The Head AND the Heart

I had an interesting experience the other night in Minneapolis. I was working with about 200 catechists and had them brainstorming on what they would include in a 1 hour presentation if they had to explain the Catholic faith to a group of non-Catholics. Included in the gathering were about 20 Spanish-speaking catechists for whom a simultaneous translator had been provided (they listened to her translation on headsets…like the United Nations!).

When I asked volunteers to share their lists with the large group, I first called on a few Anglos who shared some very impressive lists that drew from the 4 pillars of the Catechism. Then, I called on one of the Spanish-speaking catechists who, of course, spoke in Spanish, as the translator then translated into English for us. What was interesting was that her list was all statements of personal testimony about what her relationship with Jesus means to her and how the Church has made such a huge difference in her life.

I was impressed by the stark differences in how cultures approached the same assignment. The Anglos drew from “the head” while the Hispanics drew from “the heart.” I made the point of saying that, as catechists, we need to do BOTH!  Jesus said that we need to love the Lord our God with our entire heart, soul, mind, and strength. Those we catechize need to know that we have brains that have helped us to form our faith but they also need to know that our faith comes from the heart and that we have an affective, personal relationship with our Lord.

What a blessed moment THAT was!

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. Dear Joe,
    I have a quick question. Are you teaching this year and what
    grade? I went to your website today and didn’t find your lesson plan. I always
    prepared my lesson and then would look and read your lessons ( I loved the 4th
    grade ones the best because I teach 3rd gr. )
    Thank you Joe,

    • Kate, I’m on kind of a special assignment this year – doing some work on the Roman Missal changes with all grades and doing some work on Scripture with the 6th graders as well as visiting other catechists to observe their work and provide feedback. I’ll be sharing more about this on my blog soon.

  2. Joe,
    As a Hispanic who teaches ‘Anglos’ , as you call them, I totally understand what your experience was like. Over the years I’ve seen my students get a kick about how I approach topics. I challenge them and they challenge me. Even more so this year since I just found out I’m “it”, I’m the DRE for this year. I guess it was by default – so few people want to deal with teenagers nowadays. They usually say “You’re so brave”, “Thanks for doing this for the parish”… I almost get the feeling they’re shipping me off to war!
    I wish I had known about the MN conference! Our parish didn’t celebrate catechetical Sunday. Also, because I am a Spanish interpreter/translator by profession!
    Thank you for sharing, I stumbled upon your blog after doing my daily 3-minute retreat. Thank you Loyola!

    • Maria, thanks so much for your comments…so interesting isn’t it? Congratulations on being “it!” Don’t worry, it’s not like goingoff to war (although I’m sure there’ll be a few battles along the way!) Have a great year and best wishes!

  3. How do you shift people’s thinking from head to heart? I’m doing a Roman Missal training and I’d love to do some heart stuff, but not sure where to go.

    • Hi Jenn. The best way is to speak from the heart yourself. When talking about the liturgy and the new texts, it’s important for you to be able to speak from the heart about what the Mass means to you and how some of the new texts speak to your heart. This is not just about words and rubrics…it’s about how we encounter God in relationship!

    • I absolutely love the visual of the balancing act of the heart and head approach towards our faith. What a powerful, yet simplistic, statement. Is it alright to use that picture? Who created it? Debi Wickler, Anchorage, Alaska

  4. Great experience, Joe. There is a saying in Hispanic ministry that those from the Hispanic culture learn their faith first in their heart and then it moves to the head, while we Anglos do just the opposite. That makes it a huge challenge in a parish where we have transitioned from all- Anglo to nearly all-Hispanic. As an Anglo catechist for Hispanic teens preparing for Confirmation, I am continually challenged to find ways to use experience, personal story and testimony to engage them more deeply. The catechetical texts, even when bilingual, do not take this difference into account, so a lot depends on the catechist. Sometimes, frankly, the suggested lesson plan gets in the way!

    • I agree Joyce and I always enjoy hearing updates about your catechetical and liturgical efforts in your home parish where you deal with this issue all the time.

  5. I totally agree. We have to make our heads work with our hearts because, in life, as much as in faith, we have to remain balanced. We have to know how to make our ideologies fit with what we feel and then know how to make the best decision out of it.

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