Emmet Dooley tells Mags Gargan about his decision to abstain from sex before marriage
Chastity is a word that has been reintroduced to a whole new generation thanks to the Twilight series of books and films, where a central part of the plot revolves around the fact that the main characters Bella and Edward abstain from sex before marriage.
It would be an exaggeration to say that this has made chastity ‘cool’, but it has certainly opened up the idea that chastity can be a valid life choice for young people.
”Chastity is a bit of a forgotten word,” says Emmet Dooley. ”It is a virtue, it is about learning to love properly with your body.”
Emmet has just taken up the challenge of promoting chastity among the young people of Ireland as the new head of Pure in Heart, a voluntary Catholic movement founded 12 years ago.
The group runs a weekly youth Mass, regular social events, and have a mission team that provide talks and presentations nationwide on love and sexuality at the invitation of schools and parishes.
”Communication is key,” says Emmet. ”This is an issue we raise with the kids. It would be the first time guys and girls talk about relationships. They all talk about sex, sexual acts and slang terms or something that’s on YouTube, but to actually talk about it and bring some maturity into it — it opens up very well.”
Inspired by Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body, Pure in Heart was first founded by young Irish pilgrims in Rome for World Youth Day in the year 2000.
Its focus is to empower young people to make positive choices for their future by educating them on the value of their sexuality, their relationship with God, and the gift of life.
”We are not here to tell them how to live their lives, we are here to give them more options,” Emmet explains.
Emmet (pictured) was working as a lay chaplain in the Cardinal Newman Catholic School in Luton for nearly two years, before he returned to Ireland to take up the helm of Pure in Heart last November.
”I always looked on love as a gift,” he says. ”We are not born knowing how to love, we can only be shown and the first school of love is the family, and thank God for my own family.”
Emmet was particularly inspired by his grandparents, who were married for 51 years and showed him a glimpse of ”a real, pure lasting love”. ”I knew that’s what I wanted,” he says.
After experiencing dead end relationships throughout a college degree in social care and a successful career as a care worker, Emmet first came across Pure in Heart when he returned to college to study theology.
”I invited myself along to a Thursday night prayer service and that was a big moment. At the time meetings consisted of Mass, adoration, rosary and Scripture reflection. This guy started talking about the lily of the fields and I was about to get up and walk out. I had never even heard a led reflection on Scripture before and I thought ‘ah here, this guy is talking about flowers!’
”I was just about to stand up when I heard a voice saying Emmet, you have been in every single nightclub from Langtons in Kilkenny to Halo in Galway, and you stayed there the whole night in case you missed something, so don’t even think of leaving early now!
”At Mass, the priest gave a homily and he talked about real true love. He told a story about before he became a priest when he was going out with a girl and felt he was very much in love, but he wasn’t in love, he was infatuated. Infatuation is when you put someone on a pedestal and see only what you want to see.
”He was giving, giving and the girl was taking, taking, and watching their relationship die was like watching a flower wilt. But he said he found real true love in his vocation. He said it was like going home, and I had never felt that.”
A second defining moment for Emmet was when he was on a retreat and noticed a mural of Christ knocking on a door on the wall of an adoration chapel.
”I never saw that image before in my life and it struck a huge note with me,” he says. ”In my Leaving Cert, I wrote an essay on how when you meet someone for the first time they are like a closed door. This was always in my head when I met someone, and I was knocking on all sorts of doors looking for love. I fell to my knees because whoever painted it, painted the exact same door I had in my imagination and I felt that God was knocking on my door.
”Here was I looking for love in all these places and I hadn’t actually let him in. It was a great moment of healing,” Emmet says.
”Then I saw Bishop Colm O’Reilly and asked if he would hear my confession. In confession, he quoted St Augustine, that you have to fall in love with Christ first and everything else falls into place. I said ‘yes I have to do that, but how do I do that, Jesus is a guy?!’
”With Pure in Heart I was going to the weekly prayer meetings, then I thought if you love someone you want to see them everyday so I started going to daily Mass. I thought if you really love someone there is no need to talk, you can sit in silence and that is adoration.
”If you really love someone you have to tell them everything that is in your heart, that is confession. Next thing a few months passed and I had that love I was looking for. I had fallen in love with God.
”Then I got an invitation to go to a youth festival in Medjugorje with Pure in Heart. That’s where I gave my first talk and I felt called from that moment to join the mission team.”
As for Emmet’s search for real love, he met his wife Lucy when he was invited to give a talk at a school sex education week in Scotland, where Lucy was also giving talks as an education officer with SPUC Scotland (a Pro-Life group).
”We were put together for the day to give five talks — put together for a day, put together for life!” Emmet says as he describes finally finding that feeling of coming home. ”When I was with Lucy I was at home whether it was in Ireland, Scotland or some airport,” he says.
Emmet made the decision to remain a virgin until his wedding night because he says he wanted to do what was best for Lucy.
”That’s what real love is, desiring the best for the other person.
”It was not best for Lucy for us to be having sex outside of marriage and because I truly loved her I did not want to put her physical, emotional, spiritual or psychological well being at risk.
”Only after I had committed to her fully on our big day in front of all our family and loved ones and asked God to give me the strength to love her as she deserved, then and only then did I deserve to be with Lucy.”