House of Formation seminarians taking class about the theology of a chaste life

Most of the classes taken by St. Joseph House of Formation seminarians are taught at Newman University in Wichita. Fr. Arnold is teaching his chastity class at the House. (Advance photo)

Fr. Chad Arnold teaches a class about celibacy for seminarians in their junior and senior years at the St. Joseph House of Formation.

Although the class is for men considering the priesthood, much of the information may be useful for single and married men struggling to remain chaste – a relevant topic in this Year of St. Joseph.

The seminarians learn about celibacy’s scriptural and historical precedents and its theology in the class, Fr. Arnold said from his Chancery office last week. The young men also learn about the practical aspects of priestly celibacy: where it comes from, what it involves, and how to live it well and joyfully. “They learn that celibacy has a much richer and deeper tradition than they thought,” he said. “It’s present from the beginning.”

Celibacy binds one into a closer relationship with Christ and makes one more available for the Lord’s work, Fr. Arnold said, adding that we need only look to the examples of Jesus, St. Paul, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and John, the beloved disciple.

“We think of it as a very high-minded thing, and I guess it can be, but part of living celibacy well is having rich friendships and making time to develop real non-romantic relations – both among priests and the laity – to enrich ourselves.”

One key to maintaining chastity is guarding ourselves against falling into “detrimental mindsets,” Fr. Arnold said. To avoid that, he recommended regular sleep and exercise.

Get rest to fight temptation

“When our bodies are fresher we are more receptive to the grace he wants to work into us,” he said.

Steady prayer is an obvious requirement for a chase life, Fr. Arnold said. “If celibacy is about developing an exclusive relationship with Christ, it’s got to be fed and nourished by serious prayer.”

Fr. Arnold, the director of Vocations for the Diocese of Wichita, said the world sees celibacy as something extreme. “They should not expect to do something extreme if they don’t also have an extreme prayer life.”

Purity is a challenge with the number of sexualized images and messages the faithful continually encounter, he said.

“The good news is that healing is possible…and it’s certainly possible to move away from that, especially if it’s someone who has been plagued with struggles with purity or sexuality. But that doesn’t happen overnight.”

Don’t take in ‘garbage’

In addition to prayer, Father Arnold suggested one way to begin overcoming impurity is to take to heart something his mother reminded him about: “Garbage in. Garbage out.”

“Sometimes images come up unexpectedly. You can just close your eyes,” he said regarding television and movies. “There’s nothing furthering the plot going on here and I don’t want that imagery in my mind.”

People tend to fall into patterns in their lives that include social media, he said. “And if that is a doorway to something less savory, recognize that you have to change that pattern. Perhaps you avoid getting onto your laptop after eight o’clock in the evening.”

Recognize the patterns in your life, he said, adding that one must be strategic and smart about how to avoid sin.

“Step back and ask yourself what leads to this,” Fr. Arnold said, “because that’s a much more successful place to pick your ground to battle temptation.”

The class is taught in a classroom at the St. Joseph House of Formation on the St. Joseph Parish Campus in Wichita. It is accredited by Newman University.