The Catholic Way of Seeing

I’m not one for believing that Jesus and Mary “appear” in tree barks, potato chips, window panes, and grease stains. We hear these kinds of stories on the news from time to time, of people seeing the image of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary in the most unlikely places. I DO however, believe that it tends to be a Catholic  phenomenon because Catholics are taught to see in a unique way.

In a sense, we see what we want to see. A few weeks ago, the long-time mayor of Rosemont (a suburb of Chicago), Donald Stephens, passed away. A week or so later, stories ran in the paper about how people saw his image in the bark of a tree! People saw what they wanted to see.

Catholics are trained to “see” or “recognize” God in everything. St. Ignatius prompted his followers to see in such a way that they will be “finding God in all things.” There’s a difference between thinking that Jesus and Mary are “appearing” all over the place and recognizing grace in all things. I think that, if a Catholic is taught properly and then given an ink-blotch test, he or she will recognize Jesus, Mary, the saints, the Holy Spirit, and numerous sacramentals. The same is true if a Catholic lays down in a field and stares at the clouds to imagine what they look like.

As catechists, we help to teach others to see. Catholic “eyes” are very special because we see the world infused with the grace of God. I hope that this summer is an opportunity for you as a catechist to renew your vision – to find God in wonderful places – and to come back to your teaching, ready to help those you teach find God in all things!

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

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