A Language of Mystery

Funny how a segue I had planned for my class this past Monday turned out to be one of the most significant moments of the entire session, thanks to one of my students and the Holy Spirit.

I was seeking to introduce the concept of SIGNS and how we encounter Jesus through the signs we call the Sacraments. I invited 3 volunteers to come forward for a “contest.” I had 3 clear plastic cups on a table and told them that the contest would be to see who could fill the cup the fastest. They got all excited and started asking, “fill it with what?” But I just kept on yapping about how the first one to fill it would win. Then I said, “Ready? On the count of 3, fill your cups with….(long pause)…LOVE! One, two, three, GO!!!!”  Of course they looked at me like I had 3 heads and the rest of the kids laughed. I kept egging them on saying, “Go ahead, fill your cup with LOVE…first one to fill it wins!” At that point, one of the contestants – a young lady – began motioning as if she were “scooping” love from her heart and placing it in the cup! I said, “Hold it right there! Did you all see what she did? She realized that since love is invisible, she needed a sign to express it! That’s exactly what we’re going to be learning about tonight.”

I then asked them to think of ways that they express love to their parents since love is invisible. They responded, “hugs, kisses, gifts, respecting them, helping them with chores, cleaning our room without being asked” and so on. I said, “Tonight we’re going to be learning about how the Church gives us SIGNS that make God’s love visible for us: the Sacraments.”

I couldn’t have asked for a better intro to the class! It’s as if I planted her in the “audience” to help me teach about how our faith involves a language of mystery that goes beyond words. It’s moments like that that remind me that the Holy Spirit is teaching the class and I’m just “hoisting the sails!”

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 www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. Hold it right there! Did you all see what she did? She realized that since love is invisible, she needed a sign to express it! That s exactly what we re going to be learning about tonight.

    Yes! I tell my kids that because we are created body and soul that there are corresponding physical expressions of spiritual things, and like you, use the example of love being expressed through physical action.

    This sort of thing provides a terrific intuitive basis for understanding Sacraments.

  2. This is a wonderful idea to bring more abstract realities to one’s knowledge about the Faith. I actually use some sign language to teach children. Some of the signs teach the children so much.

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