 20 years of my marriage back because I didn’t adore my wife the way that I should before I started studying [the] theology of the body,” they tell him.
The theology of the body is Pope John Paul II’s “integrated vision of the human person — body, soul and spirit,” explains the online resource site at: www.theologyof thebody.net.
“As [the late pope] explains, the physical human body has a specific meaning and is capable of revealing answers regarding fundamental questions about us and our lives.”
It addresses questions ranging from why people were created male and female to the purpose of married and celibate vocations.
Michael Sheerin, a parishioner of St. Joseph Church in Shawnee, has been studying West’s work with his fiancée, who has become an expert on theology of the body over the past several years, he said.
Together, they are currently reading West’s “The Good News About Sex and Marriage.” Sheerin plans to attend “Fill These Hearts.”
“He’s making something that is very complex very simple and very relatable,” Sheerin said. West, he said, combats misconceptions in today’s society, including the idea that men need and use pornography as a common pastime.
In a world in which sex is part of the media and inserted into so many TV shows, West sheds light on the “true idea” of sex and purpose, said Sheerin.
Sam Meier, archdiocesan consultant for the My House Freedom from Pornography Initiative, described the theology of the body as “a new sexual revolution, and a really positive approach to love, human sexuality and what it means to be human.”
Something for everyone
Event executive producer Mark Wassmer described West as a translator — and a highly renowned one — of Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the theology of the body.
And West uses many forms of modern media — from music to sand art — to “translate” the late pope’s teachings to audiences.
“It’s so ‘for the street,’” said Deacon Nearmyer, of Pope John Paul’s message. “But it does take a genius like Christopher West to translate it for us.”
In short, the theology of the body examines what love is supposed to be. Some people might say hate is the opposite of love, said Deacon Nearmyer, but in reality, the opposite of proper loving is not hating, but using.
West’s presentation, he said, explains all that.
“It’s not designed for the ‘choir’ — the choir will love it — but the people who aren’t the choir will love it in a really beautiful way,” he added.
What it is: “Fill These Hearts: God, Sex and the Universal Longing” with Christopher West and touring folk-rock group Mike Mangione & The Union
When: Oct. 29, 7 p.m.
Where: Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College
Price: Adults, $25; students, military and groups of 10 and larger, $20.
For tickets: Visit the website at: www.fillthese hearts.org (click on the “Buy tickets” icon).