The French online missionary initiative “Lights in the Dark” (Puridicuore.it)
Interview with Jean-Baptiste Maillard (via Puridicuore.it, translated for Lightsintehdark.info).
After having spoken in this blog about various European and American realities, I would like to focus on Lights in the Dark, an initiative already mentioned on the Puri di Cuore website when we published an Italian version of the prayer for deliverance from pornography through Carlo Acutis’ intercession. Before I do so, let us remember that just before Easter, L’Osservatore Romano published the following words that the Holy Father said in a documentary released on Disney+ last April: “those who are addicted to pornography are like addicts of a drug that has them stuck at a level that prevents them from growing,” and again “sex is one of the beautiful things that God has given to human beings. To express yourself sexually is a richness. So anything that demeans true sexual expression also demeans you”. Another clear warning from Pope Francis.
With that said, let’s move on to the interview with Jean-Baptiste Maillard. A married man with three children, Jean-Baptiste is the director of Lights in the Dark, an Internet evangelization mission founded in France in 2015 that has resulted in the creation of several websites, including SOSporno.net. On March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, an English version was launched (SOSporn.org).
Jean-Baptiste is married and the father of three boys. He is the director of Lights in the Dark, an Internet evangelization mission founded in France in 2015 that has launched several websites including SOSporno.net in 2020, and which just launched its English version, SOSporn.org, on the feast of Saint Joseph.
Tebaldo Vinciguerra How would you explain to an Italian reader the mission and vision of Lightsinthedark.info, as well as how you work?
Jean-Baptiste Maillard The name Lights in the Dark is taken from Isaiah’s prophecy, Isaiah 9:1: “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. This great light is the light of Christ, and we want to make him known and loved first and foremost to our contemporaries who don’t know him yet, because we know that Jesus has the power to free them from the things that are holding them hostage; he can deliver them from their addictions.
TV Tell me about your organization.
JBM We are a French non-profit organization, which was born in 2015 from a simple premise: there is an urgent need to work together, on the peripheries, to offer the Good News of salvation as widely as possible within the digital world to those who are far from the Church. We have several themed websites, such as Lalumieredenoel.com (The light of Christmas), for evangelizing online at Christmas, and LinceulTurin.net, on the Turin Shroud. Secondly, each website offers users the opportunity to chat confidentially with an e-missionary trained for this mission, which above all consists in listening with compassion and bearing witness to God’s love in our lives.
TV What year did you launch the website SOSporno.net?
JBM We launched in September 2020, after several mothers who had been inspired to pray for deliverance from pornography addiction through the intercession of Carlo Acutis approached us.
JBM Shortly after they had this idea, over the course of three days in April 2020, an abbot gave the prayer his Nihil Obstat, then a bishop gave his Imprimatur asking them to spread it all over the Internet, and finally Pope Francis published a video in which he asked for prayer and support for these people who are addicted to porn. One of these mothers came to us and a few days later we got an e-mail from Carlo Acutis’ mother, who we had never spoken to, saying “molto bene authorizatio”. And that’s how we started!
TV What is the main mission of the website?
JBM We provide help to numerous people who cannot escape this addiction, first by actively listening to them with kindness and compassion. These people are men but there are also women (one-fifth), who often tell us that they first fell into the addiction when they were teenagers, around the age of 12. They come to us sometimes 10 or 20 years later and are almost always very conscious of not being able to free themselves from it on their own. We suggest that they pray the prayer of deliverance through the intercession of Carlo Acutis, which has already led to several healings as you can read in the testimonies published online. If necessary, we also refer them to therapists outside our organization who specialize in this addiction. And, we have an invisible monastery, named Carlo Acutis, made up of 3,000 people who pray for these website users, whose first names they receive. Real monasteries are even part of it, including that of my older sister, a nun in an almost desert-like region!
TV Why specifically the young Carlo Acutis? You met his mother in Assisi (that’s the link)
JBM Carlo became a part of our organization at the beginning of our mission in 2016, through a friend who is a priest. We started to pray to him and very soon realized that he was answering our prayers! Someone who had planned to undergo euthanasia in Belgium, whose situation was covered by the media, turned to us via the online chat feature of our Life after death website and in three days, by praying to Carlo, he was healed of his psychological suffering and renounced his plans to die. He also wanted us to explain to him who this Carlo was who had just interceded for him from heaven. We went to Carlo’s beatification where we had the joy of meeting his mother, who told us that Carlo often used to warn his friends of this danger when they lived in Milan… She also confirmed his strength of intercession.
TV What type of work do you carry out through SOSporno.net?
JBM For the second year running, we are offering a Lenten course for those who are addicts called Adventure of Freedom, where they receive a message of encouragement every day by email. Also, sponsors can receive the name of someone suffering from this addiction in order to offer their Lent for them through a separate program, with meditations provided by Carlo’s mother, called Ignite your Lent with Carlo Acutis. You learn a lot about Carlo’s spirituality and life though this program and it brings him even closer to you, like a little brother. The sponsors are very happy to offer their Lent, with prayer and small sacrifices, for the person whose name they have been given. It changes your perspective. Last year, at the end of Lent, a sponsor told us that it had been the most beautiful time of his life, and we also just learned that one of the people suffering addiction, who is married, was healed during last year’s program… she confirmed it for us a year later!
TV Do you currently have any working relationships with the academic world, with local authorities (town halls, departments, etc.), with therapists? If so, can you give some examples?
JBM We try to collaborate with anyone who shares our approach: as the Americans say, it is about “caring”, taking care of people, that interests us. We don’t do any lobbying at the moment. A unique and important part of our website is the chat feature, which provides “direct human contact” as Pope John Paul II said in the first letter of the Magisterium about the proclamation of Christ on the Internet, a personal contact “which remains irreplaceable” (Benedict XVI).
Pope Francis went further too, in 2013 inviting us to be a “listening, dialoguing, encouraging presence” on the Internet, which is what our e-missionaries provide via the chat. Moreover, we were happy to receive a reply from the Pope three weeks after writing to him about Lights in the Dark and SOSporno: he encouraged us to “continue to reach out to the wounded and fragile, in search of meaning in their lives”, to be “a beacon of hope” for those who are discouraged and sad”. He also encourages us to “take care of the fragile members of our families, of our society, of our people.” This is a wonderful message of encouragement for us to keep going forward, always going further!
TV Your platform is very clearly oriented towards helping those who are suffering because of their pornography use. How many requests for help do you receive on average?
JBM At the moment we receive up to 1200 requests for help per year, exclusively via the online chat, and we feel that this is only the beginning. These are real cries for help that we try to answer, these people are well aware of the major trial they are going through – one that often they have suffered for many years – and our website is like a lifeline that has been thrown to them, sometimes by stumbling upon it via a search engine but also on social networks.
The first testimonies of healing encourage them a great deal.
TV How does prayer work or help in supporting a person who wants to be cured of their addiction to pornography?
JBM As Carlo’s mom says, we Catholics today can tend to forget the power of prayer. This is true for all aspects of our lives and, of course, when we face trials. Addiction is a particularly difficult trial, as our website users have told us. They are very happy when we offer to pray online with them and they almost always accept, even when they belong to other faiths! Afterwards, the work of grace takes over – it is no longer our work – and we see healings through Carlo’s intercession, so we will keep on offering this prayer all over the world. Maybe one day we will even have a platform in Italian, who knows? We are also thinking about Spanish… but all this requires a lot of funds and our organization is financed 100% by donations.
TV Have you had the opportunity to reflect on and foster the complementary relationship between therapists and spiritual guidance? What is your opinion on the subject?
JBM As we say on our websites, we are not psychologists, we are only here to listen to those who are addicted, to encourage them, to pray with them and for them, and to refer them to other people outside the organization if necessary – to professional therapists that partner with us. So there is a complementarity between our people who listen and pray and the psychologists specialized in this addiction who offer therapy. Prayer sometimes provides instant healing through the intercession of Carlo Acutis, but it also provides support throughout the entire process. God uses different means, human or spiritual, to free us.
TV Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
JBM Yes, we want to train more volunteer e-missionaries for the chat facility on our websites, for the moment our Mooc is only in French. We need help. We would like to establish ourselves in other countries to create national communities of e-missionaries. As far as SOSporno is concerned, we also want to train fathers or mothers to work in schools to prevent this addiction, with our website providing support through the chat feature. All volunteers are welcome – write to us, even in Italian!
TV Is there a passage from Scripture that particularly inspires you?
JBM Yes, at the moment it is Luke 4:18: “…he has anointed me to bring the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” And also Nahum 3:7: “Nineveh is destroyed. Who will console her? Where can anyone be found to comfort you?” In our devastated Nineveh of today, we need many people to provide comfort.