If we are presenting God’s plan in all its splendor and in age-appropriate ways, there is nothing to be ashamed of here. There is nothing to be squeamish about or embarrassed about. If we find ourselves clamming up and unable to talk about these beautiful truths with our children, that’s an indication, I think, that we ourselves are in need of some healing in this area of our lives. Taking up a study of JP II’s TOB is a great place to start on that journey.
Kapler: I would like to hear about the growth of your interior life. You obviously have a deep appreciation of the Carmelites. When and how were you introduced to their writings? Who do you consider your great teachers?
West: I first got turned on to Carmelite spirituality in the writings of John Paul II. When JP II speaks of prayer as a journey toward “nuptial union” with the Lord, he speaks by name of Saints John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. That’s what encouraged me to start reading their works. To be honest, I had already been speaking and writing about the TOB for several years before I really started pursuing a deeper interior life. It’s one thing to be able to speak and write about the theological ideas in your head. It’s another thing altogether to allow those theological truths to penetrate and transform your heart. Life has a way of compelling you on that journey, but we often resist it because transformation demands purification and that’s painful – it means passing through fire, through trials and dark nights. Not fun. But oh so rewarding, and so necessary for our souls! In 2004 I started seeing a priest for spiritual direction and I’ve been seeing him regularly ever since. He’s immersed in the mystical tradition of the Church and has helped me tremendously in developing a deeper interior life. I’d say that he and my wife – and, of course, John Paul II – have been my greatest teachers in that regard.
Kapler: When I hear your name I immediately think of the Theology of the Body Institute. When your book At the Heart of the Gospel was released, however, I discovered that you had launched a new apostolate called The Cor Project. Readers would love to know more about it. What are its goals? Does it mean less time working with the TOB Institute?
West: I co-founded the TOB Institute in 2004 with two other colleagues and was involved for several years in its administration as the Institute was solidifying its mission and programs. We’ve attracted a top-notch faculty – including Janet Smith, Peter Kreeft, Bill Donaghy, John Haas, and Michael Waldstein – and students come from around the world to take the week-long intensive courses that are part of the TOB Institute’s Certification Program (www.tobinstitute.org). I continue to teach about four of these intensive classes every year, but I’ve stepped away from the administrative side of things to pursue a new global initiative called The Cor Project.
“Cor,” of course, is Latin for heart. At the heart of culture is the relationship of man and woman. It’s an illusion to think we can renew culture unless we reach this “cor” with a healing, redemptive vision of life, love, and sexuality. I’ve spent nearly 20 years spreading TOB in Catholic circles, and I’ll continue to serve in that way. But The Cor Project is working with culture-shaping individuals and organizations around the world – artists, musicians, screenwriters, playwrights, Hollywood and Broadway producers, businessmen and women, experts and pioneers in online education – to take the message to a wider audience. We feel urgently compelled by Christ’s call to “go into the main streets and invite everyone to the wedding feast.”
Kapler: You and some of the Cor Project team just returned from Haiti. What did you see the Lord doing among the Haitian people?