In the wake of the court decision last summer that overturned Roe v. Wade, a message about chastity is especially needed now, said acclaimed Catholic author and speaker Jason Evert.
“If you want to be pro-life, be pro-love,” he said in an interview with the Tennessee Register before his recent talk to 400 teenagers and their parents at St. Philip the Apostle Church in Franklin.
“One of the things that inspired me to start this ministry was doing sidewalk counseling outside abortion clinics when I was in college,” Evert said. “I would meet all these young women considering aborting their children after dealing with abandonment and broken relationships. I wondered if I would be more effective at reaching them when they were teenagers, so they wouldn’t date the guys who got them in trouble in the first place.”
That launched him on his ministry of bringing messages about chastity and purity to teens, college students, and parents around the world.
His presentation at St. Philip, called “Purified,” included a time of praise and worship, a talk from Evert, adoration, and opportunities to go to confession.
Evert started giving his Purified talks three years ago, after realizing that the message of pure love would be most effective if it’s shared directly with families.
“Parents are the primary sex educators of their children,” Evert told the Tennessee Register. “It’s not the government’s job. It’s not for the schools or the Church. It’s the parents’ role.
“For the first two decades of my ministry, I would give chastity talks to huge crowds of teenagers,” he said. “Their parents would drop them off and come back later to pick them up, and I wondered if the kids were sharing what they learned at home or if it really stuck with them.
“With Purified, the kids and parents are hearing the talks together, so the message can be reinforced at home,” Evert added. “Plus, there are also opportunities to go to confession, so, they’re not just hearing a talk. If there are any past mistakes they want to get off their chest, they can do that and go home renewed in their relationship with God.”
Evert addressed many issues in his talk, including dating, pornography, cohabiting, the difference between love and lust, and starting over.
“When I heard sex talks in high school, it was always rooted in fear and shame and what not to do,” he said during the talk. “No one ever talked to me and my peers about the difference between love and lust. I think once we straighten that out, the message of chastity will make a lot more sense.”
“The dating culture is so confusing nowadays,” he added. “We have single people who think they’re dating, dating people who pretend to be married, and married people who think they’re single. It’s no wonder there are so many broken relationships and families!”
The key to turning things around is understanding the purpose for human sexuality, he said.
“Sex is not bad or dirty,” he said. But it is a total surrender of self that requires a total commitment from the people involved.
“The gift of sex says, ‘I’m all yours,’ but if you’re not married, it’s a lie. Sex is the wedding vows made flesh,” Evert said. “When people get married, they do so in a way that’s total, free, faithful, and open to life. Then, after the ceremony, they express those vows physically through their bodies.”
He encouraged the teens to start over if they struggled with purity in the past. His wife, Crystalina, started over after losing her virginity in high school. “Can you imagine how thankful I am that she started over for me?” he said. “There’s no way we would have met, or got married, or created the family we have together.”
Michaela Miller, director of youth and young adult faith formation at St. Philip, thought the event was a great success. “The Sunday before, we had sold 180 tickets. By Wednesday, it had shot up to over 400. My favorite part was seeing all the kids lined up to go to confession,” she said. “I was handing out pamphlets to kids who felt like they needed to go and hadn’t been in a long time. They were so eager to embrace that merciful love of God that Jason had talked about.”
She hopes they remember how much God loves them, regardless of their past mistakes. “We are each uniquely created by God for a purpose,” she said. “No matter how we stumble or what obstacles get in the way of loving Him and other people, He’s always there to welcome us back and point us towards eternal life with Him.”