Actors and Clowns

I mentioned in my post yesterday that I thought the Holy Father used a poor word-choice in speaking about catechists, saying,

“Educators of the faith,” said the Pope, “cannot run the risk of looking like some sort of clown, who is simply playing a role.”

I neglected to include the link to the whole story. (Link no longer available.)

I mentioned in one of my comments yesterday that I don’t think for a minute that the Holy Father lacks appreciation, gratitude, and respect for catechists. I just think that the use of the word clown detracted from his core message. I think that it would have been more effective to evoke the image of the actor who in Greek tradition, wore a mask, hiding his true identity. This is the meaning and origin of the word hypocrite and Jesus certainly challenged us to not be hypocrites. I think we can all relate to the notion of a gap between how we present ourselves to others and who we really are and we strive to overcome or eliminate this gap. The imagery of a clown, however, while also pointing to someone who conceals his or her true identity, suggests total frivolity and foolishness.

The Holy Father’s core message is well-taken and let’s end by focusing on that: our lives should be seamless, with no separation between how we live and the message we proclaim.

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


  1. I cannot say that I disagree with what the Pope said. I don’t think I would have used the same wording, but he seems to clearly communicate that catechists cannot say one thing and act another.

    As a parish catechetical leader, part of my job is to support catechist formation. To do this, I would look like a clown if I continually asked catechists for continue formation when I didn’t do the same. How can I have different expectations for them?

    Similarly, children and youth can easily see through a fake, someone who says one thing at church and does another in the community. I often realize they see through others better than I do. They see the clowns that stand in front preaching one thing and doing another. A good catechist is not like this.

    A good catechist has been changed by Christ and is living a life of sharing Christ with others. Their entire life, both word and deed, communicates how Christ is present in their life. It’s amazing when we see someone like that.

    While I know we have many dedicated catechists that share their faith with others, I have also met some who are doing it for other reasons… I hope that through their experience they will come to encounter Christ.

    Thank you for your continued reflections. I think I’ll share this with our catechists this evening at a formation session. Topic: What is our primary task?

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