Editor’s note: Jason Evert, a best-selling author of more than 10 books, has brought the message of chastity to more than one million people on six continents. He offered two evening presentations, “Purified,” to teens and parents Oct. 5 at Holy Cross Church, DeWitt, and Oct. 6 at St. Vincent Blessed Sacrament, Vestal. The evenings, billed as a “life-changing event for families,” included the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration, with free materials offered for every family. Evert also spoke to students in our four Catholic high schools on Oct. 6 and 7. And he answered questions posed by the diocesan Family/Respect Life Office:
Q. What are the top questions you hear from young people and how do you respond?
A. The most common question I receive from young men is how to break free from porn. They don’t need to be convinced it’s wrong. Rather, they just want to conquer their addiction. I speak to them about the importance of accountability (confession, brotherhood and CovenantEyes.com), and share with them a copy of our book “Forged” which is a 33-day program to find freedom. Unfortunately, this problem has reached pandemic levels, even within the Catholic high schools. In terms of the questions we get from women, those are most often related to their relationships. I encourage them to keep their standards as high as heaven, and avoid missionary dating, where they’re committing to a guy, hoping he’ll change.
Q. What can Catholic families do to develop their relationships with God and help them grow in love?
A. I heard one man say that a father’s love for his wife and family can be measured by the extent to which he defends his interior life of prayer. If we’re going to love one another well, we need to be connected to the source of love, who is God. So, a family ought to pray together daily and go to Mass at least weekly. Also, it’s good to bring the family to confession at least once a month. When we remove the obstacles between ourselves and God, we’ll find it easier to reconcile with one another. Lastly, in terms of chastity, parents must realize that if they hope that their children will obey the Church’s teachings on sexuality prior to marriage, they need to obey the Church’s teachings on sexuality within marriage. Our children might not always obey us, but they’ll never fail to imitate us!
Q. What role might the clergy have in promoting the message of chastity? Some might think they are the last people who ought to speak about these things, especially at this time.
A. I once heard a priest say that upon his ordination, the Church became his bride. And when a husband’s bride is sick, he does not leave her. For example, if she has morning sickness, he stays beside her and comforts her. In the same manner, the Church is ill right now and he has promised to remain with his bride in good times and bad, sickness and health.
Also, when a priest calls others to practice chastity, it’s not as if he’s asking them to live to a higher ideal than he has voluntarily embraced for the sake of the kingdom. By his celibacy, he is a witness that even the greatest joys of intimacy in this life are only a sign that points us to our ultimate happiness in heaven.
But, yes, the Church’s clergy isn’t in the best shape right now. But consider what it looked like 2,000 years ago, on Good Friday. One bishop betrayed Jesus, 10 abandoned him and one was at the foot of the cross. But, it was still his Church. It stands upon the foundation of his promise, not upon the perfection of its members. The very fact that it’s still standing after 2,000 years of imperfect people at the helm shows that God must be preserving it!
Q. Our culture is suffering a marriage crisis. What can we do to better uphold marriage and teach our young people about marriage?
A. Pope Francis said that marriage prep begins at birth, but the Church has lost sight of this. Now, marriage preparation is what happens on a retreat weekend six months before the wedding date. It’s triage at that point! Authentic marriage preparation should be remote, proximate and immediate, not simply immediate. Therefore, marriage prep needs to begin in grade school or earlier. We can’t treat a Pre-Cana weekend as an opportunity to cram before the final exam. Instead, let’s begin teaching our kindergartners about Theology of the Body, so that they can understand in an age-appropriate manner what it means to make a gift of themselves.