By Chris Lushis
NOTRE DAME — Jason Evert, an internationally known chastity speaker and author, was welcomed to campus Feb. 12 by more than 300 Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross College students excited to hear him speak on the beauty of relationships, marriage and God’s love.
His talk, entitled “How to Save Your Marriage Before Meeting Your Spouse,” integrated personal stories, humor and theological insights to provide a comprehensive approach for overcoming temptations and expectations of the culture and instead choosing to live with purity and offer self-sacrifice.
Evert, who has spoken on six continents to more than 1 million people, began, “We are all looking for love, but how do we find love in a culture where more people hook up than even hold hands? The response is chastity, which orders sexual desires according to the demands of human love, freeing you from the utilitarian attitude and tendency to want to use others. If I can’t say ‘no’ to my own desires, then what good is my ‘yes’ worth? Chastity frees us to love, and frees us to know if we are being loved.”
He continued, “Being chaste tests relationships. It allows you to determine whether the other person truly desires you or only seeks the pleasure they are getting at your expense.” Evert cited statistical evidence showing that “the longer a couple waits to be sexually active, typically the longer the relationship lasts and the more likely it is to be stable and satisfying for both people.”
Evert laid out a five-step plan for preparing students to build happier and healthier relationships. First, he implored them to “enjoy the season of singleness.” He explained, “We are pushed into relationships very early in life and often jump in too quickly. It is important to take time to learn about someone before beginning a serious relationship with them. What is the purpose of dating anyone else if you can’t really see yourself marrying them one day and having children together?”
For his second point, he advocated, “The first place to look for love is not outside, it is within.”
Evert explained, “It is not about finding the perfect person; it is about becoming the person the other one deserves. Is there something you need to root out of your life, like pornography, to have a healthy marriage? It is essential to realize that marriage is not the fulfillment of porn. If you train yourself year after year with lust, it will not magically turn to love. Rather, you must draw upon the strength of God in order to give strength to your wife in marriage. Build relationships based on mutual love and respect for one another and recognize that even if you’ve made mistakes that it’s not too late to start over.”
Thirdly, he directed the students to face their fears. Evert said, “Whereas the fears of man are initiating, committing and giving of themselves, many women need courage to learn how to trust again. St. John Paul II, who dedicated much of his pontificate to instructing men and women on practicing authentic love, steadfast fortitude, and building holy relationships, tells us constantly to ‘be not afraid!’ Seek counseling, go to God in prayer. Never enter a relationship looking for the love that only God Himself can give to you. Don’t run after your future husband or wife, just run after God with all you have — and after a long time of running, look to your left and your right and see who can keep up with you.”
Fourth, he encouraged, “Make commitment and communication clear.”
Evert further impressed upon the men the importance and necessity of initiating purposefully. “Women want a man who has discerned if he is supposed to be in a relationship, then to pursue with sincerity and commit with clarity. Women are naturally more verbally expressive, but men need to fulfill their masculine responsibility of taking the lead and initiating contact. Women will try to compensate when the man’s commitment level is unclear. When that happens, they are more likely to give of themselves physically, which typically backfires because the man is drawn to the pleasure but is simultaneously disenchanted because there is a lack of a deeper respect and awe for her.”
Finally, he reminded of the necessity to “try to keep the relationship pure.”
Evert acknowledged the allure of the flesh, and said, “Sometimes it becomes tempting to justify lust because you believe you’re going to get married. However, you cannot predict destiny by the intensity of the present emotions. It takes an awesome amount of responsibility and love to live up to this; it requires a sacrifice, a death of the self. Abstinence is not about waiting to love your girlfriend; it is about loving her perfectly tonight by caring for her body and soul for eternity.
He also touched on why he and his wife do not use contraception, but use NFP instead, “I happen to think that my wife’s body is perfect, I don’t think she needs drugs, shots, or pills, she needs to be understood. If we can understand her fertility, then instead of suppressing her body with chemicals to conform to our desires, we can form our desires to the way her body was created — to me this is authentic sexual liberation.”
To live out a chaste life, he advised connecting with good friends, being active in faith, remaining close with family, attending Eucharistic Adoration, and returning to Christ through Reconciliation, which was available for students after the talk.
“After tonight, you might have some serious thinking to do; just remember that God loves you and will always be there to welcome you home,” he said.
Afterwards, he stayed to speak with students, answer questions, take photos and hand out free books and CDs.
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