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Christopher West leads revolution of the heart

Darren Ally
Darren Ally
Darren Ally is the Manager for Communications and News Media at the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.
Married couples, those soon-to-be-wed, and single students were among the hundred who gathered to learn from Dr Christopher West, one of the world’s best-known speakers on the Catholic tradition of sexuality and the meaning of the human body. Photo: Anthony Milic
Married couples, those soon-to-be-wed, and single students were among the hundred who gathered to learn from Dr Christopher West, one of the world’s best-known speakers on the Catholic tradition of sexuality and the meaning of the human body. Photo: Anthony Milic

Almost 100 Sydney faithful, including married couples, those soon-to-be-wed, and even a smattering of single students gathered to learn from of one of the world’s best-known speakers on the Catholic tradition of sexuality and the meaning of the human body, Dr Christopher West.

Recognised around the globe as one of the most passionate preachers of St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, West was in Sydney for a five-day immersion into St John Paul II’s landmark book Love and Responsibility, co-hosted by the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation.

Passions were ignited across the five-day event with humour, truth, theology and music all united together in a cacophony of “truth bombs’ that Dr West has become renowned for.

Over the course of the retreat, West challenged attendees to investigate their “divine plan” as married couples, to get a more profound understanding of sexuality in the realm of God’s design and God’s plan for humanity.

Across the course, the bar was set for attendees to change their lives, orienting themselves towards valuing every human person and their dignity in every encounter they have.

In a world where the term “life-changing” is bandied about, this five-day event transformed all who attended.

Couples find themselves so exposed and vulnerable by the great saint’s pre-papal work, that the break for lunch is a welcome respite—just to share and process what they’ve absorbed.

“It’s just been raw, it’s been open. It’s been painful at times. And it’s just been a really sweet journey, with a bit of agony on the way,” said Simon Yeak, Sacramental Life and RCIA Coordinator from the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation.

“It’s a bit of a bittersweet cross that people experience when they hear this kind of message.

“Why didn’t I learn the goodness of my sexuality in my body all those years ago?

“But there’s also this sense of sweetness that people are like, ‘I feel like I’m arriving. I feel like I’m becoming.’”

The couples in attendance are from all over Australia. Some have travelled from as far as Singapore and New Zealand to dig deep into the beauty of John Paul II’s life-changing teachings.

They are exhilarated, enlightened, and re-energised.

Many, like Tomas and Sarah Juszczak from Sydney, have gone into areas of their relationship they have never thought possible.

“We’ve had a real grace to go deeper into our marriage. We’ve had some conversations we haven’t had before, because of the things that have been brought up,” said Tomas.

“It’s been beautiful.”

When pressed on what kind of conversations, he flicks Sarah a knowing glance.

“Look, I mean, really about things we still need to work through. Things deep in our hearts that that we may not have shared with each other before,” he said.

“Intimate, intimate things that cuts to the core of human experience.

“And I think especially because we keep ourselves so busy, now we have four kids, you don’t really spend that much time looking into yourself.”

That opportunity is what propelled Jeff and Alizarin Zaher to drive 13 hours from Melbourne to attend.

“Life-changing actually doesn’t suffice,” said Jeff when describing the retreat.

“I would even say it’s rehabilitating ourselves and our family towards salvation. It touches on some real sensitive issues. Things that that really cut to the core of what it is to be married.”

Despite two decades of marriage, Jeff and Alizarin believe they are only now, “seeing” themselves for the first time.

“It’s worthwhile not just for married people, but couples and even single people, because it goes deeper to what it truly means to be human,” said Alizarin, a mother of eight.

“It’s taught me to even appreciate myself as a human and as a wife and mother. And it’s been confronting in many ways because it is painful.

It isn’t just married couples receiving nourishment.

At lunch, 21-year-old theology and philosophy student Liam Agius, is tucking into his chicken cacciatore when Dr West shocks the Blacktown resident by joining him for the meal.

“He’s really personal. That was really awesome. You don’t get that opportunity at a two-hour lecture,” said Liam.

Opportunities Liam is adamant will future-proof his spiritual life as he moves forward in life.

“I have aspirations to marry one day, and I think that this will help me to be the man that I’m called to be,” he said.

“I think this will really give me that foundation to start that now and not wait till marriage to do those things.”

Ross Busby from the Theology of the Body Institute travels the world with Dr West.

“It can be overwhelming,” he said.

“It’s hearing the truths and beauty of our faith. Hearing that the Lord is speaking to their hearts and places of brokenness and struggle.

“I’ve experienced that myself. It’s powerful and it’s it transforms lives.”

The Archdiocese of Sydney has partnered up with the Theology of the Body Institute for future events and visits.

“The Archdiocese of Sydney has been incredibly, incredibly supportive and it’s been a great partner in this exercise, and it continues,” he said.

“The future is bright for the ongoing connection, so we are promoting the online classes with them, and we will be coming back in successive years for our in-person classes.”

Simon Yeak from the SCE encourages those thinking of attending, to “be not afraid.”

“You’re never going to be in a place where you feel that you’re going to be ready. And if you are willing to enter that breach, you won’t be left disappointed.

“God answers every prayer.”

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