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News from Rome: An International Theology of the Body Symposium

November 16, AD 2011 14 Comments

Yes! The Church in Europe is more alive and renewing itself than rumors would have you think. In fact, Christ is constantly loving and sanctifying his Church all over the world. Or as John Paul II would say, “The quoted text [Eph 5:27] highlights that the same Bridegroom, Christ, takes care to adorn the Bride, the Church, in order that she might be beautiful with the beauty of grace, beautiful in virtue of the gift of salvation in its fullness…” (Theology of the Body 91:8).

This past week, an International Symposium on Theology of the Body took place in Rome (here are two articles at Zenit about it: one in Portuguese and one in English). I wasn’t able to go, but I interviewed someone who was: Daniel (who also happens to be my boyfriend!). Daniel is a medical doctor in Lisbon, Portugal and works in oncology.

1. How did you decide to go to this Symposium?

I had originally planned to go with my girlfriend, but then she wasn’t able to go. I was unsure because in my heart, I felt these teachings made sense, but it didn’t make sense in my mind. During that same weekend, an oncology congress was being held and I felt divided. I talked to a couple that advises us and they helped me think about what was most important. I realized I couldn’t be half-Christian, half-something else. It was during mass that I felt the call to go and decided I should be all-Christian, so I chose to go to the Symposium.

2. What were your expectations going into this Symposium and how did the experience match up?

I was afraid it would be a bunch of theologians talking about some rules and readings that didn’t make sense to me. The theologians were there. However, to my surprise, they made a lot more sense than I had expected. They really touched my heart. Living the sacraments together with the teachings made me go deep inside myself and start a conversion process that I want to continue now that the Symposium is over.

3. What was your most memorable experience from this Symposium?

I would say two: praying in St. Peter’s Basilica and talking to Christopher West. I had already been to Saint Peter’s Basilica, but had never understood much about it. I used to think it was an unintelligent way to spend a lot of money. But in this Symposium, the seminary that hosted gave us a guided tour through the Basilica and explained the deep meaning of it all. Understanding the architecture, that in the very center of the Basilica is the tomb of St. Peter, that it all can be related to the Trinity and to some extent Theology of the Body was amazing. About Christopher West, it was so nice to see him with his son and how simple, honest and good they are.

4. What was your favorite thing that you learned?

That the only thing I can do is to show my wounds.

5. How do you think this Symposium impacted your spiritual life?

It helped me see that my spiritual life is really related to my bodily life. I live my spirit with my body. It pointed me to the fact that we are all called to an inner journey to search for our wounds and to expose them… that Christ can heal us.

6. How did it impact the other areas of your life?

I really think the different areas of my life are related. They should all have Christ as the foundation. Living this is not merely intellectual, theological or spiritual exercise, but also a bodily journey. I am called to pure relationships, whether in my work with sick people or in my family life.

7. What did this Symposium inspire you to do and what do you hope to bring back to Portugal with you?

I was invited by Christopher West to go to his Immersion Course and I’d really like to. I think this teaching can be related to issues on suffering and dying, so I think I would benefit from getting to know more about it. Besides that, I feel called to live in relationship in my life. The Trinity is a community of persons in pure relationships (all giving), and I am also called to give with all my bodily matter… called to self-donation. I want to try to live that in my daily life: here in the hospital, in my relationships and in the Church.

Theology of the Body  is a compilation of 129 catecheses, a legacy given to us by John Paul II at Wednesday General Audiences, about human love in the divine plan. One national U.S. congress and three international symposiums have already been held with specialists on this topic, and the next international symposium is scheduled for early June of 2013 in Fatima, Portugal. Bookmark this site for future news!

Image sources here and here

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About the Author:

Julie Machado is a 30-year-old wife, mother and Portuguese-American who grew up in California, but moved to Portugal for college and has been there ever since. She has a degree in Theology from the Catholic University of Lisbon and has special interest in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. She blogs at Marta, Julie e Maria.