Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fill(ed) THIS Heart.

Last weekend I had an amazing opportunity to go to St. Paul for a Fill These Hearts event. It's already been a week since the show/concert/speaking event/whatever-the-heck-it-was and I am still blown away at what we witnessed and experienced. God's beauty and the way He loves us and desires us so intimately lies at the heart of the very Gospel itself, and for the first time I actually heard someone explain this to me in a way that I can begin to understand. 

For those of you who don't already know, I have somewhat of a fetish (not in the creepy, weird, stalkerish way) for a music group, Mike Mangione and the Union, and have had a "musician crush" on them for nearly five years now, ever since they came to Madison way back during my early college days. I remember when Theresa, my roommate and dear friend, told me how this guy who's friends with her brother is an awesome musician and they are coming so we absolutely had to go see them! I obliged, thinking it would be just another Christian singer/songwriter and I'd leave St. Paul's at the end of the evening no different than when I arrived.

Boy was I wrong.

One can argue that all experiences change a person, whether for the better or for the worse, and I know that this music definitely touched a spot somewhere in my soul, and affected my life for the better. When the group came to Madison they had recently released the album, Tenebrae, and before each song Mike would explain the history behind each of the songs and the stories that went along with it. Sitting in the concrete, carpet-covered pews in St. Paul's I remember the feeling as though time actually stopped and the thought, "My life is different now, there is something really special about this music."

Ever since that night I've sought out opportunities to see them perform, often in coffee shops in downtown Madison every now and then. I do remember one summer when I took Molly all the way to Milwaukee so she could finally experience this music I was raving and ranting about. We got all dolled up, hopped in the Taur and boogied down to Milwaukee where we were so excited to see them. Sadly I was quite naive and didn't even think to look at the venue at which they were playing. We got there and I remember seeing Mike himself and the rest of the band starting with the sound check and before we could get more than five steps in the door we were carded (for quite possibly my first time ever) and the bouncer informed us that this was a 21 and up venue (a.k.a. a bar). Dannng! I felt defeated, but Molly's a good sport so we just got some hot dogs and then drove the two hours back home. And I learned my lesson: Always check the venue before driving two hours to see your favorite band play, especially if that venue is an alcohol-serving establishment. Luckily, that remains a non-issue for me...but if there are under-agers in our group I must remember courtesy...

Anyway, this is beginning to be a much longer story than I anticipated, but let's just say I've been following Mike Mangione and the Union on Facebook, Twitter, etc, and ever since coming here I have been perusing their tour dates, praying that they would come somewhere within a 300-mile radius of Fargo.  I finally saw on their Facebook page an event titled, "Fill These Hearts," and it was a combination music/speaker/artist event completely revolving around Blessed JPII's Theology of the Body. I've desired to learn more about this for a long time now, in fact, way back in high school Sara and I each bought ourselves a copy of JPII's actual work, thinking we'd read it over a summer. I remember opening it, reading a sentence and closing the book for the next eight years. Let's just say that Blessed John Paul II's writings are not for the fainthearted, or the high schooler with a high schooler's reading level, which, at this time, was me.

Anyway, back to the present. I saw that this tour was coming through St. Paul and decided to organize a group of students, whoever wanted to come, to go see it with me. This is the description I posted on the bisonCatholic Facebook page, taken directly from the website:
With music, light, video and other art forms, Fill These Hearts presents the message of Theology of the Body in an artistic event, couching Christopher West’s presentation in a redeemed atmosphere of art, culture and beauty, making contemplatively present in color, shape, and sound, the themes from JP II’s profound and timely work on the meaning of human sexuality. 
Cari and I will be making a trip to St. Paul for this event! Is anybody interested in coming? The details are on the website, and the tickets are only $15/person if there is a group of 10 or more. Plus, Mike Mangione & the Union makes hearts swoon. 
Apparently this intrigued a few people and over 15 students ended up wanting to join us for this--which means one thing: we scored the discounted tickets. BOOM. And there were more people making a Saturday-long trip to St. Paul for an event that they basically knew nothing about, nor did I, or anybody going. It had the potential to be pretty lame, I'll admit, one simply never knows until checking it out! I ended up getting invited to a Meet 'n Greet before the event with Christopher West and Mike Mangione themselves and got to actually meet Christopher along with some of the big donors that helped sponsor the event! Although it was only 30 minutes before showtime I was still trying to figure out what exactly we were about to see, and now after attending, I can see why Jen Messing (the woman who helped coordinate the event and invited me to the meet 'n greet) just smiled and said to me, "It's just one of those things you have to see and experience to understand."

Our group at Fill These Hearts
Yep, that pretty much sums it up. But I'll still try to at least give you a little tip of the iceberg to what we experienced that night. Notice how she didn't say "see," or "hear" but rather experience. Not one part of the event could have been taken by itself because between the music, Christopher West's talking, the sand-art, lights and the dancing, it was all just so holistic in its approach to the true, good and beautiful! I left that night feeling very spiritually full, and excited for what I was beginning to learn about something so important.

The main takeaway of the event for me was that God stamped into our bodies His love for us, and He gives us our desires as just a little taste of the desire we have ultimately for the eternal banquet of the Lamb in Heaven. Naturally, we desire the infinite but we attempt to satisfy that desire with finite things. Due to the fact that our desires do not always result in actions that benefit us, we have created this idea that our desires are bad, but they are not! God gives us all of our desires, but also calls each of us to chastity and self-discipline. The definition Christopher gave us for chastity, "disciplined wildness" makes so much sense! Especially when speaking in terms of our sexuality: when we view sex the way God intends for it to look, that is what He desires for every person--chastity. True freedom, Christopher defined as "disciplined wildness that releases us from the temptation to indulge." That makes so much sense, doesn't it?! I'll just let you chew on that one. Drink it in, people. Drink. It. In.

And the last thing that I scribbled down on my notes: "Do not reject the pleasures of this world, but rejoice in them rightly." That's what God so greatly desires for us! To rejoice in the pleasures of this world rightly.

West's book that I've been devouring this week.
So basically the TOB (Theology of the Body) message has begun to slowly eat away at me and the more I'm learning the more I desire to learn about it. Cari and I have both seen a desire within our existing bible studies to form up another study, but this one being on West's book, Theology of the Body for Beginners, which is an extremely abridged version of JPII's original work. I would be really excited to be involved with this, and truly, the more people that hear this message the better! If more people, young and old alike, heard this message of how intimately God loves them and how he gave us all intimate longings that should ultimately point us to Him, man, crazy conversions could definitely take place.

If you're interested in hearing about the past week of my life, well, that's less important. I will say I had one of the busiest weeks yet and it only lasted four days! We had a much-needed day of recollection on Friday (aka sleep in, go to Mass and pray when you want...but make NO plans whatsoever) and I actually decided to turn this weekend into a "weekend of recollection" making only two plans for the entire thing: last night I prayed at the abortion clinic from 8-9 and today I will be going to Mass at 5. Now that is a good weekend right there. People actually asked me to do things too! And I responded with, a simple, "No thanks, I'm making plans to make no plans this weekend."

So I'm writing to you after a weekend of daylight savings time, rest, prayer and ample Kelsey time.