As Mike Mangione puts it, music can be a “transcendental portal” to the soul which “gives reigns to the Holy Spirit,” connecting with the listener wherever they’re at in their lives. “Music inspires vulnerability so the Holy Spirit can get to work.”
The award-winning musician will share his soul-lifting songs soon at the “Made for More: Visions of the Promised Land” event at Sts. Anne & Joachim Catholic Church in Fargo.
“We have so many walls,” Mangione continues; walls that art can break down, inviting people into a more meaningful existence. “You’ll be walking into a night of beauty and reflection of who we are and what it means to be human,” an evening promising to be “thought-provoking, funny, and fun, but also deeply inspirational.”
Mangione, a secular musician, will partner for the event with Christopher West, a best-selling author and expert on the Theology of the Body. This teaching was first introduced by Pope John Paul II, who shared its concepts through weekly addresses over a five-year span at the beginning of his pontificate.
“It was a response to the shift in the individual’s understanding of self,” Mangione says, which disassociated the physical from the spiritual. “We need to take another look at the physical world as a way God is connecting with us—as he did so clearly through his son (Jesus).”
Beauty and art can best communicate that truth, he says, by tapping our truest desires as human beings, and revealing our ultimate purpose in life.
Not just a bunch of rules
When Jake and Kelsey Lako agreed to an invitation to learn more about the Theology of the Body a decade ago, they didn’t know a lot about it. But ever since, they’ve been teaching it to high-school students and young adults at St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Casselton.
“In a nutshell, Theology of the Body is the study of God through our bodies—the way we were created—that tells us about God and his plan for us,” Jake says.
“It’s basically the Church’s teaching on sexuality,” Kelsey adds.
“But there’s a lot of misconceptions with that,” Jake says, noting that many believe the Church’s teaching on sexuality is “just a bunch of rules.” In truth, the teaching examines how we were created and the basic human desires we all share—and where that leads.
“If you ask anybody what they truly want, it always comes down to three things: love, joy and peace,” Jake says. “No matter what we’re striving for, we believe it will bring us one of those things.”
Teens in particular often express the desire of wanting to feel accepted, Kelsey says, “which fits all of those categories.”
Made for relationship
The teaching essentially boils down to our being made for relationship. “But with social media, actual relationships are so much harder for people,” Jake says.
“Made for More” will present this message through the arts, visual storytelling, Scripture, and multi-media, rather than a lecture. “It will be a dynamic presentation,” Kelsey says, possibly even life-changing, as some claim.
“Their shows have been selling out worldwide,” she notes. “People are hungry for this message—not just young people but everyone. We don’t understand anymore what God’s truth looks like, but this message will point to that truth and freedom.”
Karin Wirth, now of Valley City, North Dakota, attended a Theology of the Body conference years ago with her mother, Vicki Larson, of Fargo. She was nearly 30 then, but feeling aimless in some areas of life.
“I just soaked it all up. It filled a void for me and helped me understand that the body is good,” she says. One morning, she woke up from a dream hearing the words: “I am good.” “And I wanted to tell everyone!” she says. “There is such freedom in that knowledge—in understanding the goodness we’re born with—and it’s how we’re meant to live.”
Her mother’s faith also grew. “The Bible is two bookends, but the whole story is a love story about God wanting to be in relationship with us,” Larson says. “We’re fallen, but Jesus is the antidote to The Fall.”
Larson says that God wants to give us his whole self, and for us to receive that as a gift. “Our lives are then to be a gift back to him,” she says, noting that intimacy is really about “knowing.” “God wants to know us and be known by us.”
‘Our bodies speak a language’
The Theology of the Body speaks truth about who we are as male and female, Larson continues; truth that many are turning away from right now. “Christopher (West) says it’s like we’re driving around in cars with flat tires and it’s starting to look normal.”
Using a music analogy, she says that when a pianist presses middle C, every C on the piano vibrates. Likewise, “God has placed in our hearts the knowledge of truth, and it reverberates.”
Our bodies “speak a language,” she continues, and our souls animate our bodies. “A dead person has no animation.” Additionally, our bodies will be rejoined with our souls at the Resurrection, which makes them incredibly important—even sacred.
Mangione affirms that in our time, the question of identity is “in the air, and a lot of people don’t know what to tie to it and how to bring it back down in a way that makes sense.” “Made for More” will help connect the dots without any ulterior motives. “This isn’t meant to be an altar call but an invitation to an ancient conversation we’ve drifted from.”
Any human being, no matter their faith, or even if they don’t claim one, can connect with the message if they keep an open mind, Mangione assures. “We’ve experienced people hearing this for the first time and it resonates with them internally. It’s almost like someone finally just organized their thoughts and said them out loud.”
‘The physical spoke’
In brief, he says that “Made for More” is simply an opportunity to engage in a life-giving conversation about what the Church teaches on the subject of human identity and sexuality, “an invitation to the table of the discussion of what it means to be male and female.”
To illustrate the power of the evening, Mangione says that when West asked a group of deaf participants afterward to name their favorite part, one responded enthusiastically, “The music!” Confused, West asked her to explain. She replied that when Mangione “opened his heart” through his performance, “I could feel the vibrations through the floor coming into my feet, up my legs, and that resonated with my chest.”
“I can’t think of a more poignant example of the Theology of the Body than a cry of the heart being communicated through vibration,” Mangione says. “In that moment, the physical spoke.”
If you go
What: “Made for More: Visions of the Promised Land” featuring Christopher West and Mike Mangione
When: 7 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16
Where: Sts. Anne and Joachim Catholic Church, 5202 25th St. S., Fargo
Info: $25 per person; register at https://fargodiocese.org/ under “Events” tab.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Oct. 27, 2023.]