Monday, September 10, 2012

An interview with Jason Evert


Nearly two years ago, Jason Evert arrived in Cincinnati for a quick visit -- packing in nine talks in three days.  All but two of the talks were mandatory all-school assemblies.  Even in the voluntary audiences, seats were packed, as hundreds (500 people at one of the evening events) strained to hear every word.

The topic?  Chastity.
A packed house at the Ruah Woods- sponsored event in 2010.

The audience?  Primarily teenagers.

When Brandon Vogt opened this year's list of 100 Catholic Speakers for bloggers to choose a speaker to research or interview or otherwise introduce to the blogosphere, I didn't hesitate to choose Jason Evert.

After earning an undergraduate and graduate degree at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Jason Evert became a staff apologist for Catholic Answers.  His chastity speaking ministry has taken him across the world, speaking to more than 100,000 people each year, often times along with his wife Crystalina.

The attractiveness of Jason and Crystalina's message is not simply the content of their words ... it is their authenticity.  The passion, creativity, humility, and genuineness of their witness and work are not based on their sheer willpower, but on their receptivity to what the Lord has given.

For "Support a Catholic Speaker Month," Jason Evert graciously accepted my request for a written interview to learn more about how he approaches his role as a Catholic speaker.



What first led you to public speaking ... and specifically in the realm of chastity?

Jason: I began helping out with youth group retreats when I was in high school. By the time I was in college, I began leading the retreats for a youth group near my campus while also volunteering as a sidewalk counselor. These experiences gave me a deep understanding of what teens are going through in their relationships, families, etc. Many of the teens on the retreats were wrestling with their faith because of sexual issues, and just about every one of the young women who entered the abortion clinic was there because of the absence of chastity in her life. Because of all the hurt I was seeing, I wanted to reach out to the teens, in order to show them how to find the real love they deserve. When I would talk to women who were 30 minutes away from getting an abortion, all I could think of was "Why couldn't I have met this girl six months ago, or back when she was in 7th grade? If I had talked to her then about the benefits of chastity, maybe she wouldn't be in this difficult situation today."

After I graduated from Franciscan University, Catholic Answers hired me to do apologetics work in 1998. While explaining and defending the faith, the beatitude “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” often came to mind. This verse from Scripture tells us that those who are not pure of heart will have a difficult time seeing God in this life, or in the next. As I began to direct more of my energy to bringing the message of purity to teenagers, I found that it was a terrific way to evangelize them. You take the subject that’s most on their minds (sex), and wed it to their ultimate end (God) by teaching them the truth about both.

What is the greatest challenge of being a Catholic speaker?  What is the greatest gift?

Jason: The greatest challenge isn't having to deal with those who oppose the message of purity. Rather, I think the greater challenge is attempting to be humble when people constantly thank you and praise you for the work you're doing. I have more than 100 convents of nuns praying for my ministry, and when I'm the one who receives all the applause for my work, I need to remind myself that the contemplatives who intercede for me are the ones who deserve the praise. I receive the applause in this world, but they'll receive it in the next!

In terms of the greatest gift, it has to be the joy of witnessing young people change their lives. Following the presentations, I keep in touch with many of the teens through email. My favorite ones are when the students write to me years after the assembly. I love hearing about how their future relationships are so much better than the old ones.

Here are a few examples of stories that have brought me tremendous joy:

A stripper watched the chastity DVD of our talk, and quit her job . .
.  after making a visit to the strip club and showing it to the other women. She now gives pro-life talks.

A few years after having been found innocent when he lied in court, a rapist turned himself in after watching our chastity presentation on DVD.

A teen in Michigan told me she had planned to kill herself the night of my presentation. Her suicide note was written, her funeral clothes were laid out on her bed, and the pills were sitting on her nightstand. However, after the chastity talk, she realized there was hope for her, and she chose life.

A teenage couple emailed me the picture of the baby they were pregnant with during my assembly. They said that they probably would have aborted her if they didn’t hear the talk.

A 17-year-old girl was invalidly married to a 24-year-old abusive drug addict. After the presentation, I met with her and encouraged her to drop him, return to her family, and pursue her dreams of becoming a Broadway dancer. She emailed me years later, saying that she’s a junior at a university in New York city, and plans to send me tickets to her first show. She added that she’s now dating a great Catholic guy who treats her like a queen.

I never cease to be amazed at what the power of a hundred convents of praying nuns can do!


Did your approach, content or method in presenting chastity change during your stages of engagement, marriage and becoming a father?

Jason: Some people wondered if my chastity presentation would still be effective after I was married with children. Thankfully, I've come to realize that the teens are still engaged by the message and are even better able to see the fruit that comes from practicing chastity prior to marriage. Furthermore, I'm now in more of a position to explain the necessity of the same virtue within marriage.


What keeps you from burning out?

Jason: When I was single, I would sometimes travel and speak up to 28 days per month. But now that I'm married with a family, we've made some guidelines to keep the ministry in check. For example, my wife and I have worked out a plan where I only travel 9 days a month, and only two nights at a time. We also restrict my international trips to 3-4 visits per year. Also, I only give about three or four talks each summer. So, for 22 days of the month during the school year and about
28 days of the month during the summer, I'm home with my wife, helping with the kids. My vocation comes before my ministry, or neither will last. Setting those boundaries and sticking to my prayer life has helped me from getting burnt out. As one priest taught me, "The most important word you need to learn in order to become an effective apostle is 'no.'"

 It's no secret that many chastity speakers and educators throughout the country rely on your books, resources, analogies and stories for their own presentations. But how do you continue to grow as a Catholic speaker?

Jason: Much of my content consists of encounters I've had with teens around the world. As I experience new stories, I try to incorporate them into my presentations. Also, I try to keep up to date in terms of my statistics, research, and theology by staying in tune with the latest findings and insights from the CDC, sociological journals, theologians, etc. But in the end, my goal is for my speeches to be not only the result of my personal study, but most of all, my contemplation. My hope is that God would speak to my heart, and that from that fullness, I can speak to the hearts of the teens.

If you could summarize the goal of your ministry in one sentence, what would it be?

Jason: To help people to become pure in heart, so that they will see God in this life and in the next.

 Any new projects you're excited about?

Jason: My wife just recently launched a website called www.womenmadenew.com that ministers to women who feel broken and are longing to feel whole again. Also, she and I wrote a book called "How to find your soulmate without losing your soul" and people can get copies for only $2 a piece at www.howtofindyoursoulmate.com. The point of the steep discount is to encourage people use the book as a low-cost evangelization tool. For example, the woman cutting my hair two days ago opened up to me that God saved her from a life of prostitution and prison, and that she now ministers to girls in the same situation. I offered her copies of the book, and she asked for more than a dozen to share with the young women!

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If you are unfamiliar with Jason Evert's speaking gifts and articulation of the virtue of chastity, then it is certainly worth your time to watch a few clips of his work.

The beginning of "Romance Without Regret" (though an older version, before Jason and Crystalina were married):

A clip from the television program, "The Pure Life" about modesty:


Jason Evert tackling the question of pornography:



So, how can one learn more about bringing Jason Evert to deliver the beautiful message of chastity to local youth?  For starters, visit Jason and Crystalina's website, a resource packed with insightful Q&A, saint quotes, encouragement, statistics, downloadable talks, and information about Jason's books and recorded programs.  

Next, call Catholic Answers at 619-387-7200 for booking.

In closing, I'd like to add that Jason seems to me a model for Catholic speakers. He has a true gift for articulating the beauty and goodness of the Church's teaching. And this gift is grounded in a humility, prayerfulness, and authenticity that says, "Jesus is the one you are looking for, and He is the one who is looking for you too."

1 comment:

  1. Just listened to your CatholicLighthouse CD--edge of my seat in wonder for the abundance of God and the compelling response of those who are committed to the Lord.

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