What is Chastity and Why is it Important? An Interview with a Youth Chastity Speaker

The following is an interview with Perla, a youth chastity speaker. I have been so privileged to get to know her personally, and I hope that her story and words of wisdom on chastity inspire you as well!

Hi Perla! Thank you for taking the time to meet with me! Could you start by sharing a little about yourself? What was your childhood like?
Thanks Chris! Well, I come from a family of 5 and am the oldest sibling. I have a really close extended family where I grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico. Then my dad worked in the United States, while the rest of us were in Mexico, so we all moved to the United States when I was 10 in order to live together.

What impact did moving to the United States have on your life?
It played a huge impact on my life! It was a whole new world – I had to learn English, the culture was so different, my extended family was so far away, and we didn’t get close to many people outside of our family.

What careers and interests did you have growing up?
I always wanted to become a teacher, I love little kids. I think I even have a special charisma with kids, I loooove kids. And math. So I wanted to become a math teacher. Of course, that changed when I got to college, when my encounter with Christ happened.

What was your encounter with Christ?
I had all the big questions, like what is the meaning of life, what happens after death, etc., but I never looked to the Catholic Church for those answers. I changed my major 5 times, always searching for the answers to life. Psychology gave some answers, but not enough. For a while, I thought that maybe service was the answer, so I did a lot of service. Then next I thought that it was love, so I started dating this guy. But nothing was enough, and I was tired of looking for answers. Then one day one of my friends invited me to join a Catholic bible study. I only joined because I witnessed how much joy my Protestant friends had in their lives, and they did bible study too. So I was willing to give a Catholic one a try. The bible study was run by three middle-aged couples, who hooked my friends and I by offering us a home cooked dinner – it worked for us college kids! In their homes, we went over the scripture readings for the next Sunday mass on Monday nights. I began to learn so much! Once I encountered the truth of the Eucharist and from there the truth of the Catholic faith, I decided to look at Catholic universities to finish college. A son of one of the families that hosted bible study went to Ave Maria University and told me about it. It was the only college that I applied to at that point, and praise God, they ended up offering me a full ride to study there.

What degree did you end up graduating with? And what did you want to do when you graduated?
I majored in Theology with a minor in Philosophy. I had this deep desire to do the same thing for other college students that was done for me: maybe offering a bible study for other college students. Providentially, FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) came to Ave Maria and shared their mission with the students and I, and it lined up perfectly with what I wanted to do after graduation! I applied and got accepted!

You were a missionary with FOCUS for how long, and what was it like?
I was a missionary for three years. It was a great experience, I loved meeting students where they were at and challenging them to take their faith seriously. It was also a great adventure, especially with being open to be placed anywhere in the country. I always thought that it was very humbling to have students open up to me and give me their trust and friendship.

How did you come across your new job?
After my 3rd year with FOCUS, I felt a strong call to come back home and work within my home diocese, San Angelo in Texas. The diocese didn’t have any openings for evangelization or anything like FOCUS, so a close friend invited me to apply for a job as a prevention specialist.

What is a prevention specialist?
We work as a team of 8, most of us are between ages 23-26, and we go to elementary, middle, and high schools in Midland, Odessa, and surrounding cities. Our aim is to prevent them from falling into high-risk behaviors and be fulfilled in their good decisions. So we speak with the students about their self worth, the purpose of their bodies, the purpose of sex, sexual abstinence, the risks of the media, STDs, parenting, and how to build healthy relationships. In addition, we offer assistance for anyone who has suffered from abuse or addiction afterwards.

How long are you at a school?
We are there for three days, Tues-Thurs.

What does a day at a school consist of?
Our presentations last for 45 minutes, but our total pace can vary anywhere from 1 to 7 presentations a day. And we might travel to a few schools per week. So we are aiming to work with around 30,000 students by the end of the school year!

What is your main message to the students?
The thing that I really focus on for them is that they know who they are. We talk about how they have so many important sides to them: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and sexual. We talk about why we have certain yearnings in our hearts in the first place, so that they can see their natural good desires. A big emphasis is placed on showing what is necessary for sex: commitment, faithfulness, truly loving your spouse. Because the purpose of sex is to bond husband and wife together and for the procreation of children. Bottomline. From this understanding we can show them that sex truly belongs in marriage- fulfilling also the heart and mind because all 6 sides of the person would be truly satisfied.

Was there a moment in your life where you started getting interested in speaking about chastity?
Yes! There were major two instances. Growing up, I had the common girl dream of meeting that perfect guy, falling in love, and getting married. But what my friends were doing, what the world was offering, with hooking up and all that, it never satisfied my heart. It was never going to fulfill me at the end of the day. Even a good relationship in high school was not satisfying for me because we weren’t going to get married soon after. There were plenty of attractive guys in high school that I was attracted to, but dating and hooking up just didn’t click right even though I didn’t know why exactly. The other instance was as a missionary on the college campus, where I was seeing women fall under pressure to have sex before marriage and not live chastely. There seemed to be a missing link between their faith, the meaning of their body, and their yearning for true love. It seemed as if God had to be kicked out because all He offered where restrictions to their desires. So I spent a lot of time with some college women learning and reconciling all of these things with God’s desire for us! So we deeply understood that chastity in fact fulfills our desires. It is way more than just “don’t don’t don’t.”

We hear the world chastity a lot, but are less familiar with what it actually means. How do you define it?
I understand chastity as purity of body, mind (thoughts and imagination), and intentions. Purity meaning no stain of selfishness, lust, slavery to passions, but free to love, to choose the best for the other person with joyful selflessness.

As you grew up, did you ever dream that you’d become both a missionary and chastity speaker?
No, not at all. Haha.

What would you have thought?
I would have thought that I would have been going abroad, India or Africa. I would have never thought that I would do it here, home, with my generation. That would have seemed extremely radical.

How has it been now that you’re living it out?
It’s been a transformative experience: to see the goodness of God in how He cares for me. I’ve learned how to put others before me. I’m convicted of the truths that I’m saying as a chastity speaker, as well. It’s challenged me to live with integrity in all areas of my life and truly love everyone who is around me. I’m asking myself questions like “am I building healthy relationships myself?”

Is our culture to blame for these problems of chastity? Or would you attribute this to their youth or something else?
I think that there are many factors. Yes, I think that society plays a role, especially the media like movies, music, and TV. I think those things have a huge pull on young people. It’s also on the parents, if they are not convicted of the truth and share it. Their children need to see good examples from them so that the message will get to their hearts. A third factor is that boys and girls need to be challenged, challenged to do something better. Such as love requires you to wait, to build your character first. Many times they are told that they don’t have self-control because they are young, but they actually do. They can stand up with courage against the current. I don’t think that they hear that enough, or at all.

What is different for the youth growing up in 2015 from what it was like for you growing up?
The biggest difference is that for today’s children the internet is so available, especially on their phones. It offers them so many extra risks and distractions.

What advice would you give the parents of children nowadays?
I would affirm them that they have a big influence on their kids’ lives. They mold their kids. I would challenge them to look into the truth of all these things, to live them out, and pass them on to their kids through example. I’d also ask them to try to monitor their social media time, monitor their exposure to the internet. I’m thinking especially of the risk of pornography.

What sort of role do you think pornography plays in our culture’s battle with chastity?
It plays a huge role. It is so available, and really young people are exposed to it, even as young as 9 years old. Every heart longs for true love so there is a natural curiosity for what intimacy is, but pornography does not offer an answer it actually begins to warp people’s hearts and minds and scar them for life in a sense. It handicaps them for true love and true sacrifice.

As a college campus missionary, it’s common to hear about students “hooking up.” What would you say to someone who just wants to have some fun for one night?
If I could really talk to them, I would ask them, have you looked at the true desires of your heart? Your heart has a true yearning and desire to be loved. You won’t be satisfied until you are known and loved: hopefully by your family and your spouse in the future. That yearning is in everyone’s hearts. One night stands… there is no way to truly love a person through that or be loved. Then understand that the opposite of love is use. Sure, hooking up offers a thrill but at the end it will not be fulfilling and isn’t love. It is the use of each other- most likely girl using guy for emotional gratification and guy using girl for physical aspect. It’s seeing only the body of the person without revealing who they truly are. You in fact see less of them instead of more.

How can someone struggling with chastity start to change their habits?
If you’re Catholic, make sure go to confession. Confess it clearly, humbly, and sincerely. Ask God for healing, in your heart and mind. Go to the sacraments. Besides that, get an accountability partner/group. Most young people ARE struggling with this, in actuality or in understanding. Be honest, form a small accountability group, and set small goals to grow little by little.

Any final thoughts?
I want to stress this: know and believe that God is interested in your love life. God is not a boring God. Trust and believe that He has something beautiful planned for you, and He will not leave you disappointed.

Thank you Perla! Thank you for your very important work with the youth!

15 Reasons to go to SEEK Conference 2015

seek cover

SEEK Conference is just around the corner! Here’s 15 reasons why you can’t miss it:

1. Spend 5 days with some of your best friends! Unfortunately I can’t guarantee that a pope will show up…

SEEK 2013 with Pope Benedict

2. SEEK the truth

3. Hear some of the best speakers in the Church. So much so that you’ll have withdrawals..

4. Encounter Jesus in a new and profound way

SEEK adoration

5. Make new friends for life

SEEK 2013 goofy

6. Get some of your deepest questions answered by the experts. Fr. Robert Spitzer’s got science covered, Lisa Cotter has girls covered. I still haven’t decided which topic is more complicated.

Lisa Cotter: Why do Women do that? Understanding What Chick Flicks and Love Songs Have to do with Chastity

7. Meet other college students from all over the country, and even the world!

SEEK 2013

8. Hang out with 10,000 other young people. Some have more… personality… than others

9. Open your life to new opportunities and directions

10. Stay up late every night. People will be playing ninja, signs, what are the odds, and all other sorts of wacky games late into the night… and it’s epic!

SEEK 2013 Ninja

11. There is 24/7 adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

adoration

12. Matt Maher will be there

13. Show off your school pride. Do you know your school’s fight song? You’ll probably want to before you go, and wear lots of school colors.

SEEK 2013 Illinois colors

14. Nashville. I hear there’s a music scene?

Nashville

 15. Jim Gaffigan.

Come SEEK with me. We’re all on this journey of life together.

This was actually my blog post immediately after SEEK 2013… so check out what I thought!

Register now!

Missionary Life: Year 1 Reflections

Wow. So crazy as it seems, I’ve already completed an entire school year as a FOCUS Missionary. Life just flies sometimes, doesn’t it? Here are some observations and thoughts about the year!

  • In college I learned that life moves even faster than normal. Those 4 years were a blur… At graduation it still seemed like I moved in as a freshman the day before. Well, as a missionary, time goes EVEN FASTER. Jeepers, I was booked and busy. Sometimes a bit too much haha.. but constantly meeting with different people and going to different events and having intentional conversations will do that sort of thing!
  • I can’t share Jesus when I don’t know Jesus or live like Him. I definitely do know Him and try to live for Him, but I still could still grow closer to Him. Becoming more Christlike gives me more credibility in sharing the Gospel, and also gives me an even greater zeal to share it! Prayer is the foundation of evangelization.
  • I am a doer, a fixer, a go-getter. And yet despite everything that I did, I still got rejected, and relatively often. It’s a struggle for all who try and evangelize… but I have to remember that ultimately only God can touch someone’s heart, no matter what I do. I began to rely more and more on prayer by the end of the year, praying for the people in my life, because I knew that personal conversion is a matter between that person and God, and my job is simply to introduce the two parties and foster that relationship 😉
  • There were so many fun crazy things that I got to do as a missionary: relive the college experience WITHOUT GOING TO CLASS, so many retreats and conferences, seeing nearly every single state in the Northeast, hiking trips, the March for Life was only 4 hrs away, trips to NYC, Catholic Underground, meeting so many religious orders, being in spiritual direction, building such great friendships with the students, speaking in front of groups about JESUS, and literally see lives change before my very eyes.
  • I really couldn’t have done any of that without the support of my mission partners, who donate to and pray for my mission. Their generosity has shown me a glimpse of the charity of God Himself.
  • I got a kick out of seeing probably more Chicago Bulls hats than any other hat on campus… and it’s in New Jersey! Go Bulls!
  • Numbers are great, individual souls are priceless, and faithfulness to God is most important. I’m reminded of the Mother Teresa quote, “God doesn’t ask us to be successful, He asks us to be faithful.” Praise God that we did have some success in terms of conversions of students either back to their Catholic faith, from a different denomination home to Catholicism, or from another/no faith to the Church.
  • I could have been an engineer this year. Looking back, if I did that, so many things would have been different, in my life as well as in others. It’s amazing how much God works when we go out of our way to follow Him, even in a single thing.
  • Young people’s apathy for religion is unbelievable. This isn’t necessarily their fault as much as it is the fault of previous generations who should have taught them its importance. But either way, if there are belief systems out there that say that their way is the only way to live life, wouldn’t you at least want to check them out to see if they are true? Relativism has largely crippled any desire of the youth to search for eternal truth.
  • The lack of religious convictions by the youth has also given way to incredible boldness and zeal by my peers. My fellow missionaries and student leaders are courageous souls determined to shine the light of Jesus everywhere they go, because they know just how desperately our peers need that light. The greater the darkness, the more bright the lights of heroes shine.
  • Looking forward to next year! Who knows what God will do next 🙂

End of year BBQ

FOCUS Parish Talk/Appeal

This is the text of my parish talk that I’m giving this weekend at my home parish, with a few minor changes:

Remember Deacon Jerry’s homily last week about evangelizing? And the Gospel reading, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers.”

Hi *wave*. My name is Chris Goulet and I am a Catholic missionary.

Now the first thing that people ask when I tell them that is which third world country am I going to? Africa? China? Saudi Arabia? Those are good places to go. But look around in the pews right here.

There is a generation missing here – my generation. They are asking questions:   Does the Church even notice me?  Is Jesus Christ really relevant to my life? Why do I need to go to church on Sundays anyways?

What commonly happens is that kids are raised in Catholic homes and then leave for college.  And it’s there where they walk away from the faith. I bet that every single person here personally knows someone who has fallen away from the faith while in college.

But I have good news for you!

Unlike most of my peers, college is the place where my faith matured. I encountered missionaries and fellow students on fire for Jesus Christ, thanks to FOCUS- the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. When I moved into my dorm at the University of Illinois as a freshman, I had the opportunity to sign up for a Catholic bible study. I jumped at the opportunity, as I’d never experienced a Catholic small group before. It turns out that this was a FOCUS bible study, and these guys, especially the leaders, had a profound impact on me. Faith wasn’t just something that they confined to Sunday mornings, it was a way of life for them. Jesus wasn’t just a historical figure but a savior who they personally knew.

We need to reach out to young adults while they are in college. At the campus that I am going to, only about 3% of Catholics go to Sunday mass. 3%, and that’s just counting the Catholic student body- we need to be reaching out to everyone. That’s how urgent this call is.

There are so many different stories that I could share to demonstrate that FOCUS works, but here are some big picture stats. Despite only being around for 15 years, and we’re already at 83 college campuses across the United States, including local schools like Illinois, Bradley, UIC, Northwestern, Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin-La Crosse, and Loras College. We reach over 10,000 students in weekly bible studies. In addition, there have been about 400 religious vocations fostered. Because of these results, our founder and president, Curtis Martin, was one of the 9 lay people appointed by Pope Emeritus Benedict last fall to participate in the Synod on the New Evangelization.

As a full time missionary, I will be presenting and witnessing to our faith on campus in a way that only someone my age can, constantly investing in the students and meeting them where they are at. We are investing on college campuses so that the future leaders of this country will take their faith with them everywhere they go, sharing the Gospel with all, serving the poor, and building up the communities where they live.

But this mission isn’t just about me and my fellow missionaries,

YOU can join me in making a difference in the lives of young people!

As you could imagine, college students don’t pay us to serve them.

As a full-time FOCUS missionary, all of my funding will come from concerned individuals like you.

Specifically, I need to find about 50 partners who are willing to join my monthly support team, so that I can get on campus.

  • I ask you to prayerfully consider partnering with me.  Support, in any amount, is very much appreciated and makes a significant impact.
  • FOCUS is a nonprofit organization, so your gifts are 100% tax deductible, and there are no maximum or minimum gift amounts.

In your brochure, you will find a response card.  By filling out this card, you are not making a financial commitment today.  But please fill out the response card now with your contact information if you are interested in hearing more about FOCUS.  I would love to sit down with you this week, so I will be in the back of the church after Mass to collect them from you.

While you are filling that out, I would like to thank Father and you all for allowing me to share my work with you.  FOCUS gives me so much hope for the future of the Church. I extend a special thank you to those of you who are considering partnering with me to make a difference.

With your help, I can reach out and touch the lives of many young people!

I look forward to meeting you right after Mass.  God bless you all.

*** If you would like to join me as a mission partner, I’d be more than happy to speak with you and share more about what I’ll be doing. You can email me at chris.goulet@focus.org. ***

#SEEK2013

Seek 2013

“If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze.” – St. Catherine of Siena

For the past week, I had the privilege of joining over 6,000 other students at SEEK Conference 2013. This was a Catholic conference for college students striving to grow in their faith and share it, especially on the college campus. Has anything even remotely similar ever happened in America? Of course, there was World Youth Day in Denver in 1993 with about 500,000 participants: that’s what happens when the pope shows up. But what is so special about this conference is that it is self-sustaining and growing, right here in America. This isn’t just a one time thing, but a movement of people committing themselves to living for Jesus. In 1998, when FOCUS was founded, the “conference” had only 20 people. The next year there were 70. Then 120. And so on. In my years in college I saw the national conference in 2010 with 4,000 people grow to 6,000 people this year. It got to the point where for the keynote addresses, we had to split ourselves between two different rooms, where the speaker was in one room, and the other room watched on the projection screens.

Some of my favorite parts:

  • Chris Stefanick was an excellent emcee. My favorite moment was the song he wrote for his daughter’s potential boyfriend..
  • All of the students from non-focus campuses. They have it much harder that we do at focus campuses, so I was really happy that I’m joining the movement as a missionary so that more students will have a solid Catholic community to back them.
  • It was only sunny one day in Orlando, but we made the most of it, playing this massive game of “keep the beach ball up out of the water” and then a whirlpool in this giant pool!
  • The talk by Dr. Reyes blew me away, on Jesus’ question to us all: “Who do you say that I am?” It was very challenging for me and all of us men as he encouraged us all to live completely for Jesus in lives of sacrifice.
  • Fr. Mike Schmitz sharing with the eager youth the truth about the beauty of sexuality in his theology of the body talk. The youth who are searching are tired of the lies fed to them by the government and media.
  • During adoration, I was praying with my face on the ground for a while, when all of a sudden some girl tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Jesus is coming!” Only to a Catholic would this make perfect sense, I looked up to realize that the procession of the Blessed Sacrament was coming up right behind me. How beautiful it is to know that Jesus has never left us, as He promised in Matthew 28:20.
  • Seeing lives changed by their encounter with Jesus over this conference, especially with fallen-away Catholics finding their faith again. Lots more guys to get involved in a bible study! 🙂

“Change the world not only in what you do but who you are.” -Chris Stefanick

Off We Go

Tomorrow begins one of the most exciting times of my year: FOCUS conference. This year it was re-branded as SEEK Conference, but it’s all the same.

Seek 2013

I was given the opportunity to attend FOCUS Conference my freshman year, exactly 3 years ago, and it essentially sealed the deal on my conversion, not only to Jesus, but to the Catholic faith. It all seemed to come down to two major points:

1. I got to hear the Church’s take on all of the hot-topic issues. Some of the most renowned Catholic names in the English language were there, from Matthew Kelly to Dr. Edward Sri, Curtis Martin to Fr. Benedict Groeschel. Theologically, everything was there. There was the Jewish convert, the Protestant convert, the atheist convert, and anything else that you could think of. I was able to hear so many different conversion stories and reasons for converting that a few really hit home with me. More than anything else, I never before had made the connection that Dr. Edward Sri made for me- if Jesus founded the Catholic Church, why would anyone want to be in any other church? It was as if a light bulb turned on above my head at that moment.

2. Perhaps the more moving part of FOCUS conference was the witness of thousands of college students on fire for Jesus. The conference actually took place over New Years Eve, and I remember us all kidding with each other of how much of a “rowdy” bunch we would be at this hotel. The next morning the staff of the hotel literally thanked us and told us that that was perhaps the easiest New Years Eve that they’ve ever had at the hotel. But don’t get me wrong, we had fun. We played so many ridiculous games, stayed up ridiculously late talking, randomly started beat boxing and rapping uber nerdy stuff, and got to meet other Catholic college students from all over the country and listen to their stories.

As us Illinois students gathered together for prayer at the end of a night, I remember a handful actually crying. I was pretty confused, shouldn’t they be happy? But I soon realized why they were crying: these were tears of joy. A few of my fellow participants had never experienced the love of God in such a tangible way before, and it was overpowering for them. The Holy Spirit was moving so powerfully during that conference, opening up hearts and renewing them. We had a wonderful opportunity for confession, and I remember the line going as far as I could see in the conference center. And this wasn’t a line of grandparents, this was a group of THOUSANDS of COLLEGE KIDS in line for confession. #mindblown It was such a powerful witness to see that we all struggle with similar issues, and only Jesus has the power to forgive and renew us. We learned how much Jesus desires to offer us forgiveness, just like the woman caught in adultery story (John 8:1-11). So confession isn’t a guilt trip, but rather an opportunity for forgiveness: freely and willingly given.

Recently, CatholicVote named the growth of FOCUS the one of their Top 10 Reasons for Hope in 2012. I can see why. There is a significant movement of young Catholics who are devoted to their faith and put God before everything else. FOCUS bible studies reach about 10,000 students on college campuses across the USA, and its only growing. The powerful combination of following the great commission, staying faithful to the Church, joyful and authentic Christian lives and friendships will continue to change lives like mine, especially this week. This year, over 6,000 students will be at conference, our biggest one yet! Please keep us all in your prayers, especially those attending for their first time!

YOU Were Made for Greatness!

It is sad that many Catholics today seem to think that they can’t be saints. It is commonly assumed that everyday people can’t be SAINTS. To be a saint, most think, you’d have to spend 5 hours of the day in prayer (and literally talking with God), never sin, live like a hermit, become a priest or nun, never smile or have fun, etc. I could go on.

This is such a major misconception! This is assuming that we all are supposed to become the same– some sort of super pious, strict, lonely, old man/woman who has no friends. Again, this is a major major misconception, that we can see is false by looking at examples of actual canonized saints.

God created us all uniquely. Everyone is different, and this is good! And because of this, we all should have different paths, different lifestyles! But our uniqueness doesn’t mean that we can’t become saints. We are all made to become saints, becoming the unique saint that we were all made to be!

The point is that becoming a saint does not mean being someone else but rather becoming fully who you were made to be! (what Matthew Kelly likes to call the best-version-of-yourself)

We do this by coming to know and believe in God and His son Jesus Christ, to know of His love for us and all people. Then we must follow Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life, sharing our joy and living charitably in all that we do. Very very regular people become saints. We all can! We must strive to overcome sin and truly put God first in our lives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to go off to a convent or monastery or change the world.. check out these modern day saints that show us just how real, how attainable sainthood is!

Blessed Chiara Luce Badano

Blessed Chiara Luce, from Italy, died in 1990 at the age of 18, after a battle with cancer for about two years. Can you believe that? She only lived to be 18 and Pope Benedict has already beatified her! What made her a saint was mostly her joy that she shared with others. Even as she was in the hospital in the last year of her life, she looked for ways to cheer up HER visitors. She had a very strong faith and devotion to Jesus from a young age and even offered up her pain for Jesus. But she said that she didn’t want anyone crying when she died because she said that’s when she’d get to be with Jesus.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Blessed Pier Giorgio is another Italian youth, who died in 1925 at the age of 24. He was active in His faith, was very charitable with what he had, and really enjoyed mountain climbing, operas, and all sorts of normal things. He died from polio, which he probably got from the poor… And after his death it was the poor, the very people that he cared for, who brought his cause for canonization to the Archbishop of Turin! How cool is that!

These are a couple of special saints because they lived such short lives but they lived their lives so well, with such passion and care for others because of their love for Jesus.

Do your thing, serve God, become a saint!