Catholic Free Press

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  • Nov
  • 22

Real love vs. imitation love

Posted By November 22, 2013 | 11:14 am | Featured Article #3

By Margaret M. Russell

Everybody loves a love song, so Christopher Stefanick played a few for the crowd. Engaging the young people from the first beat, Stefanick coaxed some brave souls on stage to sing and then had their peers judge their performance. He made them at ease and, without even knowing what hit them, gave them “the talk.”
As the father of six children, one of them a teen-age daughter, Stefanick sang his over-protective-Dad song, to much laughter, and then told them in a conspiratorial voice, “We’re gonna talk about – chastity.”
More than 600 young people, along with teachers and chaperones from 23 parishes, attended Real Love Revolution, a half-day event Sunday sponsored by the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Stefanick, speaker, author and founder of Real Life Catholic, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reengaging a generation, teamed up with former model Leah Darrow and musican Ike Ndolo to take on the theme of real love vs. imitation love.
The auditorium at Holy Name Central Catholic High School was filled and for the next five hours would be the scene of laughter, tears, singing, praying and learning about God’s plan of love.
It wasn’t the sex-education lessons you get in school. In between Stefanick’s rapid-fire anecdotes were jewels of truth about real love, where to look for it and how to recognize it.
“Our hearts are made for love,” he said, telling the story of the first time he saw his wife. She was deep in prayer in a chapel and he was there “scoping out girls.” His comments instantly connected with the males in the audience.
As photos of his children flashed on a screen behind him, he told how his son, Joey, gave him a funny look when he realized how he came into the world.
“An act of love brings us into existence,” Stefanick said matter-of-factly.
“Our God of love made an act of love essential for us even being here,” he said.
The gift of love that God gave us makes us unique and precious. You may feel small while standing in front of the ocean, he said, but God looks at each person with love as great as the ocean.
“As big as the ocean is, can it love somebody? You can. You are made in the image and likeness of God, who is love,” he said.
To find out what real love is about, we have to look to the Maker, the one who made male and female, he said.
“Why did God make sex?
“First, to bring new life into the world. And second, to unite a married couple in love.”
Stefanick encouraged the young people to say “yes” to real love, “to your Maker’s plan”
“I’m not going to tell you what you have to do. You can do all sorts of stuff you’re not made for. But it’s not going to end well,” he said.
He then enumerated the consequences of sex outside of God’s plan. He talked about sexually transmitted diseases and how every day in the United States 43,000 people contract STDs; tens of thousands get infertile from the infections and how they have claimed more lives than AIDS. He talked about depression, cervical cancer and the birth control shots given to women that even veterinarians have stopped giving to animals because they are carcinogenic.
“It’s stupid to call it ‘safe sex’,” he said of the usual push to use condoms.
He did have a radical, counter-cultural secret to share with the young people: “You can control yourself. You are not an animal.”
“If you think having sex means making love …” he said, continuing to explain the difference between real and fake love.
“‘I love you’ is not the same as ‘I want you.’ ‘I love you’ is not the same as ‘I need you.’ …    If you are completing your identity with a boy, you are on the road to disaster,” he warned the girls.
He then encouraged the young people not to make moral decisions with their feelings, but to use their heads. Love has a definition: Doing what’s good for the other person.
He gave the young people some practical advice for navigating through their teen dating years and staying virtuous: 1. Do not ask “How far is too far to go?” That’s not love if you have to ask that question. 2. Stay out of stupid situations. Don’t sit behind closed doors. Date in public places. 3. Keep you brain clean – free of pornography. 4. Get up when you fall down. “It’s the bounce that counts.”
For those who may have already made bad choices, Stefanick said, “You’ve got the right to start over. You have a right to forget yesterday. … We  have the sacrament of confession. Jesus died for your worst sin.” Several priests were available to hear confessions throughout the afternoon and many young people received the sacrament.
“It doesn’t matter if you get made fun of (for making good choices). Once you see what’s real, it’s all that matters,” he said.


Young adults come ‘pumped and willing to serve’

By Margaret M. Russell

A lot was happening behind the scenes of the Real Love Revolution. Even before the event started Sunday, college students from the area were working to ensure it would run smoothly and reach the hearts and minds of the 600-plus youngsters and chaperones who attended.
Elizabeth Cotrupi, director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, was grateful to the 25 young adults who, “came to help out, pumped up and willing to serve.”
These young people, members of Pure in Heart, students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, UMass, and Worcester State, used social media to drum up interest in the event and to put out the word that help was needed, Mrs. Cotrupi said. They were there all day from registration to ushering students to confession, to clean-up.
“Every 15 minutes, one of these young adults, was in the adoration chapel, to pray behind the scenes,” she explained. They has set up the chapel at Holy Name Central Catholic Junior-Senior High School, the scene of Sunday’s gathering, for private adoration.
After the main talks there was public adoration in the auditorium where an altar was set on the stage for the closing Mass.
At the start of adoration Mrs. Cotrupi asked how many of the young people had ever participated in adoration, and she said about 25 percent raised their hands.
Ike Ndolo, once a youth minister in a parish in Arizona, now an internationally known Catholic musician, played meditative songs, while words were projected on a screen so the audience could sing along. The atmosphere was prayerful and the young people very reverent.
Mrs. Cotrupi was grateful to the priests who came to hear confessions and to Father Nicholas Desimone who  led the adoration and Father Jose A. Rodriguez who celebrated Mass.
“The kids need to be introduced to the greater Church and to great speakers that can really connect with them,” Mrs. Cotrupi said.
Reaction from the teens who attended Real Love Revolution was positive. During one of the breaks, John “JP” Olivier of St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury, said, “I liked it all, especially the stories.” The Shrewsbury parish brought 180 people, the largest number from one parish, according to Mrs. Cotrupi.
“It’s such an important message, especially because of what our society throws at the kids,” said Taryne Bakalars, a religious education teacher at St. Mary Parish, Milford. St. Mary’s brought 46 students and seven adults to the event.
“It was awesome, enthusiastic. I can’t wait to share it with the kids who didn’t come,” she said.
“I liked it,”  said Tony Mobilia, 15, of Milford. Fellow parishioner Sullivan Henkel, 14, said, “It was interesting. The facts were presented in a different perspective.”
Bishop McManus stopped in to say a few words to the young people and told them “your youth, your vitality, your hope and your joy bring such great encouragement to me as your bishop.”

Teens hear message of redemption

By Margaret M. Russell

Leah Darrow admits she made some wrong choices in her life. The once professional model kept the audience at Real Love Revolution enthralled with her story of sin and redemption.
At the age of 15, she said, she had a choice to make: a choice between real love and imitation love.
Preparing for her first homecoming dance in a new school with a new boyfriend she was asked by friends: “Are you ready for it?”
She said she had no clue what “it” was but found out. After the dance they went from party to party and ended up where there was no parental supervision.
“At 15 I made a choice that changed my life. I chose imitation love. At 15, I lost my virginity, lost focus, lost perspective.
“I gave something away to some one that didn’t belong to him.”
The gravity of the decision hit her immediately. She went into a bathroom, turned on the water and cried, “What have I done?”
“Purity is such a gift,” Ms. Darrow said. “You don’t just want to give it away to anybody. Not at a homecoming at 15.”
She asked then explored the question everyone wants to know the answer to: “How do you get real love?
“First, you have to know what love is.”
She said she thought love was a physical thing, doing nice things, saying nice things.
Echoing a warning  speaker Christopher Stefanick gave before before her, she said if you don’t have the right definition of love, you’re not going to get what you want.
“Love is desiring the greatest good for the beloved,” she said. It is not selfish, it is not vain and it is not a relationship that takes you away from God, she said.
She told of her happy ending before telling of the sordid events of her modeling career that brought her to the brink of “losing her soul.”
She described the day that her now husband, Ricky, proposed to her at sunrise on a cliff overlooking the Grand Canyon.
You know someone loves you when he says: “Allow me the honor of giving you to heaven … to bring you back to where you belong, to God.”
Ms. Darrow said her early experience with imitation love sent her off on the wrong path. She had been part of the reality TV show, America’s Next Top Model, then went on to New York City to further her career. When she found herself in the middle of a photo shoot wearing an outfit “with little material” it clicked.
She had the goals of wanting to be loved, be beautiful, make money and have fun. On the way she lost all her self respect and privacy, was used by others and realized she was just a puppet.
In her self-centeredness she had made Jesus a nobody, a nothing. So she started over by asking her earthly father to take her home. He came to her rescue but then reminded her that “home” was her heavenly Father. After going to confession, which she encouraged the young people to do, she stated anew.
Today, the international Catholic speaker dares her audience to live according to the Gospel. She quoted Pope Benedict XVI telling the youngsters that despite what the world offers, “You are made for greatness.”
In the question and answer session she said she left modeling because: “I am more than just a pretty picture.”
Sitting with her new baby, Agnes, on her lap, she said, “Look at this. This is joy.”
Several girls in the audience expressed appreciation for Ms. Darrow’s talk. “We don’t get into those things in our youth group,” said Megan Danahey, 13, of St. Mary Parish  in Milford.
The variety of activities and energy of the speakers kept the day moving. “They made sure we were never bored,” said Shyanne Rivera, 13, of St. Mary’s.