An Online Retreat for Catechists – Week 5: An Authenticity and Coherence of Life

Welcome to the 5th week of our online retreat focusing on the spirituality of the catechist.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked at the unique openness that we catechists are called to incorporate into our spirituality: an openness to God, to the Church, and to the world. Thanks so much for all of your wonderful and inspiring comments!

This week, we focus on the 4th aspect of our spirituality, what the Church refers to as an authenticity and coherence of life.

If you’re just joining us, you can go back and “catch up” and then come back to jump in to week five.

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four

Here’s the video intro for this week:

An Authenticity and Coherence of Life

 In 2008, Time Magazine featured an article titled “10 Ideas that are Changing the World,” and listed at number 7 was authenticity. Marketing experts are telling us that, in today’s economy, consumers are craving authenticity. It seems that the more we experience things going on around us as virtual or contrived, the more we insist on experiencing something that is real – authentic. While still concerned about availability, quality, and cost, consumers are more concerned about authenticity: someone or something they can identify with.


Now, I’m not suggesting that faith is a commodity and that our students are consumers to whom we are trying to sell. However, as catechists, we do have a “brand” that we are striving to promote. We can learn a lesson from the world of marketing which tells us that, put simply, authenticity is what results when there is a harmony between what one is and what one does. In order for us to be effective catechists, we must strive to be sure that there is no gap between who we are as human beings and what we do as catechists. When our lives reflect a harmony between the two, we telegraph a coherence – a consistency between what we say and how we act.


The issue of consistency is precisely what was at the heart of the recent Notre Dame controversy. Many Catholics were livid with the idea of a Catholic university honoring President Obama because his stance on abortion is inconsistent with a what it means to be pro-life. On the other hand, many people criticized the Church for being inconsistent on moral issues, i.e., loudly condemning abortion but remaining silent about our country engaging in a preemptive war that resulted in the deaths of countless innocent lives. Others simply dismissed the Catholic Church’s moral authority in such matters claiming that the Church lost all credibility as a result of the priest sexual abuse crisis – a glaring inconsistency between what the Church teaches and how the Church acted. Without getting into the politics of these issues, I’m sure you can see that the main arguments of BOTH sides was and continues to be one of consistency.


So what does all of this have to do with us as catechists? The fact is, those we teach are watching us closely for signs of authenticity and coherence of life (consistency). They are seeking a consistency between:

·         our words in class and our actions outside of class (do we practice what we preach?)

·          between our words and our facial expression/body language (do we look like we are proclaiming Good News?)

·         between the words we teach and the way we speak to them and deal with them (do we preach love, patience, and forgiveness, and then speak or act harshly toward them?)


Those we teach will see the Gospel as authentic if they experience us as authentic. This is what the Church had in mind when it said, in the General Directory for Catechesis that,


No methodology, no matter how well tested, can dispense with the person of the catechist in every phase of the catechetical process. (156)


To have an authenticity and a coherence of life is not to be confused with being perfect! In fact, paradoxically, the first step to articulating authenticity and coherence of life is to humbly admit that we are sinners – we have, at times, been inauthentic and inconsistent and we earnestly seek forgiveness so that we may become more authentic followers of Jesus. In striving to present ourselves as authentic, we must avoid allowing ourselves to become like the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.” (Lk 18:11-12) To prevent our quest for authenticity and coherence of life from turning into self-righteousness, we must practice humility as did the tax collector who prayed: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” (Lk 18:13)


Likewise, we become more authentic by virtue of our engagement in ongoing formation through which  we strive to continually conform ourselves to Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of authenticity and coherence of life. This is precisely why Jesus uttered the words, “it is finished” before he died on the Cross. He was not uttering words of failure but of triumph: he had completed his mission of remaining authentically and coherently faithful to the Father’s will.


In the coming week, let’s pray for the grace we need to be authentic followers of Jesus who have a coherence of life so that those we teach may recognize the Gospel as a viable path for their lives.


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 Week Five Reflection Questions (click here for week-5-reflection-questions) – over the next few days, feel free to ponder these reflection questions pertaining to this week’s theme. Then, return here to Catechist’s Journey and share some of your reflections with your fellow retreatants.

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For Further Reflection

Read Pope Benedict XVI’s reflections on how catechists are called to live what they preach: (Article no longer available.)



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Spiritual ExercisesDuring the course of this week, practice one or more of the following spiritual exercises designed to deepen your authenticity and coherence of life. Feel free to share the fruits of your exercises with your fellow retreatants by posting your comments any time this week.

·         During this week, practice what St. Ignatius of Loyola called the Daily Examen – a way to prayerfully review your day to see in what experiences you have been authentic and consistent as a follower of Jesus and in what experiences you have not. Take 10-20 minutes near the end of your day, and follow these simple steps:

o    Quiet yourself and recall God’s presence

o    Review your day and give thanks for God’s gifts

o    Review your day again and identify those moments you were most authentic as a follower of Jesus and those moments when you may have been inconsistent/inauthentic.

o    Ask forgiveness for the times you were inconsistent/inauthentic.

o    Ask for the grace you need to have an authenticity and coherence of life in the day to come.



·         Pray the Jesus Prayer (also called the Prayer of the Heart) to begin each day and at various times throughout your days as a way of asking God for the grace of humility: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. When praying this prayer, synchronize it with your breathing: breathe in while calling out to God (Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God) and breathe out while praying for mercy (have mercy on me, a sinner). Repeat the prayer as often as you like over a period of 5 or 10 minutes, praying it slowly, and pausing between each recitation.



·         Do an Examination of Conscience in preparation for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Choose an opportunity to go to confession in the days or weeks ahead and, before you do so, prayerfully do an examination of conscience using any of the following or one of your own choosing:



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Recommended Reading on the Topic of An Authenticity and Coherence of Life:


Heroic Living: Discover Your Purpose and Change the World (Chris Lowney)

Here’s My Heart, Here’s My Hand: Living Fully in Friendship with Jesus (William A. Barry, SJ)

Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monk’s Insights for a Balanced Life (Lonni Collins Pratt and Fr. Daniel Homan, OSB)

Living the Mass: How One Hour a Week Can Change Your Life ( Fr. Dominic Grassi and Joe Paprocki)

Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want (James Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II)

About Joe Paprocki 2745 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

28 Comments on An Online Retreat for Catechists – Week 5: An Authenticity and Coherence of Life

  1. These comments were intended for today’s post but showed up elsewhere:

    Submitted on 2009/07/06 at 9:25am

    Authenticity and the Examen as well as Reconciliation:
    I try to be a real person and not a phony. I will be trying to do the examen every night before I go to bed. In a couple of weeks I will go on an Ignatian retreat which will hopefully help me talk the talk and walk the walk as an catechist. Besides trying to get in touch with God I will also make a confession/reconciliation and since the priests are Jesuits I had better gear up on my Act of Contrition. Seeing my father prepare for his confession during the sacrament of the sick last month was touching as well as my mom and I leaving the room for dad and Fr. Mark to help my dad get ready for his eventual trip to heaven.

    * * *

    Submitted on 2009/07/06 at 10:16am
    You must be going through a very hard time right now, losing your Father. I know what I was like losing my parents. When I read your comments that came to me by e-mail I looked for your comment on week 5 and couldn

  2. Here’s another comment that’s intended for Week 5 but ended up appearing elsewhere…must be some gremlins in the system! -joe

    Linda Price
    Submitted on 2009/07/07 at 9:10am
    Authenticity is vital to being a human being practicing the Catholic faith as well as a catechist in the classroom. There can be no separateness . I have met some of the children in McDonald

  3. I am in week four of my five week course of my journey to becoming a certified catechist and the other catechists who I’ve come in contact with come from all walks of life, but two very young catechists stand out their journcy is going to take them to the Honuras however there is a political battle going on there which will dirupt their journey. I am a little amazed at their faith because they are just out of high school and already they are ready to battle these forces that are very real and extremely dangerous, but their drive to spread the Word of our Lord is so great that they are an inspiration to me and I am humbled to see this Love of the Lord that they have. I see my myself as a tiny person just trying to get certified to teach catechism and here these two young girls are begining their lives out as missionaries to a third world country to spread the Word. God Bless us for what we have and for others that have nothing for they can conquer the world in the name of the Lord.

    • I really hope to be able to do something like that someday! I think it would be an awesome experience for my kids. Dh, though, isn’t quite on board with it. So the kids probably won’t make it. But I plan on having lots of time with him so he will eventually see that I’m right, lol.

  4. I find when I talk about prayer in my class that I feel most authentic. I talk about my personal experience in praying and the kids really seem to listen.

    • Hi Deb,

      I agree…. sharing your personal experiences whether that be prayer or other life experiences can help to make the curriculum more meaningful and authentic. I think this is especially true for the older kids. The great part about doing this is that it also helps me to be more conscious of how well I’m doing with integrating my faith into my everyday life.

  5. This week’s video brought to mind an experience with my son last year. He had apparently been comparing notes with his friends about what their moms and dads did for a living he was trying to understand what a DRE is. I told him that I was kind of like Mr. G. the principle at his catholic school. Next he asked if kids who misbehaved were sent to my office ( apparently one student from his class had been sent to see Mr. G that day) I said, “Yes sometimes”. Well he asked did I give kids who misbehaved in class get detention? “No” I told him. “Why not?” he wanted to know. So I asked him “What does Jesus do when you do something naughty?”. “He forgives me of course!” Well, I told my son, “It is my job to help kids understand how much Jesus loves them so if they misbehave I forgive them. But I also want them to understand how to love Jesus back so sometimes I ask their moms and dads to come and we sit down together to talk about ways we can help the student better follow Jesus.” My son thought about this for a while and said “Oh I guess your job isn’t that much like Mr. G’s after all.”

  6. This will be my 4th year with a 6th grade CCD class. Whenever I am talking to the class and I bring in personal experiences, you would be able to hear a pin drop. They know the stories are authentic, they hear it in my voice and see it in my face. The prayers we start with and end with are personal talking by me to God, then they add the Our Father. I am always conscience of the fact that I am a catechist. Whether it is in class, in Church, or out in public. I’m retired from the work force at this time, but now I think of God as my employer, and my jobs being a wife, mother, grandmother, and catechist.
    A woman in our Parish, named Anita, to me is the greatest example of humility I have seen. She lost her husband unexpectedly. She has been able to continue on with her life, her bussiness, volunteer work, being on parish boards, Eucharistic minister, and daily mass. She is soft spoken and always has a smile. You see the love of the Lord in her face. I know she is not conscience that I watch her during Mass. But I also pray for her. To emulate this person I wouldn’t know how to start. I am sure if you asked her she doesn’t even realize that the love of God is showing through her. It is not something she is trying to be, it is her, it is authentic, not put on.

  7. An example of humility: A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting nuns who beg for all their own needs and for the needs of all the elderly that they care for. Our pastor invites two sisters to come to our parish (NM) every year to sell their homemade rosaries and beg from the pulpit for money so that they can continue their good work.

    Our priest said there would be no need to bless any of the rosaries purchased from the Little Sisters of the Poor because they were made by the hands of saints.

    Humility is a daily activity for these holy women. The sisters care for the aged. I may not be physically strong enough to care for the elderly as these women do but while in NM, myself and four other women from our St. Jude parish distributed the Eucharist; prayed the rosary; and visited with the sick and elderly patients in a local nursing home every second and fourth Tuesday of each month.

    At St. Mary Immaculate our Confirmation students are required to do service hours as a requirement during the two years of study for this sacrament. Our students are asked to fulfill this service using the Corporal Works of Mercy. We are not interested in counting the hours of service but rather the understanding and participation of the Work of Mercy. Our class spent one Saturday afternoon visiting the sick at our local nursing home in Plainfield. Although the children only spent about four hours at the nursing home, I was delighted to see and hear how they walked away knowing their visit was meaningful not only to them but to the elderly patients.

    If you would like to learn more about the Little Sisters of the Poor:

    • Hi Mary Ann….I was so happy to hear that the number of service hours for Confirmation isn’t as important as the quality of those hours….many kids go through the motions of getting their hours done…and then when you ask them what they learned or how they felt, they sort of just look at you….I know that we are stressing more involement with the Confirmation sponsor….I think that is important because you are a sponsor for this child the rest of your life….I am for my niece and nephew and I take that responsibility very seriously. I pray for Confirmandi because they are at a difficult age and we need to be examples for them….I think I mentioned this one of my comments before….what we learn in the 4 walls of church must go out to others outside those 4 walls, otherwise we are missing what being an example of Christ means.

  8. I try to be mindful of the need to be authentic, because it is important to me that my students know that I “walk the talk”. I do find that it is sometimes difficult. I live in a small community where I wear many hats, in addition to being a Catholic School teacher/catechist. I am the wife of a coach and mother of teenagers, so I am very visible in our community. I have found that people have expectations of me because of my position (which is good for me in a way, but sometimes alittle hard to live up to).

    • Nancy, I agree with you. It’s hard to keep a “low profile” out in the community when you are a catechist and I also used to worry quite a bit about living up to others’ expectations of me, especially those for whom I feel are in authority over me. However, now I try to not be too overly concerned about others’ expecations. I am who I am and I try to always do my best. I believe that God is unbelievably accepting of who we are and forgives and loves us no matter what.

  9. I believe being authentic is such an important part in how we can truly relate to others. We are all sinners and have faults but in our weaknesses we have the opportunity to look at those who can help and teach us to trust in the Lord also rely on our own faith to trust that the Lord will bring us through even the bumpiest of times. Authenticity is the truest way in which we can relate to others effectivly, even in our imperfectness of our authentic faults.

  10. The sacrament of reconciliation has mostly taken a back seat in my life. More and more I am realizing that is an important key to living this life of a disciple of Jesus Christ. But wanting to bring it forward and make it a “habit” … there are lots of stalls …. what priest? it’s so uncomfortable, busy, tomorrow.
    I’m thinking that finding a confessor to establish a relationship would be good. Usually I just add myself to the line during the youth reconciliation service, take a few minutes, and off I go … got it done for another Lent.
    Thanks for pushing it forward with this week’s retreat work. How can I talk with the teens about the amazing place sacraments can have in your life when I haven’ t placed them in the heart of my life.
    I am learning how taking responsibility and being accountable for my mistakes, my sins is important … finding ways to publicly live that … saying “I’m sorry”, owning up to my part, regularly celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. Lots to learn.
    Thanks Lord for another day … love Jesse Manibusan’s song … Lord, open my eyes, open my ears, open my heart ….

    • Linda, I can relate to your struggles with reconciliation. We’re not always so eager to face up to our sins in this manner. And yet, the grace we receive is so magnificent. I’m lucky that we take the 8th graders to Church during Advent and again during Lent for reconciliation…I can just join in the flow of getting in line to speak with one of the priests without overthinking the whole thing! One year, I didn’t go and one of the kids called me on it!!!

    • Yes, this can be difficult for me, too. It still feels all new and sometimes foreign to me (I converted officially in December-07). I go, but worry if I’m doing something wrong or forget something, do I need to confess this or am I being scrupulous ??? and on and on. I just try to breath deeply and let it go.

    • I suppose all of us by our natures don’t want to go to Confession…..I sure don’t want to. I have to drag myself in every time. But regular (4-6 times a year, in my case) Confession has been one of the best ways to show the kids I “walk the talk” as Nancy puts it so well. Each class after I’ve been to confession I have a little 2 minute refresher on the Sacrament: how I avoid going, the struggle of pride vs humility, Adam & Eve hiding in the Garden, the Prodigal Son, the importance of actually confessing out loud instead of just praying for forgiveness, how great I feel afterward, etc. Based on experience I’m pretty sure most of the kids in my class haven’t been since their First Communions; I hope it plants some seeds.

  11. Before I read any further or see the comments, I just want to say that I really like this video. It really spoke to me. Thank you for this 🙂

  12. Well today is Friday and I have finally joined in this week….I know kids really watch a person that is a catechist…..also I work as Administrative Assistant to our Pastor and realize that I must be Christ to these people….even when I meet them outside of these surroundings…..when I was teaching 2nd grade RE I always found myself telling the children stories instead of actually go through the lesson….they wanted to hear about Jesus as a boy, with parents, and what He did…..They wanted to hear about Him as a man and how He died for us….the stories and example of others were important to them….and just as Joe said they will call you on something if you don’t do what you teach.
    As for humility…that would have to be my Mom….she definitely never looked to be praised, rewarded….she just loved us no matter what. Another gift she had was perseverance….consistency….I pray that I could have that virtue. Her love of Our Lord and His mother was everything to her. When she died there were so many people who came to us to tell us what she did for them…things we never know anything about….we were truly blessed with Mom. She was authentic!

  13. For me, authentic people are in spirit. For they no longer live in a world that is saddly clouded with unathenticity. This is to say you must strive to be authentic…or real, which for me falls equal to being truthful. Authentic is truth.

    While I teach the children, I teach from the bible, so I feel safe with my teaching as authentic…the truth.

    As far as purchasing items that caught my eye as authentic…gosh, most of my recent purchases are from garage sales or second hand stores, exept food, of course. I get overwhelmed with thoughts of “things” constinently being made and purchased when there are so many “things” people throw away simply because they are “out of date” or “doesn’t look modern”. That is sad to me, almost like keeping up with the Jones’. Material things are clouded with unauthenticity. Persuasive marketing, clever speaking commercials and mind manipulations trick the consumer. Household utilities appear ( to me ) to not be authentic. We exite when our gas bill drops, and forget that the gas company made billions in profit last year. Perhaps there is a years supply of free gas for everyone? A pair of shoes at the store are on sale for $54.99. Take that pair of shoes and break down the cost to make that shoe ( about $12.00 ) and the sale seems to not be so authentic.

    Christ wants our consistent way of living to be as He lived in this world, to be truthful, forgiving, prayerful and spread unconditional love.

    An understanding ( as best as I can explain ) as to see things as they really are, it becomes filled with sorrow, yet so much knowledge and wisdom is in the sorrow as to know what true joy is.

    WOW, …the world created by God is a world of beauty. The eating of the apple changed the world. There are days that seem easy to remain authentic and truthful, and days that end with authentic and truthful repentence.

    I have taught my three children, (and include in my RE teachings) that every night before you go to bed to say your prayers ( Our Father, Hail Mary, Prayer to Your Guardian Angel ) talk to God openly about anything you need to talk to Him about and always tell God you are sorry for anything displeasing you have done today. This becomes a confession of sins every night before you go to sleep. This is like starting the next day with a clean, clear consience of anything sinful you may have done the day before. I too do this.

    • Rita, upon reading your comment I find truth in your findings and sincerety in your heart and sight, however these times we live in a lot of people are busy reading labels and throwing food out frozen uncooked because of the date that says use or freeze before date when we have so many hungry people in our midst. Yes they may be street people but they our part of God’s family of children and we are supposed to take care of our brothers and sisters. So understand exactly what you are talking about when you choose to use your yard sale expertise to get what you need rather than “Buy that Brand name on sale item”. Be frugal and be smart God has a plan and you are definitely in it. “ABBA” Father bless your children that spread your Word, and may the Holy Spirit bring you the Graces of God.

  14. A couple of the reflection questons this week related to tension or harmony (or lack of harmony) between who I am and what I do. I’ve made comment before that I struggle between the wonderful life of the Church (where I feel so safe and can’t get enough information as I read, etc ) and my everyday life at work. I must say, the longer I’m involved in trying to learn more about catechesis, the more I’m learning that it just spills over into everyday life without noticing. Over the past year or two, I have become so much more tolerant and forgiving at work and even at home. I hadn’t really thought about why until a couple people had made comment recently. Becoming aware of this “example” has given me hope that learning more about our faith will in fact lead me to LIVING IT TOO. I do think though, in relation to the reflection question, that there is both tension and harmony between who I am and what I do. I don’t think I could ever get rid of those two opposing forces either, realistically.

  15. Joe’s comments on the authenticity of a catechist strike me as profound. I frequently find myself lacking that coherence, that cohesiveness I seek as a catechist, and try to return to Reconciliation occasionally. Perhaps when I am most authentic and most effective are those times when I speak to the kids about how difficult I find it to follow Christ’s example and how truly awesome it is when I go to Reconciliation and receive God’s forgiveness.

  16. I would like to think I am authentic when I teach the children. I think I am as I read their reactions and interest in what I am praying and talking about. I believe who I am – an orthodox Catholic woman – and what I do – homeschool my children – are very complimentary to eachother. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be much tension at all between the two as they seem to enhance one another. Both permit me to teach and focus on the Faith as the central and primary necessity of life. Being a Catechist brings great peace and harmony to my life because I become part of God’s loving family who brings the love of Christ to the young. It is an opportunity (sometimes like a retreat) for me to really ‘spread my wings and fly’ as a member of a very important team. A team who works for peace and limits evil in our world. The Confirmation class I taught for my daughter had the public school children so interested that they were asking questions on how they can take a Theology course. I guess being an Orthodox Catholic homeschooling mom and being a Catechist are so complimentary for me that in order to convince the children I teach that my faith is authentic requires me to just be myself. “I am who I am.” No one less and no one more. Who said this? Ah – You know! Don’t worry, I have plenty of faults I have to work on and am far from perfect. This is a very good exercise to really analyze what is taking place in our lives. I usually just say to myself, “I am yours Jesus.” Not really thinking much about who I am and what I do but just try to follow the spirit that leads me. I actually am somebody! (Just kidding) I know I belong to the Lord! There is nothing better. And sharing it with other wonderful Catechists like yourselves is very rewarding.

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