On the eve of his arrival in Australia, Catholic author and speaker Jason Evert believes families are at a crossroads when it comes to culture and faith.
“The culture has changed like I did not see coming,” Evert said.
“There has been an acceleration of not only addiction to pornography, but questions about identity and gender and marriage and just stuff that really wasn’t on the radar a decade and a half ago.”
To help families navigate through these challenging times, Evert will deliver two talks at a one-off Family Event on 9 December at Patrician Brothers College, Fairfield.
While Evert has become one of the world’s most sought-after speakers, promoting chastity primarily to high school and college students, this event invites both parents and teenagers to receive his guidance together.
For Jason, it’s crucial that parents and kids both attend.
“For parents, the fear of being misunderstood or potentially hurting the relationship with their teen can introduce hesitancy to broach these crucial conversations about love, sex and relationships,” said Hashya Weerakkody, organiser with the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation’s Life Marriage Family team.
“The great thing about this event is that Jason provides an opportunity to build a shared foundation so parents and teens can start ‘talking to each other’ rather than ‘talking at each other.’”
In an age where the culture and secular media speaks so loudly, it may be tempting for parents to believe that their influence bears little weight. However, Evert disagrees.
“They did a survey of teenagers here in the United States and asked them, ‘What is the number one factor that shapes your sexual behaviour?’ And believe it or not, the number one reply, according to the teenagers was, ‘My parents and what they brought me up to believe,’” Evert told Bishop Richard Umbers in a recent interview for the Episcopal Podcast.
As a parent himself, Evert has delivered Catholic “fundamental truths” in the shape of practical strategies to more than one million people around the world.
Evert’s “truth bombs” have made him the go-to guy for parents all around the world who are perplexed by an increasingly secular and relativistic culture.
Yet, while Catholic parents hungrily seek his guidance, Evert recognises that the younger generation are a tougher sell, particularly on chastity and sexuality.
He likes to subvert their expectations.
“I’ll come to schools and they think they’ve heard what the church has to say about sexuality, that it’s typically just a litany of ‘Thou shalt nots,’” he said.
“We need to make sure that we’re giving them more than what they ‘can’t do.’ We need to teach them principles of courtship and how to find and build and maintain relationships of lasting love.
“And I think that’s what they want. Because their minds are made for the truth.”
Evert believes these truths are increasingly lost or buried in a secular culture, where every message teenagers receive is in opposition to the fundamental truths of their faith.
“I remember Steve Jobs once saying that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” he said.
“And I think the same is true of chastity, that people don’t really think that they want it, let alone that they need it, until they see what it is.
“Because it’s encrusted under so many misconceptions, it’s just this prudish, neurotic, repressive attitude toward our sexuality. And what teen is going to want to hear that?”
Millions of teens, it seems, thanks to his signature use of humour.
“I think of [humour] as kind of like anaesthesia. You need to use your laughing gas to anesthetise the patient. And then you can stick a knife in them and take the tumour out. We use the humour, get them laughing, and then go make the incisions we need to make,” said Jason.
Weerakkody said that Jason’s words and presentation speak to a truth already present.
“Deep down we know the truth … but having someone reveal those truths in a new way can transform a ‘hard realisation’ into one of awe and wonder,” she said.
“While this event is ideal for parents and teens together, anyone engaging with young people—teachers, catechists youth minsters, clergy, grandparents—will gain a lot from it.”
The Family Event is structured as a “mini retreat” offering participants two talks with Evert, as well as guided adoration and opportunity for confession.
The first talk “Purified” will offer practical advice for navigating the challenges of love, dating and relationships.
The second talk “Gender and the Theology of your Body” will unpack how our identity as male or female can offer clarity in confusing times.
Families will also leave with individual resource packs, customised for the specific needs of parents, young men and women.
More information about The Family Event and other events this summer are available at www.sydneycatholic.org/events/summer-series