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Speaker Jason Evert shares the message of purity in a way that young people can relate to.
BY Jim Graves
Jason Evert, one of the nation’s best known and most successful Catholic chastity-education speakers, is releasing a new book, How to Find Your Soul Mate Without Losing Your Soul.
The book, five years in the making, is a compilation of advice he has offered to young women to help them navigate their single years. It is the first book Evert has co-authored with his wife, Crystalina.
In 13 years of chastity speaking, more than a million teens have heard Evert present and defend the Church’s teachings on sexuality, marriage and family-life issues. The experience has been life-changing for many, including Khymanie Usher, a 19-year-old college student at the University of Belize.
Six years ago, Usher had just started at Pallotti High, a Catholic school in Belize City. It was a transitional time in her life, and she was struggling. She recalled, “I really had low self-esteem. I was depressed a lot. I didn’t have any kind of respect for myself, especially in how I dressed. My religion wasn’t a major part of my life.”
There was conflict in her home, as her parents often argued, and she wondered if having a boyfriend might make her happy.
Evert was invited to her school to give a presentation. His talk of just over an hour had a transformational effect on her. She remarked, “I sat in the auditorium at school, and right there I changed my way of thinking and how I saw myself. For the first time I realized that I didn’t deserve what I was putting myself through. I took everything that he said to heart, and I’m a totally different person now. I’m closer to God. I’m more focused on the things that really matter to me, and I’m in no rush to be in a relationship. And I am totally committed to waiting [for sex] until I’m married.”
Usher especially remembers Evert sharing the testimony of Crystalina, then his new wife, who after three promiscuous years as a teen embraced chastity. Usher said, “Hearing what he said about her and how much she turned her life around gave me a new sense of confidence — that I did not need to stay where I was.”
Today, Usher is living a much more contented life, is a committed Catholic and calls Jason and Crystalina Evert her role models.
Chastity Is Not a Negative
Evert is excited to have played a role in Usher’s transformation.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I would pay to do it. One of the joys of my apostolate is to get e-mails from young people like Khymanie who tell me they’ve remained pure years after they heard me talk.”
Evert is an apologist on the staff of Catholic Answers in San Diego whose special focus is talking to young people about the virtue of chastity. He travels extensively in the United States and abroad, spreading the message of chastity. As he puts it on his website, Chastity.com: “Romance without regret does exist. But if you want the real thing, be prepared to sacrifice. Only then will you see that the peace and joy that comes from chastity is worth more than all the pleasure in the world.”
Mary-Louise Kurey, herself a chastity-education speaker who served for seven years as director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Respect Life Office, invited him annually to address the archdiocese’s high-school students.
“He’s truly the best chastity-education presenter I’ve ever seen,” she said. “He shares with the students a vision of a better kind of love, the kind of love that God calls us to live in chastity.”
Kurey has observed firsthand how students, after hearing his presentations, come up to him to hand him packages of birth control pills and Playboy memorabilia and request that he remove them from their lives, as they wish to make a new beginning in a life of chastity.
Evert, 35, grew up in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he was active in the Life Teen movement. He attended the Franciscan University of Steubenville and volunteered as a sidewalk counselor in front of abortion clinics. These two experiences would lead him down his career path.
In Life Teen, he led retreats and met teens losing their Catholic faith over issues related to sexuality. At the abortion clinics, he said, “I’d meet women 30 minutes away from having abortions. I’d think, Why couldn’t I have met them six months before? It impressed on me the importance and urgency in teaching the virtue of chastity.”
An internship at Catholic Answers led to an offer of a full-time job as an apologist, which would develop into his chastity ministry. In addition to his wife, three other chastity speakers are part of his apostolate.
Central to Evert’s message is that chastity is not a negative, a mere repression of sexual desire, but a positive. Chastity comes from the will and is motivated by a desire to love. The unmarried man who loves his girlfriend will find a creative outlet for his sexual energy (e.g. bringing her flowers, writing her notes, washing her car, carrying her bag), which will deepen intimacy in a healthy way. Chastity helps people to fall in love and marry for the right reason; whereas premarital sex can cloud the judgments of unmarried couples.
Evert shares with his audiences a variety of statistics to support his arguments, such as that virgins who marry have a 70% lower divorce rate than those who are not, and people who practice chastity before marriage have higher rates of fidelity within marriage.
Evert commented, “Chastity frees us to love. We’re not in the relationship for taking, but for giving.”
Chastity is more than just not having sex, Evert believes, but is part of one’s lifestyle. This includes the way one dresses and talks and the entertainment one views. Pornography quickly destroys the virtue of chastity, particularly in men. Evert said, “No one comprehends how widespread pornography is. Boys are becoming addicted to it in the eighth grade and begin to act out what they see.”
A pornography addiction prevents a man from having a godly and successful marriage, Evert believes, with divorce the common result. It also prevents him from hearing the call to the priesthood or religious life.
Matthew Fradd of Australia was 22 and thought himself a practicing Catholic despite having an addiction to porn. A female friend gave him a “Romance Without Regret” CD by Evert. Fradd said, “I remember thinking that there was no way Jason was Catholic because he was too cool.”
For the first time, the Church’s message of chastity made sense to Fradd. He noted, “Jason’s talk was different than other chastity talks I’d heard. It wasn’t about guilt or shame. It was about the real demands of authentic love.”
Fradd resolved to change his life and the way he viewed sex. Today, at age 27, he lives in Ottawa, Ontario, and is employed by NET Ministries running an anti-pornography website, ThePornEffect.com. He stays in regular communication with Evert. He also married Cameron, the woman who first gave him the Evert CD, and they have two children.
In his 13-year apostolate, Evert has discovered that the struggle against sexual sin is universal. In whatever part of the world he visits, and whatever the socioeconomic status of his audiences, “all the kids are going through the same stuff.”
He has also been amazed by the receptivity of youth to his message; he asserts that he has never had a disrespectful audience. Evert always stays after his presentations to talk one-on-one with teens — sometimes staying up to seven hours — and recalls one group of boys who brought condoms to the assembly to throw at him. After listening to Evert, though, they had a change of heart and listened attentively, thanking him afterwards.
Evert is busy at home, as his wife recently gave birth to the couple’s fourth child. However, he is looking to expand his apostolate.
“I want to find ways to grow,” he concluded. “As Pope John Paul II suggested, we want to use modern communications technology to reach out to every teen in the world with the Catholic Church’s message of chastity.”
Jim Graves writes from Newport Beach, California.