Chastity is an awkward subject for young adults, but not one a few dozen students and community members at St. Mark’s and Corpus Christi colleges were willing to shy away from April 3.

As they enjoyed a vegetarian soup as part of a weekly Lenten lunch series at UBC, guest speaker Deacon Hilmar Pabel urged them to consider chastity as a virtue.

“A virtue is a power, a strength. It is not a weakness. It is not for silly people,” said Deacon Pabel.

Chastity “enables us to love fully and completely in every relationship, in a manner that is appropriate to that relationship.”

Deacon Pabel is the head of Courage, a Catholic ministry that serves people with unwanted same-sex attraction. Courage was founded in New York in 1980 on principles of chastity, friendship, and service to the Church, but those principles also apply to anyone, anywhere, he said.

“Self-control happens in many ways, not just sexually, of course, but according to all our appetites. Do we drink too much? Smoke too much? What’s my temper like? Do I study too much, or not study at all? Do I have a balance in my life, or is my life imbalanced?”

Self-control involves hard work and “spiritual muscle,” but leads to freedom and to actions unmotivated by impulsive decisions – a valuable skill when exercising any virtue, including chastity, he told the students.

“Chastity is not about saying ‘no.’ It is about saying ‘yes’ to how I love all the people whom I meet, whether I know them well, not at all, or somewhere in between,” said Deacon Pabel.

Learning how to say “yes” to loving others in ways appropriate to our relationships is freeing, he said. A woman he met in his ministry said as much during a conversation one day.

“Chastity is freedom! That’s right,” she told Deacon Pabel. “If our father knew that, our family would not have suffered through his many affairs. My mother would not have had so much pain and suffering. Our family wouldn’t be so hurt.”

Deacon Pabel, ordained in 2015, has been the head of Courage and Encourage for about two years. He offers spiritual direction, fellowship, prayer, and various events for people who experience same-sex attraction and their family members.

“Deacons specialize in ministry to the marginalized, the people whom we’ve forgotten or don’t care about,” he said at the lunch. 

“Yes, they are people who live on East Hastings Street, but they are also people in our church who we don’t often acknowledge,” such as those with same-sex attraction.

Courage, he said, “helps men and women who experience same-sex attraction flourish as disciples of Jesus Christ to worship and fellowship for the sake of witness and service.”

For more information about Courage visit

The Lenten lunch series continues April 10 with a talk from mental health advocate and B.C. Catholic columnist Lisa Rumpel, and April 17 with Yolanta Samus, a mom of two adopted children.