According to a study done by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 80% of unmarried youth who identify as Christian become sexually active between the ages of 19 and 28.
In light of this fact, education about the value of purity — so that being a virgin until marriage is not an oddity but the norm — is key, says chastity speaker Jason Evert of ChastityProject.com. “If we’re not pure, we’re going to really struggle to understand the things of God.”
To answer this need, YDisciple (YDisciple.org) — an organization whose goal is to help teens to know and love their Catholic faith and also an initiative of the Denver-based Augustine Institute — has produced True Strength (for young men) and True Beauty (for young women), new video programs that showcase knowledgeable youth speakers such as Evert, Matt Fradd and Lisa Cotter.
Sean Dalton, the associate director of YDisciple, said the organization wants to help young people continue to practice the faith, because, as he told the Register, “generally speaking, youth ministry has awakened the faith in a great number of teenagers but not apprenticed them in the Christian life.” This includes needed discussion of chastity.
The videos, which are supplemented with study and leader guides, are designed to be used in male or female small groups. The set includes four sessions for men and four for women. In eight DVDs, the presenters speak frankly and directly to teens about what it means to be a woman or a man, how to be chaste, how to be a true friend, the harms of pornography and how to heal from past unchastity. Evert and Cotter recently spoke with the Register about the program and its principles.
The goal is to accurately represent what chastity is. “Chastity is often thought of as this repressive, neurotic idea of our sexuality — an unhealthy requirement to repress all of our desires — but that’s not it at all,” said Evert, adding that the virtue of chastity frees people to fall in love with clear heads and hearts.
True Strength and True Beauty emphasize that chastity orders one’s life. Not only does chastity help one’s relationship with members of the opposite sex, it also helps one’s relationship with God profoundly: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Chastity includes keeping emotions in check, especially for women. “We picture what it would be like to date a guy, check out our names together as a couple and even mentally plan our wedding,” said Lisa Cotter, a Fellowship of Catholic University Students missionary and well-known speaker on the topics of marriage, femininity and motherhood.
“Using a person, whether physically or emotionally, is always in direct contrast with loving a person,” emphasized Cotter.
Practical advice on how to be chaste is also clearly presented. Instead of daydreaming about a potential boyfriend, Cotter advises young women to think about Jesus and have him be their first love.
For his part, Evert offers young men 10 weapons to fight unchastity: 1) Be humble, 2) have good friends, 3) go to confession, 4) have a devotion to the Eucharist, 5) pray when temptation strikes, 6) be devoted to the Blessed Mother, 7) seek the intercession of one’s guardian angel when tempted, 8) date holy women, 9) avoid occasions of sin and 10) persevere. He says it is important to avoid all things that can lead to lust — especially pornography, but also certain television shows, movies and music. “By refusing to watch or listen to those things, you are helping to purify your mind. Wherever your heart and mind go, your body is going to follow.”
Evert also counsels young men to pray for a young woman who he is tempted to objectify, as well as practice a devotion to Mary, the Eucharist and frequent confession. “All of that is really first and foremost, because you live as you pray,” said Evert.
He also emphasizes the importance of keeping good company: “It’s not enough to have good friends; we need friends who actually are good — their virtue can rub off on us and vice versa.”
Finally, he reminds teens that the purpose of dating is to find a spouse: “You don’t want to date someone who you realistically can’t see yourself marrying, because if he or she wouldn’t be a good spouse, then what’s the point of entering into that relationship in the first place?”
The presenters make it very clear that the fruit of chastity is freedom. “Freedom to love; freedom to see people and relationships clearly for who and what they truly are; freedom to give of ourselves physically and emotionally in the right way at the right time,” said Cotter.
Overall, Evert reminds young men to be good examples. “Guys look to other guys as examples, so by living a pure life, you’re setting a great example that you’re not controlled by your hormones, and you have the power to control them,” he said.
The impact a pure woman can have on a man’s life is also important. In her segment of True Beauty, Crystalina Evert, Jason’s wife, tells the viewers about how a pure young woman changed a “player” kind of man for the better: He saw in this young woman an unattainable beauty, and he wanted to be with her. Through her example, he became a virtuous man, and they are now married.
As Cotter told the Register, “A woman who is chaste is a witness to true beauty, which is sorely needed in our world.”
Ella Hadacek writes from Idaho.