Editor’s Note: This item by Jan Schulz originally appeared in the Imperial Republican. It is reprinted with permission.
IMPERIAL (SNR) - Chris Padgett spent a whirlwind five days in Nebraska in September, talking to young people and adults in Imperial, North Platte, McCook and Lincoln.
In Imperial at the Sept. 14 “Southwest Nebraska Catechism Kickoff,” he told the 125 students in grades 7-12 the most important question they need to ponder is, “Who is Jesus to you?”
“How you answer that dictates everything you do in your life,” Padgett said.
The nationally-known speaker and author told the young people that God sees all parts of His people and loves them all.
“What do we reveal about ourselves to others?” he asked. “We put our best foot forward and embellish. But we feel, ‘If you only really knew me....’,” he said.
“What if you didn’t have to pretend anymore?” he asked. “Risk it.”
Two of the topics he touched on at his Imperial presentation were premarital sex and abortion.
Padgett said it’s “an amazing lie” that youths are told they will feel the culmination of joy when engaging in sex before marriage.
He compared it to sports, when an athlete has the urge to stop training, but realizes he or she must continue to fight that urge and keep training “to be great.”
On abortion, he said, “Choosing life is not easy. Your life will change.”
He spoke from personal experience, telling the audience one of his nine children became pregnant before marriage.
However, Padgett said his grandchild is such a joy to the entire family.
“We have to love from womb to tomb,” he said.
Noting the beautiful art in the churches he viewed while in the Lincoln Diocese, Padgett said, “You have artwork that speaks about God in a beautiful way.”
Contrasting that, he generated a lot of laughs with the pictures of Jesus he showed on screen, calling them, “Bad art that can teach bad theology.”
Artwork showing Jesus competing in sports, Jesus on a unicorn, a “trucker” Jesus and even an “angry” Jesus drew snickers, but also proved to be a teaching moment especially regarding “angry” Jesus.
“Unfortunately, many feel this is the Church,” Padgett said. “But, I don’t think Jesus is angry with you when you sin.
“I think most of you have a feeling since Jesus knows you, that he expects more from you and is disappointed,” he said. “Not angry.”
Padgett said the Bible notes only one time Jesus was angry when he turned over the money-changers’ tables in the temple. He was angry in that situation because they were preventing His people from atoning for their sins, Padgett contended. “If He’s angry with us, something different would have happened at the cross.
“On the cross He said ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’ Was he angry? Or did His heart break?” Padgett asked.
Katie Dubas of Imperial, youth director for the nine Grant Deanery parishes in southwest Nebraska, coordinated Padgett’s Nebraska visit and served as his chauffeur for seven programs.
Those included the student presentation in Imperial and one for adults the night before, an entire day speaking to classes at St. Patrick School in North Platte, and an evening talk at Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, as well as student talks at St. Patrick School in McCook and an adult presentation there.
The largest crowd was at Pius X High School in Lincoln, where the school’s 1,200 students filled the gymnasium bleachers.
Dubas said Padgett was well received.
“His gift of humor helps relax people and then helps them listen to his message of the Gospel,” she said.
“He speaks very honestly and down-to-earth. He readily admits he’s not perfect and that speaks to a lot of people about getting up and keeping going,” she said.
Funds to help bring Padgett to Nebraska were provided by a diocesan youth grant, donations from the deanery parishes and Knights of Columbus councils, as well as free-will donations.
Padgett, who lives with his family about 30 miles outside Syracuse, N.Y., has written six books, in addition to his numerous speaking engagements. “Holy Marriage, Happy Marriage” won first place in the 2016 CPA Book Awards given by the Catholic Press Association.