Addiction to porn led him to hate sexuality and God, but one night everything changed. Discover the salvific journey of Simon Carrington on breaking out of pornography
I was very blessed to be raised in a Catholic home as the third born among six children. My Dad was a great spiritual leader. He led evening prayer at home and recited the Rosary every night before we went to bed. We went to St Margaret Mary’s parish, Merrylands on Sundays, serving on the altar and in the choir. So overall, God was central to my life.
When I was 15 years old, my grandmother passed away. I really missed her and would cry every night for months afterwards. The deep loneliness and pain that set in, led me to seek something that was going to make me feel loved.
That’s when I began to seek out pornography. The more I watched, the more I craved. Slowly, my faith began to weaken. In School, I was still having fun, playing sports, and going to Church. Outwardly I was doing everything right as just part of the routine—going to Mass, praying the Rosary etcetera, but inside my faith was dying. My heart was elsewhere because I was living in sin. Although I was going to Confession, it was more out of fear of Hell than love of God.
On a visit to a family friend, I discovered a stash of porn magazines right next to the toilet. I will never forget picking up the first one and flipping through the whole magazine. It was the first real, physical and tangible porn I had ever seen. I felt so many emotions rushing through—excitement that this was the answer to the emptiness I felt, but also deep shame. This seemed to be the “food” that would satisfy the ache in my heart for love. I walked out of that bathroom a different person from that day. It was then that I subconsciously turned my back on God. I chose pornography and a life of impurity over Him.
After that experience, I began buying porn magazines. Since I went to the gym every day, I found a crack in the wall there to store all these porn magazines. Every time I went to the gym, I would begin and end the session by going to the stash of magazines and flipping through for 20 or 30 minutes. That became my life for years. I became so obsessed by pornography that I almost lost my job taking toilet breaks every hour to look at porn. It took up every spare moment I had.
I tried listening to different Catholic speakers and reading books on chastity and sexuality. I realized that all of them stated that sexuality was a gift from God, but I couldn’t understand this. The only thing sexuality brought me was pain and emptiness. To me, my sexuality was the furthest thing from a gift from God. It was a beast that was dragging me into Hell!
I began to hate my sexuality and hate God. It became a poison in my heart. When my family prayed the Rosary, I could not say a Holy Mary. I was almost never in a state of grace. I went to Mass for months at a time without receiving the Eucharist. Even if I went to Confession after Mass, I could never seem to last until the next day. There was no love in my heart. When my mum would hug me I would tense up like a rock. I didn’t know how to receive love and affection. On the outside, I was always friendly and happy, but on the inside I was empty and dead.
I remember coming into my room one day after just viewing pornography and I saw the crucifix on my wall. In a moment of anger I said to Jesus on the Cross, “How do you expect me to believe that sexuality is a gift from you? It is causing me so much pain and emptiness. You are a liar!” I leapt up onto my bunk bed and snatched the crucifix off the wall and smashed it over my knee. Looking at the smashed crucifix I blurted out in rage, “I hate you! You are a liar.” I then threw the crucifix in my bin.
Then one day, Mum told me to go to a chastity talk by Jason Evert with my older brother. I told her politely that I didn’t want to go, but thanks anyway. When she asked me again, I blurted out, “Mum, love isn’t real. I don’t believe in love!” Mum simply said, “You’re going!” That night I went reluctantly.
I remember being amazed at how Jason spoke that night. One line changed my life. He said, “Porn is the surest way to shoot your future marriage in the head.”
As soon as he said this, I realized that if I didn’t change my ways, I would be harming the woman I married because I didn’t know how to treat her properly. All the desires I once had for marriage resurfaced in me. I really did want love and marriage more than anything, but I had buried that desire with sexual sin.
I got a chance that night to speak to Jason personally and the advice he gave changed my life. He said, “Look, there’s love in your heart and there’s all these temptations to lust. Whichever you choose to feed more will grow stronger and eventually overpower the other. Until now you have been feeding lust more than love, it’s time to start feeding love.”
I knew God had touched me that night, and I decided I need a clean-start Confession. I booked a priest in for Confession and warned him it would be a long one! I made a general Confession that took about an hour and a half. I confessed every sexual sin I could possibly remember, the names of the porn stars I had watched, the number of times, the amount of hours and for how many years. I felt like a new man walking out of Confession that night.
There began the third stage of change in my life. Though I still struggled with those sins of sexual impurity, I was in a constant fight. Little by little, I was able to experience greater freedom from sexual sin, and felt God calling me to begin really learning what His plan for human sexuality was, and start sharing it with others.
I encountered speakers who unpacked Saint John Paul’s “Theology of the Body” and in the course of reading I was struck by this powerful thought: My body and every other body is a sacrament of God. I realized that I was the image of God and so was every woman. When I began to see every single person through this lens as a living sacrament of God, it became so much harder for me to use them sexually. If ever I were to lust after someone especially through masturbation and pornography, I would have to dehumanize them in my mind and in my heart. Armed with this new way of viewing myself and other women, I was empowered by the graces received from daily Mass and regular Confession to make a huge transformation.
I began to look at every woman not for sexual pleasure but truly as a beautiful sacrament of God. I was so on fire with this new message that I wanted to share it with everyone I possibly could. At that time I was working as a fitness trainer at a gym, but I felt that God was calling me to leave that environment and serve Him more directly. I wasn’t sure where I was heading, but doors began to open. I got plugged into youth ministry and started working for Parousia Media, packing and posting faith resources. While I was working, I would listen to faith talks all day, learning my faith in a powerful way. I started speaking as a youth minister to high school students almost every weekend, and I fell in love with evangelizing.
One day, a lady reached out to my office, looking for somebody who could speak to some young adults about chastity, and especially pornography. Out of nowhere, I told her that I would do it. I shared my testimony that night, and the response was very encouraging. By word of mouth, more and more people came to know me and my story and invitations to speak began rolling in.
In the past 10 years I have given over 600 talks to over 30,000 people on the virtue of chastity, pure dating and the Theology of the Body. Through this ministry, I met my wife, Madeleine and we have been blessed with three children. God led us on a journey together to launch Fire Up Ministries, with a mission to invite every person to experience the love they always dreamed of!
At this point in my life, I am blessed to experience a level of sexual freedom that I never had before. Whenever I thank God for where I am now, I recall the days when I was really struggling in this area. There were times when I felt there was no light at the end of the tunnel and cried out to God, “Is purity possible?” It seemed hopeless, and I thought I was doomed to live like this forever. But although there were dark patches in my life which I thought would never pass, God never stopped loving me. He worked with me patiently and gently. I am still on that journey, and God is still healing me every day.
“He had some really dark moments carrying the Cross of sexual sin, but when he took it to Christ and surrendered it to Him—Christ was able to free him. Simon had a real encounter with mercy and experienced deep healing in Christ. It was from that place of mercy and healing that he has been able to bring the joy, love and above all that hope to others who are going though similar struggles with sexuality. As I would watch Simon minister to so many people, I am constantly in awe of how he radiates the love of Christ to all of them.”
—Madeleine Carrington (Simon’s Wife)
Simon Carrington co-founded Fire Up Ministries with his wife, Madeleine. They live in Sydney, Australia with their three beautiful children. This article is based on the testimony he shared in the Shalom World program “Jesus My Savior”. To watch the episode visit: shalomworld.org/show/jesus-my-savior
Seventy years ago, in a rural village a farmer lived a comfortable, middle-class life. But when his financial situation collapsed, his life spun out of control. Abandoning his faith and the Church, he turned to drinking and eventually became an alcoholic. His wife held on to her children as she knelt each day praying the Rosary for his healing. Her only desire was to see her husband make a good confession, return to Church, and receive Holy Communion. One night he passed out from too much drinking. When he woke the next morning, he couldn’t find anyone at home. His family had gone to the Church without him, and he felt a deep emptiness inside. To relieve the hangover, he searched for his bottle but found it empty. So, he staggered up the road to a nearby tea shop and sat there sipping a hot cup of tea. As he headed out to return home, he chanced to see a group of nuns walking down the lane returning to their convent from Sunday Mass. As they waited to cross the road, he noticed one of the sisters smiling. Instantly, the man felt as if he had been electrocuted. The mesmerizing smile on that Sister’s face pierced him. A divine light brighter than the sun filled his being, and he began to weep. As he wept, he could hear the words of Psalm 51 rushing over him, “Have mercy on me O God…Against You, You alone have I sinned…Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean…” He didn’t lose a moment, but went straight home, took bath, and headed to the Church. After staring at the Crucifix for a long time, he confessed his sins to the local priest. And his life changed forever. A parable or a true-life event? Miraculously, this event actually occurred in the village of Bharananganam in Kerala, India. Thanks to the constant prayers of his wife and children, the floodgates of grace opened, and this man’s life changed profoundly. The sister whose smile shone with the light of a thousand suns became the first Indian-born woman to be canonized a saint, St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, the very first saint of the Syro-Malabar Church, canonized in 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI. We celebrate her feast day on July 28. The light of the risen Lord whom she had just received in the Holy Eucharist glowed through Sr Alphonsa and its electrifying power transformed the man whose heart it touched. Each time we receive the Eucharist, we too receive the resurrected body of Christ with all its glowing power. But how often do we allow his radiant light to shine through our lives?
Have you heard of Onesimus about whom Saint Paul wrote the shortest “book” in the Bible? A Phrygian by birth, Onesimus was a slave to Philemon, an influential member of the Christian community. Philemon had been instructed in the faith and baptized by Saint Paul, who has become his friend and mentor. We lack definite details, but we know that the slave Onesimus had run away from his master—perhaps taking with him some wealth that wasn’t his. At some point after his escape, Onesimus meets Saint Paul in the city where Paul is imprisoned—possibly Rome or Ephesus. Because of Paul’s preaching, young Onesimus embraces Christ and becomes a beloved and indispensable member of Paul’s entourage. Nonetheless, despite wanting to keep him as his companion in ministry, Paul sends Onesimus back to his master Philemon. But Onesimus does not go unarmed: he carries a brief, but powerful letter Paul has penned. Still a cherished part of the New Testament, The Letter of Saint Paul to Philemon presents Paul’s entreaty that Philemon forgive Onesimus and accept him as “no longer a slave, but more than a slave, a brother and beloved…” The Letter does not tell us how Philemon responded, but tradition suggests that he did pardon Onesimus, who then returned to his faithful service of Saint Paul in Rome. We know from Paul that later Onesimus carried Paul’s Letter to the Colossians to that community. Tradition also says that, as a zealous preacher of the Gospel, Onesimus eventually succeeded Saint Timothy as Bishop of Ephesus. But his frequent and ardent preaching inflamed with the love of God attracted the attention and the anger of the authorities. After the martyrdom of Paul, the governor of Rome seized Onesimus and exiled him to one of the islands. There too he went about preaching and baptizing, further infuriating the governor. Onesimus was then arrested and taken in chains to Rome and subjected to cruel tortures for eighteen days. His legs and thighs were broken with bludgeons and finally he was beheaded for refusing to deny his faith in Christ. It is believed that his martyrdom occurred under Emperor Domitian in the year 90.
I like to watch old movies. Over the past several months, I’ve watched (or re-visited) a number of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, some screwball comedies from the thirties and forties, and a couple of film-noir classics. Last week, over the course of three evenings, I managed to get through the three hours and forty minutes (yes, you read that correctly) of the Charlton Heston version of the Ten Commandments from 1956. With delight, I took in the still marvelous technicolor, the over-the-top costumes, the wonderfully corny faux-Shakespearean dialogue, and the hammy acting that is, one might say, so bad that it’s good. But what especially struck me was the sheer length of the film. Knowing that it required a rather extraordinary act of attention on the part of its audience, it is astonishing to remember that it was wildly popular, easily the most successful movie of its time. It is estimated that, adjusted for inflation, it earned a box office of roughly two billion dollars. Would moviegoers today, I wondered, ever be able to muster the patience required to make a film like the Ten Commandments equally popular today? I think the question answers itself. The coming together of daunting length and popularity then put me in mind of a number of other examples of this combination from cultural history. In the nineteenth-century, the novels of Charles Dickens were so sought after that ordinary Londoners waited in long lines for chapters as they were published in serial form. And let’s face it: not a lot happens in Dickens novels, by which I mean very few things blow up; there are no alien invasions; no snappy one-liners uttered by the heroes before they blow away the bad guys. For the most part, they consist of lengthy conversations among fascinating and quirky characters. Much the same can be said of the novels and stories of Dostoevsky. Though there is indeed a murder and a police investigation at the heart of the plot of The Brothers Karamazov, for the vast majority of that famous novel, Dostoevsky arranges various characters in drawing rooms for pages and pages and pages of dialogue on matters political, cultural, and religious. During that same period, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged in a series of debates on the vexed issue of slavery in America. They spoke for hours at a time—and in an intellectually elevated manner. If you doubt me, look up the texts online. Their audiences were not cultural elites or students of political philosophy, but rather ordinary Illinois farmers, who stood in the mud, gave their full attention, and strained to hear the orators’ unamplified voices. Could you even begin to imagine an American crowd today willing to stand for a comparable length of time and listen to complex presentations on public policy—and for that matter, could you imagine any American politician willing or able to speak at Lincolnian length and depth? Once again, the questions answer themselves. Why this look back at modes and styles of communication from another age? Because by contrast ours seem so impoverished! I certainly understand the value of social media and I readily use them in my evangelical work, but at the same time, I am acutely aware of how they have lessened our attention span and capacity for sophisticated conversation and real advance toward the truth. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and especially Twitter specialize in flashy headlines, misleading titles, simplistic characterizations of an opponent’s position, sound bites in place of arguments, and mean-spirited rhetoric. Just dip into the comment boxes on any of these sites, and you’ll immediately see what I mean. A favorite technique on social media is to take a phrase or even a single word of a person’s argument, wrench it out of context, give it the worst possible interpretation, and then splash one’s outrage all over the internet. Everything has to be fast, easily digested, simple to understand, black and white—because we have to get clicks on our site, and it’s a dog-eat-dog world. What worries me is that an entire generation has come of age conditioned by this mode of communication and hence is largely incapable of summoning the patience and attention required for intelligent engagement of complex issues. I noticed this, by the way, in my nearly twenty years of teaching in the seminary. Over those two decades, it became increasingly difficult to get my students to read, say, a hundred pages of St. Augustine’s Confessions or of Plato’s Republic. Especially in more recent years, they would say, “Father, I just can’t concentrate that long.” Well, the auditors of the Lincoln-Douglas debates could, and so could the readers of Dickens, and so even could those who sat through The Ten Commandments sixty-some years ago. So as not to end on a down note, permit me to draw your attention to what I consider a real sign of hope. In just the last couple of years, there has been a trend in the direction of long-form podcasts that are attracting huge audiences of young people. Joe Rogan, who hosts one of the most popular shows in the country, speaks to his guests for upwards of three hours, and he gets millions of views. In the past year, I have appeared on two podcasts with Jordan Peterson, each one in excess of two hours and featuring pretty high-level discourse and both has reached just shy of one million views. Perhaps we’re turning a corner. Perhaps young people have tired of vituperative sound bites and superficial pseudo-intellectualism. To encourage this trend, I would like to invite all of you to use much less social media—and maybe pick up The Brothers Karamazov.
The Christian writer Tertullian wrote that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” A sterling example of that truth is the third century martyr, Cecilia. Her name is recited daily in the canon of the Mass, and she remains to this day as one of the great Saints of the early Christian era. Hers is an inspiring yet bloody story. Despite having vowed her chastity to Jesus, her wealthy parents arranged a marriage with a young suitor named Valerian. You can imagine the young man’s surprise when, on her wedding night, Cecilia informed him that she had not only taken a vow of chastity but that her virginity was under the watchful protection of her guardian angel. Amazingly, her husband agreed to respect her vow and even promised to embrace Christianity, but he had a condition: he wanted to see her guardian angel. Her counter-request was that he travel to the third milestone on the Appian Way and there receive baptism at the hands of Pope Urbanus. After emerging from the waters of baptism and returning home, Valerian did indeed see the angel sitting beside Cecilia. Eventually, her husband’s brother Tiberius was also converted,and the brothers regularly buried Christians who were murdered almost daily by the local Roman prefect. Eventually they were arrested and imprisoned for refusing to offer sacrifices to the gods, but they managed to convert their jailer before losing their lives in martyrdom. Not long after, Cecilia herself was arrested and condemned to death. She miraculously survived a night amidst intense fire meant to suffocate her. Then an executioner struck three separate blows to her neck in a failed attempt to decapitate her. Left bleeding, Cecilia survived three days, preaching all the while to those who gathered round her and who collected the blood that flowed from her wounds. Her relics, and those of her husband, brother-in-law, and the converted jailor, are kept in Rome’s Church of St. Cecilia. Her body was found incorrupt when it was exhumed in 1599 and because on her wedding day she sang hymns to Jesus in her heart, Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians. We celebrate her feast on November 22.
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