Yes, both at the same time
After the National Singles Conference ‘A Glimpse of Heaven’ which was based on St John Paul II Theology of the Body (TOB), it was the desire of the CFCI community to spread this message to all. We agree with George Weigel, author of the biography on St John Paul II, who described TOB as “theological time bomb set to go off with dramatic consequences“. The community was more than willing to activate this “theological time bomb” here in India. Thanks to the support of His Holiness Bishop Agnelo Gracias, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Bombay and fellow catholic apostolates Family of Faith & Foundation and Opus Dei, this desire turned in to reality on Sunday, October 12, 2014 in Mumbai.
‘Sex in Your City’ was an evangelical program organised by CFCI Singles Mumbai with an intention to spread the good news of human sexuality to young people between the age group of 18-35. Most found the name of the program ‘sensational’, however the idea was to strip away the taboo associated with the subject and provide clarity on the Church’s teaching on it which is often misunderstood and widely ignored. With posters captioned ‘Let’s talk love, sex and the Catholic Church’ and our social media page, we invited youth from parishes all over Mumbai. The response was overwhelming as more than 200 registered for the program, some even from Pune and Goa.
The receptivity to the program was an indication of how much the youth desire to know the truth. We had participants who reached the venue way before time and last minute registrations who wanted to be part of the program even though registration was closed (some even willing to go through the program without food and seats if there was a shortage). The hunger for God’s word was more than evident in these young souls. With this heartening response, we kick started the program on Sunday morning with Catholic worship band Grace Afterglow leading us in to worship.
The daylong event was packed with music, performances by dance group Grab All Beats, sessions and Q&A; all focusing on the message of TOB which was made relevant and relatable to the young crowd. Providing insights on this subject were the speakers for the day: Jerson James, Basil Rodrigues, Deidre Fernandes, Brother Kelvin Santis and Bishop Agnelo who along with the speakers was part of the Q&A. Each of these individuals were apt for this task as their own life has been transformed by St John Paul’s message and they have spoken about it at other events. James has even authored a book on it titled ‘A Glimpse of Heaven’ for the aforementioned Singles conference.
The speakers addressed the reality of young people’s sex lives, misconceptions on Church’s teaching and struggles faced while living out those teachings. In a world where pornography, premarital sex, homosexuality are considered normal and even necessary, there is a blatant disregard for human body and a lack of respect and dignity towards it. What the Church has to say in these matters is often overlooked, disregarded and even scoffed at. A fresh perspective is the need of the hour and that is exactly what this program did.
For most of the participants this was the first time, where it wasn’t a ‘Don’t do this’ or ‘Don’t do that’ guide to sex. It was an opportunity to really understand the Church’s wisdom and her great respect for the human body. As James stressed in his session – “The Church is pro-sex!” That sexual love is not just about pleasure and procreation but something far more beautiful was a revelation to each and everyone gathered. For engaged couple Basil and Deidre, this truth has helped them embark in to a meaningful relationship which is rooted in love and not lust. They spelled out the challenges young couples face, individually and together, and spoke about loving as Christ does: free, total, faithful and fruitful.
A good part of the afternoon was spent in Q&A session which allowed the participants to voice their concerns and doubts on the subject. Is it ok kiss and involve in sexual activity in a relationship? How to respond to a family/friend’s homosexuality? Isn’t contraception and Natural Family Planning the same? Isn’t pornography educative, so how can it be wrong? These were some of the questions the panel answered in the context of scripture, personal experience, TOB and overall Church’s teaching. The panel discussion was followed by the last session of the program by Brother Kelvin who is a seminarian at St. Pius Seminary, Goa. In his session, he mentioned ways to overcome sinful habits related to lust and find true redemption. Inviting everyone to find grace in the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, he reminded everyone that as Christians – “Victory is ours!”
A fitting conclusion to the program was the Holy Eucharist celebrated by Bishop Agnelo and praise fest led by Grace Afterglow. There was much to thank and Praise God for at the end of the day. Everyone witnessed God’s providence and the revival of hearts and minds that we are confident the Holy Spirit will lead to completion. And we know this is the just the beginning, for more hearts and souls await this message. India brace yourself, for this theological explosion is coming soon to a city near you!