By Sara Kraft
“Love is our origin, our vocation, our destiny,” explained Catholic apologist and speaker Matt Fradd to hundreds of teens, young adults and their parents at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish. “If we don’t get love right, we don’t get life right.”
Originally from Australia, Matt is the executive director of The Porn Effect, a website dedicated to helping people break free from pornography. He speaks to 50,000 teens every year “about sex, porn, and everything that makes people uncomfortable,” explains Matt.
St. Andrew the Apostle Parish brings in several national speakers a year to augment their youth ministry program. Currently, they have nearly 1,300 families in the parish and over a hundred youth involved in their youth ministry program. High school students, young adults, and chaperones went to the Steubenville Conference last year and experienced some great national speakers. St. Andrew the Apostle Parish youth director Carolyn Anch stated, “We wanted to bring it back to St. Andrews for the parents and to serve our greater community.”
Matt’s sense of humor and storytelling skills really resonated with the audience. “When I was a kid and told I was made in God’s image, I thought it meant Australian.”
“There’s a difference between love and LOVE,” stated Matt. There’s the love that satisfies our hearts, and the love the world promises. We all have a deep longing within us for intimacy, but in order to bring us joy and peace it must be satisfied in the way God intended. Matt explained, “You weren’t made for pixels on a screen. You were made for intimacy.”
Matt explained his first experience with porn was at age 8 at a relative’s house when he found a magazine hidden in a trunk. “I felt wonder and something like shame,” Matt said.
Chastity is a virtue just like courage. Chastity is loving in accord with a person’s dignity. Matt first began to understand chastity when he met his now wife at age 21 on a mission trip. She was wearing a bright orange chastity shirt. His wife gave him a CD of Jason Evert, a chastity speaker. In that talk, Jason asked “Do you want to get married one day?” Matt then realized if he was called to marriage, the mother of his children was out there and he wanted her treated well.
“Chastity is not about the mistakes you have made in the past. We aren’t our sin. Chastity is about now and tomorrow,” explained Matt while citing the story of St. Mary of Egypt. St. Mary, after 17 years of prostitution, experienced a conversion on a trip to the Holy Land. “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future,” he said.
“Any man who wants to be a man of God must man up and fight,” challenged Matt.
For those currently not living chaste, Matt had tips for change. “If you are currently in a sexually active relationship, take the sex out and see what’s left.”
“If you are a parent, and you haven’t, talk to your kid about pornography. Love them,” Matt challenged. “Install Covenant Eyes internet filter and monitoring software.”
Matt challenged the teens to tell their parents if they struggle with porn. Additionally, Matt has developed a free app called Victory which checks in morning, noon, and night to see how the user is doing. It provides accountability and allows the user to track their progress. “Choose your friends well. You need at least one person in your life who can hold you accountable,” said Matt.
Finally, turn to our Blessed Lord. Go to confession. “There’s only one sin God won’t forgive – the sin you won’t ask forgiveness for,” explained Matt. “The priest is not there to judge you. Don’t walk, run to the sacrament of confession.”
St. Andrew the Apostle Parish was grateful for the opportunity to bring Matt Fradd to Kansas City. Regular youth group leaders address these issues, but having a speaker of Matt Fradd’s ability allows these issues to be brought out of the shadows. “They see these issues on TV. It is nearly impossible to avoid,” explained Fr. Joshua Barlett, parochial vicar at St. Andrew the Apostle. “These issues are something to talk about on a regular basis to keep them safe from that which is trying to pull at them.”
Parent Matt Peterson was thankful for the timely message. “The talk provided an avenue to bring up these topics with my kids. It provided some goals and objectives when we empower our kids with devices. As parents, many times we think having ‘the talk’ is sufficient. It needs to be an ongoing conversation. We need to hold ourselves and them (the teens) accountable,” Mr. Peterson explained. “His key message was valuing ourselves and valuing the gift God has given us with each other. It was just as appropriate for adults as the teens.”
“Something that will really benefit me from his talk is when he talked about how in some relationships women are so often emotionally manipulated and abused. It is our duty as men to stand up and defend their dignity,” explained Sam Goulden, St. Pius X High School senior and St. Andrew the Apostle youth group member. Sam invited his girlfriend to the talk, and she absolutely loved it. “She said that it’s true our culture is so saturated in false images of sex and love. It was also so relatable because he said he was an atheist until he was 17 and he like had tattoos and stuff. He didn’t seem preachy; he just spoke to us honestly on how damaging it is.”
“I am proud of the teens for coming to the talk,” added Fr. Barlett. “It brings that grace as they seek true fulfilment. It speaks to people’s awareness that this is an issue. As people strengthen themselves interiorly into good strong holy individuals, this can transform our world into a good strong holy society as well.”