In a Celebration Of Life seminar organised by the Family Life Society, Andrea Kang explores the question of her choice to be a Catholic and ponders the meaning of life.

COL01.jpgEVER QUESTIONED YOURSELF, "Why am I a Catholic"? Amidst the wide variety of religions in the world and the 28,000 Protestant denominations, "Why did I choose the Catholic faith?" Or how about sitting in the bus wondering, "What is the meaning of life?" and "What is my ultimate destiny"?

If your answer to the first question is "because Catholicism is the true religion", you have proved that you understand the origins of your faith. The answer to the second question, however, may not sit very well with some.

It may even seem absurd or mind-boggling. But it is nevertheless true. We are all put on earth to love as God loves: the free, total, faithful and fruitful giving of oneself to another. And that our ultimate destiny is to be with God in heaven as his "wife": to share in the Trinitarian love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This message found in the "Theology of the Body", is Pope John Paul II's biblical reflection on our embodiment, sexual morality, love, marriage and the meaning of life.

The two truths above were the main enlightenment for the participants at the Celebration Of Life seminar held Mar 17-19 at the Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre (CAEC). The seminar organised by Family Life Society (FLS) was held because they saw a need to help Catholics understand that the Catholic Church is the true church.

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Through the sharing among participants, it was evident that many adult Catholics these days are simply going-with-the- flow, unsure why they have stayed in the faith. Among those present, some said that they were raised a Catholic and chose to stay in the faith because they believe their parents chose the best faith for them while others were from Catholic schools and have gotten comfortable with the customs and teachings.

The main issue discussed by Kelvin Chia, a speaker on apologetics as well as a fulltime litigation lawyer, was the tradition of apostolic succession. Using this belief as an example, Mr Chia explained how the Catholic Church understands and transmits the Word of God using its three pillars: Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. Catholics believe that God sent Jesus on his mission and that Jesus transmitted his mission to the Apostles, who in turn transmitted it to their successors, the Bishops of the Catholic Church.

Most traditions of the Catholic Church, like this one,  Mr Chia said, have scripture to support its beliefs. Mt 28:18-20 says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time".

In the case of differing interpretations, the Magisterium steps in to clear all doubts. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states: "the task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God … has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ" (CCC 85). With the existence of the Church's Magisterium, the Church can teach with one authentic and authoritative voice. This ensures that all Catholics, regardless of their geographic location, are taught the same faith and morals. This makes Catholicism the true faith.

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Another reason for the seminar was to address misconceptions about sex and sexuality. Many Catholics today see sex as "unholy" and are uncomfortable with religious emphasis on the body. But what they don't realise is that sex and sexuality is fundamental to the very meaning of life, as many of the participants later came to understand.

Having attended a similar talk a year ago, Wary, 30, and Sopia, 26, were back to increase their understanding of this theology. They said that this is a powerful way of educating the youth on doing the right thing.

With the help of a video presentation by Christopher West, a research fellow and faculty member of Theology of the Body Institute, Andrew Kong, who is senior executive at FLS, introduced concepts such as "naked without shame", "nuptial meaning of the body", and "marriage of the lamb".

The key to understanding  God's original plan for man and woman, according to John Paul II, is in "nakedness". He said that Adam and Eve gazed at each other's nakedness but felt no shame or embarrassment, only wonder and awe at the mystery of God's love. This nakedness, John Paul II said, reveals the "nuptial meaning of the body" which is the body's "capacity of expressing love: that love precisely in which the person becomes a gift and by-means-of-this-gift-fulfils the very meaning of his being and existence" (The Theology of the Body, Pg 63).

"There is no meaning in solitude," said Wary. "Only when you give yourself [in marriage] then will you find yourself."

As the meaning of one's life is fulfilled in the union of two, so is one's destiny. The Theology of the Body explains that God wants to live in intimate communion with us for all eternity. This, said John Paul II, is the "marriage of the lamb": the intimacy we will one day share with God when we see God face to face. Marriage and sex, he said, is just a foretaste of that heavenly intimacy.

Despite the overload of information, participants were thankful for the enlightenment. After their long and tedious search, many have found the truth of their meaning in life through this seminar.

For one individual, Anton, 27, who came as a Protestant wanting to know more about the Catholic faith, left with many doubts cleared. "I am very glad I came," he said. â– 

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