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franciscanway - Franciscan University of Steubenville

franciscanway - Franciscan University of Steubenville

The POWER 36 366

The POWER 36 366 Franciscan Fra Fr Fra Fr Fra F Fr Fra Fr Fra Fraa anc nci nc nci ci c sca sc sca s ca caa n nW n nW n nW n W WWay Way ay • Autumn Aut Au Aut Au Aut Au Aut Au Auut u um umn um umn um umn u mn m mn 2008 2 20 2 08 0 of Pure Love By Thomas Crowe le lessed are the pu pure of heart, for they shall see God.” That That bea beatitude e titude ra rang in Jason Evert’s mind. He had been “Blessed hired by Catholic Answers to do apologetics work after earn earning rnin ing his master’s degree in i theology from Franciscan University in 199 1998—following 998—fo following undergraduate undergr degrees in theology and mental heal health alth th and human ser services, e vices,aalso from Franciscan. As a student, Evert had given retreats re r treats for high school sc students and done sidewalk coun- seling n outside of a Pittsburgh abortion clinic. He saw high schoolers strugg struggling ggling with wiith their faith and a girls resorting to abortions because of iss issues s ues of sexuali ssexuality. lity. He kn knew they lacked a clear vision of God. That at beatitud beatitude de became the kkey to evangelization: help people to be pure re of hear heart artt and yo you help tthem to see God. Te TTen nyearsa years ago agohe he f founded the Pure Love Club (www.chastity.com) as a ministry ministr try of CatholicAns Catholic Answers. Since then he has given more than 1,00 1,000 00 000 presentations to just uunder 1 million listeners nationwide in high gh g schools, schools junior or highs, highs and a even some colleges—among them, Duke, Harvard, and Princeton. His wife, Crystalina, also an apologist for Catholic Answers, often accompanies her husband and helps him present the message of chaste love. The Pure Love Club spreads the message of chastity through books, DVDs, radio shows, Web-based resources, and a TV series, The Pure Life, on EWTN. Every year they send out chastity resources to 200,000 teens in about 30 countries. Jason and Crystalina live in San Diego with their children, John Paul, Kolbe, and Mary. Franciscan Way recently asked Evert how he shares the message of chastity with today’s youth. FW: Many people immediately think “prudishness” or “naïveté” when they hear the word chastity. What is chastity, really? EVERT: You’re right. Many assume that those who believe in chastity suffer from a repressive and negative concept of sexuality, or they just can’t seem to fi nd a date. John Paul the Great said the word chastity needs to be rehabilitated. Chastity is a virtue that relates to a person’s sexuality. It is a lifestyle of purity of heart that encompasses a person’s speech, actions, imagination, and will. Chastity acknowledges the goodness of the body and the gift of sex, but does not allow the beauty of either to distract from the dignity a person possesses. Within a relationship, chastity frees a couple from the selfi sh attitude of using one another, making them capable of authentic love. Because it is a virtue, it requires grace to practice. Mother Teresa often called purity the fruit of prayer. One French theologian said, “The way one treats a woman corresponds to the way one lives with God.” FW: How do you break the ice on such a delicate topic? EVERT: First, I’ve written letters to more than 100 convents, asking nuns to intercede for the teens I speak to. I’ve also made eucharistic adoration, Rosary, daily Mass, and fasting the cornerstones of my ministry. Before each high school presentation I enjoy walking with the teens to the gymnasium or auditorium. They don’t suspect I’m the speaker, so I’m able to hear their candid expectations of the assembly: “Why do we have to hear another stupid sex talk? We’ve heard it all before: ‘You guys are bad and dirty. Give up everything you really want and follow all these miserable rules or you’re going to hell.’” When I give the presentations I share openly with them about my own struggles in high school, and when my wife is able to travel with me, she does the same. I also use plenty of humor and stories to engage

the audience. The teens feel no need to be defensive because they see we respect them. We are not coming to take something away from them, but to give them the tools they’ll need to fi nd the love they deserve. You cannot change people unless you love them, and they know you love them. I do love the teens, and I think they know it. In 10 years of giving these assemblies, I’ve not had one disrespectful or unreceptive audience. I recall speaking at a high school where there were 87 girls pregnant. During the presentation you could hear a pin drop. The students are starving for the truth and for authentic love. FW: What are some of the more incredible results of your talks? EVERT: A stripper watched the chastity DVD of our talk and quit her job–after making a visit to the strip club and showing it to the other women. She now gives pro-life talks. A rapist who had been acquitted in court a few years earlier turned himself in after watching the presentation. A teen in Michigan told me she had planned to kill herself the night of my presentation. Her suicide note was written, her funeral clothes were laid out on her bed, and the pills were sitting on her nightstand. However, after the chastity talk, she realized there was hope for her, and she chose life. A teenaged couple e-mailed me the picture of the baby they were pregnant with during my presentation. They said that they probably would have aborted her if they hadn’t heard the talk. A 17-year-old girl was invalidly married to a 24-year-old abusive drug addict. After the presentation, I met with her and encouraged her to drop him, return to her family, and pursue her dreams of becoming a Broadway dancer. She e-mailed me years later, saying that she’s a junior at a university in New York City and is now dating a great Catholic guy who treats her like a queen. I never cease to be amazed at what the power of a hundred convents of praying nuns can do. FW: How does your message differ from the “abstinence education” programs in some of our schools? EVERT: The term abstinence just means “no sex.” It is incomplete. A teen could dress immodestly, harass women, be addicted to pornography, and still be considered abstinent. On the other hand, chastity is complete. It is a lifestyle that pertains to every mannerism, conversation, and thought. It is not a list of “thou shalt not’s,” but a transformation of the way a person views his or her entire sexuality. FW: What about the programs that both teach abstinence and recommend use of contraceptives? Can those programs be effective? EVERT: Not if the program is promoting contraception. You cannot simultaneously deliver a convincing abstinence message while teaching teenagers where to purchase condoms. It would be like telling a teen to avoid heroin, and then instructing them where to obtain clean syringes. Some in the sex-ed camp object that such black-andwhite logic is unrealistic and dangerous. But studies repeatedly show that the longer a teen girl delays sexual activity the less likely she is to experience an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, have multiple sexual partners, contract an STD, have an abortion, be depressed, attempt suicide, or experience a divorce. FW: What advice do you give to parents who don’t know how to talk to their children about chastity? PURE LOVE EVERT: Parents must overcome their insecurities when it comes to talking about sexuality with their teens. The world is certainly not afraid to talk to teens about the subject—if a parent is silent on the matter, the world will fi ll that void with lies. Parents must also form their own intellects by reading good material such as Christopher West’s Good News About Sex and Marriage. At our Web site, we offer a CD to help parents reach their teens with the message of purity. Most of all, the parents should set an example and obey the Church’s teachings on human sexuality if they expect their children to do the same. FW: Apart from your studies in theology and counseling at Franciscan, what about your time here contributed to the work you are doing now? EVERT: Several aspects of campus life prepared me for this line of work, such as participating in Works of Mercy and experiencing the blessings that come from chaste dating relationships. But perhaps the most powerful witness to me was seeing faculty members living holy married lives. When you see God’s plan for the family lived out, it becomes obvious why a person should prepare for such a great sacrament with purity. � Thomas Crowe writes from Steubenville, Ohio. Crystalina and Jason Evert ’97, MA ’98 Franciscan Way • Autumn 2008 37

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