To Boldly Go Where John Paul II Has Gone Before*
I saw Christopher West in person for the first time in Colorado Springs at the Pikes Peak Center and—although he was quite entertaining—I hadn’t realized until reading his tome that he really is a deep thinker after all. Not that his message on stage was necessarily found wanting, but the humor, songs, and art presentations were perhaps (for this author) a bit distracting; especially since I was really there to figure out what does he categorically think and say about John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” (TOB).
Fortunately for me, reading, At the Heart of the Gospel, was like getting Christopher to sit still for an hour or two, tone down the rhetoric, and simply—albeit deeply theological at times—tell us what about TOB makes him want to devote his entire life to a message that, for West, is at the heart of the Gospel.
In this task, he succeeds by helping his readers to understand the fundamental importance of “mature” purity in the life of the ordinary believer. I summarize it this way: When the world sees moral loveliness in sexual relationships within the bounds of holy matrimony contrasted with the moral ugliness of today’s sexual revolution of “anything goes”, it is catalysis for the New Evangelization. You see, people will find this moral loveliness infinitely worth possessing and conclude that it is, indeed, at the very heart of the “Good News” (i.e., Gospel of Jesus Christ).
Thus, I agree with a reviewer (Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel) that Christopher is a kind of “pioneer” in that he has taken the very profound lectures of Pope John Paul II (that were given during his Wednesday audiences in the Pope Paul VI Hall between September 1979 and November 1984) and translated them well into the philosophic laymen’s understanding; and so, with Christopher as our guide, making the journey (to the depth of Christ’s nuptial union) easier to bear.
I will continue this discussion as I hear from my distinguished colleagues and their opinions about this engaging book.
About the Author
Fr. Michael O’Donnell, Ph.D. is a Vice President and Chief Development Officer with Catholic Charities—the social service arm of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs. Catholic Charities provides help and creates hope for people who are poor and vulnerable in our area through the efforts of a wide range of programs and services. He also serves as the Counselor Referral Coordinator for the Diocese.
Michael (an Episcopal/Anglican priest) is married to Rachel, a principal with The Classical Academy, and they have two grown children—Patrick and Kayla. They have been married for 25 years and in 1991 lost an infant daughter, Cara, to a birth defect. Home from Oz (Word) and The Oz Syndrome (Hillcrest) were books that Michael penned shortly after her death that helped him to process her early passing.
The author or co-author of nearly 10 books, Michael’s latest book, What a Son Needs from His Dad (Baker/Bethany House Publishers), has already–in just a few months–gone into its 2nd printing.
For more information, please see: Wikipedia Article
*This review was first published by Patheos.com February 2012.