SINGAPORE – Does the phrase "young people following the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality" conjure images of frightened and repressed people following miserable rules for fear of hellfire? Or do we instead picture joyful young people delighted at having found a treasure and talking about it into the wee hours of the night?
Indeed, the second scenario was what a team from Family Life Society (FLS) experienced when
they conducted a two-day "Good News about Sex" youth conference for about 80 participants at Church of St. Francis Xavier in Kuala Lumpur. The conference was organized by the "Life-liners", a campus and youth ministry based in Kuala Lumpur.
The team from FLS was greatly aided in their presentations by "Theology of the Body for Teens", a book published by Ascension Press.
Through the use of movie clips, practical exercises, journaling activities and more, the young Malaysians were presented a vision of what human sexuality is all about, linking it to their own deepest aspirations for happiness and God’s plan of love.
As the book authors put it: "If sex is on their minds, put truth in their hearts." Beginning with the universal aspiration to love and be loved in return, the team from FLS took participants on an adventure which explored among other topics freedom, God’s plan for sexuality, redemption and hope in Christ, marriage, celibacy, dating and a deeper understanding of the classical "thou shalt nots" of Catholic sexual morality.
The overriding message throughout was the emphasis on God’s glorious plan of love, his offer of mercy and redemption for those mired in sexual sin and how the gift of sex, far from being simply reduced to an exercise in either avoiding unwanted pregnancies or disease, is actually an icon of the love between the Blessed Trinity.
Coupled with opportunities for Mass, Eucharistic adoration, praise and worship as well as confession, the entire experience was for at least one participant "a new Pentecost".
Indeed, there were many touching moments as some participants shared their stories of healing and hope. One participant related how "dirty" she felt when she had pre-marital sex with her boyfriend and how thankful she was to realize that God’s invitation to joy is still open to her.
There was also pin-drop silence when another girl related the story of her abortion and how going for confession at the conference was an important step in a long healing process.
Nor was the Pentecost experience limited to "sexually broken people". Deena Lee, a medical student related how this conference helped her make sense of her role as a doctor and as a Catholic.
Likewise, another participant was shocked that the church actually taught that contraception was a "no-go" even in the context of marriage. As he struggled with this teaching, he nevertheless was
thankful that this teaching was not held back. "It is a real challenge to self-giving love, holding back nothing", was his response. - By Nick Chui