By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Sr Anne Joan Flanagan, a Daughter of St Paul from the USA, is one of the internationally renowned speakers on the programme of the Arab Catholic Youth Congress (ACYC) taking place in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from 25-27 October. In an interview with Vatican News earlier in the week, she gave us a sneak preview of what she’s sharing with the 1,500 young people attending.
Do not be afraid
The theme of ACYC2018 is “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God”. Sr Anne said that the Marian theme resonates very strongly with her. She sees a link with Pope Saint John Paul II who used to repeat, “Do not be afraid to open the doors to Christ in your own life”. She hears an invitation being extended to herself and the ACYC participants to: “take Mary’s response, ‘Be it done to me’, as our own”.
Theology of the Body
After offering event planners several options, they asked her to speak on Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body (TOB). “That’s something I’ve had at heart for almost 40 years”, Sr Anne explained.
“I sometimes that joke I am a walking theology of the body because I have been intrigued and captivated by Pope John Paul’s insight practically since he started speaking in St Peter’s Square in 1979.”
Delighted is the way Sr Anne describes being able to share her passion for TOB at the ACYC.
“I am delighted. I’m gonna tell those young people, “This is Pope John Paul’s secret for happiness. It has made me happy and I want to share it with you and it will make you happy too.’ ”
TOB connection with media
TOB fits well into the world of young people because it speaks directly to the media world in which they are immersed.
“The interesting thing about media messages is they address us as embodied persons, but the messages aren’t coming to us in an embodied way. They are coming to us digitally. And yet they have such an impact on the way we live in the body. So, we do need to reflect on this relationship of message, of our body, of communication and of relationship—and what we do with all of that”.
TOB is the Gospel
Sr Anne says is that TOB is the Gospel “when you get down to it.”
“If you give yourself as a gift, you’ll discover yourself. You find life in giving life. It’s the secret of love, it’s the secret of happiness.”
Sense of meaning
Sr Anne concluded saying that TOB provides a “sense of meaning”. Suffering, she said, is not the most painful human experience. Meaningless is.
“I’m delighted to be able to share with young people something that is so profoundly meaningful and can help them, I believe, face so many of life’s deepest sufferings, too, in a way that will give life to them.”