Theology of the body event weaves words, music and art

| Susan Klemond | September 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

Anyone hungering for union and intimacy is eligible to receive a beautifully crafted invitation to the Lord’s divine banquet of love which will satisfy that hunger.

This invitation comes to the Twin Cities next month in the form of a performance weaving together spoken word, music and art. Through the beauty of art, speaker and author Christopher West, indie-folk band Mike Mangione and the Union and others seek to invite the audience into the truth about that deep longing and the meaning of human sexuality as found in Blessed John Paul II’s “theology of the body.”

“Life, yearning, suffering, love, our cry for intimacy and union — all begin to make sense when the Church’s teaching is properly framed and presented as the beautiful invitation that it is,” West said. “This message desperately needs to be shared because, for lack of it, we are turning to so many false promises of happiness and fulfillment in the world today. And they lead to tragic suffering, disillusionment, and despair.”

More like an evening of theater than a lecture, “Fill These Hearts: God, Sex and the Universal Longing,” will take place Saturday, Oct. 27 at the O’Shaughnessy Education Center auditorium at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Way of beauty

The idea for the event, which has been performed nationally and internationally, came from Pope John Paul’s “Letter to Artists” and a desire to make theology of the body themes “contemplatively present in color, shape and sound.” It is produced by the Cor Project, a team dedicated to sharing TOB.

Profoundly spiritual, art can open the heart to beauty, which can “seize our hearts and transform us from within,” West said. “That’s our hope for this event in a nutshell, to lead people along the way of beauty.”

“Sometimes the heart even gets ahead of the head,” said Mangione whose band performs music directly and indirectly reflecting TOB.

“Art has this ability to rumble the heart before it even makes sense in the head,” he said. “Words can cradle your mind and create an intellectual wrestling match while art can punch you in the stomach, steal your breath, and increase your heart rate all before the head has any clue something happened.”

However, the performance is not so much entertainment but the witnessing of beauty and the “enfleshing” of TOB, said Jen Messing, St. Charles Borromeo parishioner and founder of the St. Anthony-based non-profit Into the Deep, which offers TOB-related retreats and is helping to coordinate the event.

The event’s message is not limited to practicing Catholics, said West, who called for “reaching beyond the bunker.”

According to Messing, “the event is made for reaching out to people who are not necessarily going to attend an average Catholic talk. It’s meant to be this place where you can invite somebody who feels skeptical about Catholic teaching or a place safe to bring somebody that might have fallen away from the church or someone who isn’t even Catholic but may feel comfortable coming to it.”

She also invited those who’ve heard West speak on TOB. “People that have already been exposed to TOB, they might have an attitude of been-there, done-that with Christopher West or TOB but the reality is those are the people we would like to take deeper, not to mention we’d like them to invite their friends,” she said. “This event is meant to be an open door to explore what TOB is.”

Living life in 3-D

During the performance West draws from material in his forthcoming book titled “Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing.” In addition to West’s presentation and the music, attendees can watch sand painter David Leiberg create images depicting the story of creation, the fall and redemption, which will be projected on a screen.

Mangione and his band’s music, folk-traditional and rock that includes violin and cello, has been played locally on Minnesota Public Radio’s The Current.

“My goal is to take the themes touched upon by Christopher and to get them to swim in the listener’s heart and head,” he said. “We want the music to be an opportunity to take what has been laid out to encounter it personally.”

To make the “Fill These Hearts” event happen, Messing pointed to a need for both volunteers and donors. Those interested in volunteering before or during the event, or who can make a financial contribution to cover the costs can send an email to, she said.

Experiencing beauty at an event like this can lead participants to beauty with a capital “B” — the Lord Himself who is the answer to our longing, West said.

“That is God’s destiny for us: to ‘fill these hearts’ with infinite satisfaction,” he said. “But in order to reach our destiny, we must learn to direct our desires according to God’s design. I call that living life in 3-D. And that’s what this event is all about.”

For more information and to order tickets visit

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Category: Local News, Spotlight