When the Well Goes Dry: Spiritual Direction for Catechists


Fellow catechists, it’s time to face the truth about the biggest, secret challenge we all face: the lack of time, effort, and discipline we put into our own spiritual lives. We’ve spent the day (and night) extolling the virtues of regular prayer, reading Scripture, and contemplative practice to others—only to find ourselves too drained and spiritually dry even to lift up a half-hearted “Hail Mary” before our heads hit the pillow. As a spiritual director I meet with hospital chaplains, ministry formation directors, and volunteers who time and again offer two complaints: “It just doesn’t feel like God is listening, or even cares about what I’m doing,” and “I can’t find the time or energy to pray.”

As ironic as it sounds, maintaining an ongoing, life-giving personal connection with God can be a huge challenge when we are involved in ministry. The temptation is to give of ourselves until the well has gone dry. We call it “taking up our cross,” “offering it up,” or a host of other platitudes we use to convince ourselves that it is enough for our work to be our prayer.

Christ never intended ministry to be this way. He said, “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) Christ does not want us to do his work from a well that has gone dry, but to turn to him and the endless spring of water he provides.

This can be hard, but it’s not a path we need to walk alone. Spiritual direction—the ministry of contemplative listening and gentle, spirit-led guidance—can be an invaluable support for catechists. A spiritual director is able to help us create a life-giving and sustainable habit of prayer in our lives. In addition, having someone to whom we are accountable for conversations about the spiritual life is an invaluable help in keeping on track.

A relationship with a spiritual director is not simply one of accountability. The companion’s role as an objective, contemplative listener also helps us to become more deeply aware of God’s activity in our personal lives and in our ministry. This awareness is an essential tool for healthy spiritual discernment. It can be the difference between blindly making up what I will be doing this year for our parish families and beginning a new project with the confidence that this is what God truly desires for his people.

If you are curious about spiritual direction and would like more information, the following resources may be helpful:

Caring for the Catechist as a Spiritual Person

catechists praying

At this time of year when recruiting and training catechists is a top priority, it’s a good time to think about what we can realistically do to help nurture and form the spirituality of those who will have direct contact with the children in our communities. Much has been said about preparing catechists for their […]

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Tips for Hosting a Book Club at Your Parish

open book

Book clubs continue to be a popular vehicle for social interaction while encouraging and motivating people to read, to encounter ideas they might not otherwise consider, and to talk about their own ideas and thoughts about what they’re reading. Parishes and faith communities can use book clubs to build a sense of community, invite new people […]

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Do Teens Have a Spiritual Life?

contemplative teen girl

The answer to the question, “Do teens have a spiritual life?” is, of course, YES! At times, however, it may seem to us as though teens do not have the capacity for spirituality. Nothing could be further from the truth. What they often do not have the capacity for is the ability to articulate their […]

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The Power of Prayer: Three Ways to Model Discipleship

man praying with young person

Peter, a director of religious education at a parish, asked Susan if prayer was interwoven into her classroom. “But I don’t have time to pray with my students and still get all of the material covered!” Susan answered, exasperated. “The most important thing,” Peter assured her, “is to model a life of discipleship grounded in […]

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Simple Tips for Leading a Simple Prayer

Simple Tips for Leading a Simple Prayer

While it is true that we can pray simply and spontaneously, at more formal gatherings, our prayer is to resemble how we pray at Mass. In other words, the prayer is meant to be liturgical, which means that it should have a basic structure. This means including parts for the assembly, including Scripture, and including […]

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Facebook Followers Share about Activities in the Classroom

catechist successful or creative classroom ideas

What’s your most creative idea for the Catholic classroom? We asked this question on our Catholic Faith Formation Facebook page and received a list of creative responses. From a jumbo Rosary to hashtags about holiness, catechists shared about activities for multiple grade levels, parents, and families. Saint Strips Catechist Kathleen Horrigan Butler from Holy Trinity […]

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Racism: Are We Cultivating a Patch of Weeds in Our Garden?


Recently after Sunday Mass, my wife and I were chatting with our pastor outside of the church. He drew our attention to one of the gardens along the side of the church, pointed at a patch of green plants and said, “I’ve been meaning to ask someone, are these weeds? Should I be pulling them?” […]

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Communicating Expectations to Catechists

hands together in agreement

My good friend Tom Quinlan, Director of the Catechetical Office in the Diocese of Joliet, IL, recently sent me a copy of something he shared with his catechetical leaders to help communicate expectations for catechists. I’ll let Tom do the explaining: As a former parish director of religious education, I found it important to provide catechists with […]

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The Six Tasks of Catechesis #6: Missionary Initiation, or Evangelizing our Faith

woman catechist with young person

The last of the Six Tasks of Catechesis is missionary initiation, or in terms of the remembering phrase HELP ME, evangelizing our faith. Here’s how our bishops explain this task: “The ‘world’ thus becomes the place and the means for the lay faithful to fulfill their Christian vocation. Catechesis seeks to help the disciples of […]

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