SASKATOON — Jason Evert of the Chastity Project spoke with passion, energy and humour about sex, the virtue of chastity and a range of related issues to thousands of youth and adults in Saskatchewan Feb. 24-26 at a series of events organized by One More Soul Canada.
Based in Denver, Colo., Evert and his wife Crystalina operate the Chastity Project ministry, which offers seminars, distributes free or low-cost resources, and uses social media to “promote the virtue of chastity so that individuals can see God, and be free to love (Mt 5:8).”
Some 4,000 youth and adults in Regina and Saskatoon heard Evert’s message, reported Mary Riendeau and Marcy Millette of One More Soul.
“Jason’s topic of chastity as a virtue was relevant to all over the age of 12 years. The importance of modesty and abstinence for happy marriages and lower divorce rates underscored his presentations,” said Riendeau.
Evert spoke at Resurrection Parish in Regina Feb. 24 in a presentation entitled The Truth, as well as speaking at two Catholic high schools in Regina: Archbishop M.C. O’Neill and Dr. Martin Leboldus schools. Hundreds more attended Evert’s presentation Feb. 25 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. He also spoke at Bethlehem Catholic High School and Holy Cross Catholic High School in Saskatoon.
“It was amazing to have so many local organizations partner to help put this on,” said Colm Leyne, co-ordinator of youth ministry for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, citing the collaboration of One More Soul with groups such as Pure Witness Ministries and TeenAid, as well as the diocesan youth office.
Many participants lined up for confession and participated in eucharistic adoration held in conjunction with the event at the Saskatoon cathedral, Leyne said, noting the spiritual impact of the event.
“I was so encouraged seeing parents and teens flock to the free resource table picking up reading material, CDs and more, to continue their formation,” Leyne said. “I have no doubt lives were changed.”
One More Soul organizers agreed. “Audiences were held captive with Jason’s stories and truth, both straightforward and entertaining,” said Riendeau.
“He touched on all aspects of human sexuality, including damage done by pornography, damage done to women’s health through the use of hormonal contraceptives such as the pill and Depo-Provera. He explained the extensive side effects such as weakening bones, lowered libido, increased risks of breast cancer, as cited by WHO and the Mayo Clinic,” she said.
In addition, Evert provided information about sexually transmitted diseases, including human papillomavirus (HPV), which is now the most common STD across North America. “He revealed the inaccuracy of the safe sex message and beautifully framed the difference between love and lust,” Riendeau added. “The talks showed what is best for the human person.”
At a high-energy presentation to students at Holy Cross Catholic High School in Saskatoon Feb. 26, Evert challenged messages bombarding youth about sexuality in our culture. He encouraged youth to recognize the difference between lust and love, and offered examples and options for choosing a healthier, more virtuous path.
“Today, relationships we all know are in an absolute mess. We all want love, we just don’t know where to find it. But God offers it,” said Evert. Real love is sacrificial and puts the good of the beloved above all else — just as Christ did on the cross, he said.
“Guys, that begins by not sacrificing girls for the sake of ourselves,” Evert said, tackling the issue of pornography. While acknowledging that women also look at pornography, Evert stressed the overwhelming impact of Internet porn on male sexuality.
“Porn is the best way for a guy to shoot his future marriage in the head, teaching you that girls are to be used for your kicks,” he told the crowd. “When you look at porn you are not looking at someone’s naked body, you are looking at somebody’s daughter, who has probably sexually abused as a little girl . . . and we laugh it off.”
He noted that some of the women featured in widely circulated pornography are no longer alive, lost to drug overdoses, suicide or violence. “How sad it is: how many guys are still lusting after pictures of these girls on the Internet without even knowing or caring whether they are dead or alive. The sickness of lusting after a woman who could be dead right now should make any guy who looks at porn step back and say, ‘Who have women become to me? Who have I become to women?’ ’’ said Evert.
Evert said research that shows that sexual activity is going down among high school students, with many choosing not to have sex or choosing to start over. “Two out of three high school students who have had sex privately admit they wished that they had waited,” he told the crowd.
Evert pointed to pressures of the culture that says the worth of a woman is in how she looks and that she only has value if she is desired by a man. “A girl convinces herself that the priceless gift of her body is not a big deal, and something starts to die inside,” he said. “She’s so afraid of being alone, she settles for less (than real love): hooking up, having friends with benefits . . . and something dies in her.”
Evert pointed to the longing in every heart for real connection, for true love, that respects the dignity of a person. “Love can’t wait to give, but lust can’t wait to get,” he said, pointing to the signs of an authentically loving relationship, grounded in respect and chastity, rather than one of exploitation, use and abuse.
Evert also addressed those experiencing same-sex attractions, stressing “your identity is not your sexual desire.” Every person’s true identity is that they are a beloved child of God, he said. “What does that mean on a daily basis? Living out chastity, which applies to all of us,” he said, pointing to testimonies from friends struggling with homosexuality who have found “amazing peace and joy” in choosing a life of chastity and holiness.
Evert encouraged all of his listeners to pursue virtue, to take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation and turn to Scripture such as Psalm 51 to start anew. “The point is that the redemption of the human heart is possible,” he said, urging youth to draw on the strength of mass and devotion to Mary as part of an effort to live a life of virtue.
“Your life is going to go way, far beyond the four walls of school,” he added, urging youth to reject the pressures to “have a girlfriend, have a boyfriend.”
“Take your time, find yourself. Love will find you,” he said. Evert concluded his talk by assuring students of the deep and never-ending love that God has for them. “It doesn’t matter how far away you think God is, he is always there, ready to welcome you home.”