these past weeks have been somewhat busy and pretty tiring, therefore a short weekend getaway sounded more than appealing. Though getting out of the city was just a bonus, the actual reason of getting out of the busyness of life was Christopher West’s Theology of the Body-Talk. The event took place at a pilgrimage destination in Germany, a few kilometers away from Munich and Salzburg. Altötting, to my surprise, is a sacred place of the Black Madonna, i.e. Mama Mary, in Europe aside from the well-known places Monserrat and Lourdes.
The town gave a very sacred and tranquil atmosphere although packed with pilgrims. However, it did not stop us to enjoy the company and the short-time away from the noise to center ourselves again. Christopher West’s talk gave me a lot of #NoteToSelfs but also reminded me how to appreciate the things God’s given to us.
West’s teaching of the Theology of the Body gives a deeper understanding about our sexuality and legitimate reasons why it is our duty to appreciate it through the eyes of God. His analogy of our bodies was a crumpled up sheet of paper that on one hand developed into an object that people got fixated on and on the other hand became the source of the TOB-teaching. Saint John Paul II took the crumpled up paper and learned to appreciate it by understanding that the crinkledness was just another lost soul that needed direction. He realised that our bodies are icons that lead us to heaven. “The meaning of life is to love in the image of God”, Christopher West pointed out and asked us to uncrumple ourselves to reach the Lord.
The first talk that Christopher West gave Saturday evening was a lot about ‘coming into the light’ which is an analogy of being stripped down to the core and exposing our inner fears, imperfections and shortcomings. He spoke about his own experiences being a ‘recovering perfectionist’ who’s mindset was that flaws are bad and being afraid of having ones flaws on display. Only through his wife, he realised that his neglect and avoidance of his imperfections lead him to be a not-good-enough husband.
Here he pointed out that not even the saints were perfect. The only reason they became saints was that they were perfectly loved with their own imperfections. West explained that the saints became who they are because they surrendered their suffering, their shortcomings and their imperfections to the Lord because they knew that He was going to love them exactly there. To be raw and weak, that is how West describes the lifestyle of a Christian.
Since Christopher West declared himself as a recovering perfectionist, he pointed out how people drown in their own perfectionism. I think, a lot of us can relate to the attitude of not being worthy enough because we haven’t carried our tasks out perfectly, most especially as Christians. Here West explains, that the mindset of perfectionism is ‘I’m not going to be loved until I get to the cross.’ Exactly this notion makes us believe that inside, we know we won’t get to the cross, therefore we live behind a mask and pretend because we think ‘I can’t be loved’. West urges us to get off that mindset and get on to the road to perfection that is love and that love draws us to the cross, step by step. In knowing that this love draws us to perfection we understand that the ultimate goal is God, no matter how often we have fallen back or fallen down.
Most especially this part in his talk, reminded me that prayer is a necessity of life and that everything flows from it. “A life of prayer faces a lot of distractions. It means taking off that mask and getting real with God,” explained West and pointed out that we need to get in touch with that cry inside of us. The longing that we have inside is only a thirst that can be stilled by Christ. He also reminded us that, “God always initiates prayer and our prayer is a response to the God who is seeking us first”.