My life being what it is, I couldn’t just send the kids off to bed and hole myself up with it. There it sat, a pile of papers with a rubber band holding it together, enticing me with thoughts of how Christopher West introduced me to John Paul II.
I was pregnant with my oldest daughter and a pretty newly married bride when I was tapped to drive a couple of teenagers to a neighboring town to hear Jason Evert speak. The talk was designed for teens, and though I cringe to call it a chastity talk (that just sounds so…boring, and the evening was more exciting than any of the concerts I’ve attended), that’s what it was.
Maybe Evert stole my heart when he mentioned that his wife would be there, but she had just given birth to their first child.
Father Pat would tell you he hasn’t heard the end of it since then. Bob would tell you it’s a bit of an obsession of mine.
I would tell you that the three of these men – Jason Evert, Christopher West, and John Paul II – changed my life by changing my heart. They showed me the beauty of God’s design for our bodies and they made me dig into my Bible, Church teaching, and the world around me with a new appreciation.
What does all of that have to do with a new book in the mail?
Christopher West’s new book – not published yet (oh, the thrill of a galley copy…be still, my beating heart, be still!) – is an in-depth look at the “uncovered” audiences that John Paul II didn’t include in the audiences he actually gave. (Theology of the Body is the name given to 129 audiences John Paul II gave over the course of quite a few years, beginning in 1979.) These “new” audiences examined the Song of Songs and the relationship of the lovers, and JP2 considered them too delicate for the younger listeners who would have heard them in his Wednesday addresses.
What can I say? I was enthralled.
I have read West’s other books. I was so excited about Good News About Sex and Marriage that I led a parish book study about it. His talks led me to reading TOB the first time. His commentary led me to rereading TOB, without a commentary. I took his advice and read it during Adoration (as it turned out, that was some of the only quiet time when I could digest it).
It seemed a little appropriate that, at one of the times I found myself at Adoration last week, the only thing with me was my copy of Heaven’s Song. I had to pause in reading it, though. All that talk about Song of Songs…I had to read it for myself!
The next day, I found myself covering someone else’s hour at Adoration (it was a very, very good week…either that, or it was a very, very rough week and God knew I’d need both hours’ worth of grace), but without any reading material. I read Song of Songs a second time.
It’s hard to say anything too bad about a book that inspires me to pick up a Bible. I wasn’t just reading it, though, I was enjoying it.
That’s not to say the Bible isn’t good reading. It’s to say that I’m not always the best at reading it in a pick-it-up-in-my-spare-time kind of way.
Heaven’s Song is the kind of book I buy and then kiss good-bye, because it’s the kind of book that I’ll find myself lending out. It’s not just another book about Theology of the Body, though it gets its inspiration from that. It’s a book about marriage, about life together, about what God meant when he designed man for woman and woman for man. My favorite part, in addition to the fact that I revisited what I love about Song of Songs (our first reading at our wedding was from Song of Songs), was the prayer that West included at the end of every chapter.
All this hype about TOB, all this talk about sex and marriage, all this hullabaloo about evangelization…it all starts out as a prayer. It all starts out sitting at the feet of our Father, asking his Mother to lead us to her Son, letting go of ourselves long enough to let God in.
Heaven’s Song took the short track to the shelf where all my favorite books sit. (Well, the copy of the actual book that I’ll end up buying did. The galley copy just isn’t going to cut it.) You should read this book. Then, you should go ahead and read the works that inspired it: Song of Songs and Theology of the Body (also available free online).