Year of Faith Retreat – Week 1, Day 4: What Are You Afraid Of?


WEEK ONE: The Creed

DAY 4: What Are You Afraid Of? (Sin, Salvation, and the Cross of Jesus)

Fear is a natural human condition. The following are considered some of the most common fears. Which do you share?

Spiders, snakes, heights, closed spaces, lightning, injections, social situations, flying, germs/dirt, public speaking, darkness

It often seems as though we have many things to fear. Perhaps this is why one of the most commonly used phrases in the Bible is the phrase, “Do not fear” or variations such as “do not be afraid,” “fear not,” “be not afraid.” A search of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible reveals that this phrase and its variations appear in the Bible over 150 times! This should give us a clue that we are on to something, that the role of fear in the story of our salvation is very important. The ultimate human fear, of course, is our fear of death. We all know it’s going to happen to us some day but we still have great fear. Yet the central message of our faith is that Jesus Christ has conquered death!

For Christians, the symbol of that victory – our trophy, so to speak – is the Cross of Jesus Christ! And yet, the Cross certainly does not look like a trophy. In fact, it appears to be a symbol of defeat. It is only through the Resurection of Jesus that this symbol of death and defeat is transformed into a symbol of victory over that which we fear most: death, the ultimate consequence of sin.

And so, we Christians rejoice in the Cross. I’ve often told people that if I could add one rubric to the Mass, I would have the assembly applaud when the Cross enters to lead us in procession! But since that’s not going to happen :), instead we sing!  

Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim,
Till all the world adore His sacred Name.

Led on their way by this triumphant sign,
The hosts of God in conquering ranks combine.

Each newborn servant of the Crucified
Bears on the brow the seal of Him Who died.

O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
As Thou hast promised, draw the world to Thee.

So shall our song of triumph ever be:
Praise to the Crucified for victory.

So, today, think of what it is you fear most at this time in your life and then slowly and prayerfully pray the Sign of the Cross, asking the Risen Christ to dispel the darkness of fear from your life and to replace it with confident hope and faith as we approach this Year of Faith.

Reflection Questions: Choose one of the following questions and share your thoughts with your fellow retreatants by adding your comments in the comments box below this post)

  • What is a fear that you have overcome? How did that happen?
  • Why do you think people are afraid of death?
  • How does the Resurrection of Jesus Christ take away our greatest fear?
  • Look at the words of the song “We Shall Overcome.” How is this song related to the death and Resurrection of Jesus?
  • What does it mean to compare the Cross of Jesus to a trophy?
  • How can you help to dispel others’ fears?
  • How can faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ help us to battle despair?


Lord, God, help me to live without fear. During this Year of Faith and beyond, help me to look upon the Cross of Christ Jesus and to see that Jesus understands my greatest sufferings and my greatest fears, and that he has overcome them by conquering the greatest fear of all—death. Help me, Lord, to know, deep in my heart, that we shall overcome some day.

Additional Reading

CCC References: 571 – 682

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I hope you’re enjoying our online summer retreat, Preparing for a Year of Faith! Take  a few minutes each day at your convenience to “gather” here on my blog as we seek to add some flavor to our faith lives by deepening our understanding of the truths of our faith as given to us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Learn more about the Year of Faith. Watch a brief video explaining what this online retreat is all about.

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. Pope JohnPaul II’s mantra was “be not afraid”. Fear is paralyzing. It can render us helpless. But our faith calls us to action; the two just don’t don’t fit together. We must overcome our personal fears in order to be effective catechists for others…but this is easy to say and hard to do. This is why a close relationship with God is necessary, to draw strength daily and renew ourselves from the greatest possible source of strength in our lives.

  2. I think I feared death because of what I would leave behind – family, friends – a known for an unknown. Because of my faith & living a faith filled life I know I will be with God when I die and need not fear dying.

  3. BTW, some have written me to say that “be not afraid” and it’s variations appears 366 times in the Bible…one for each day of the year and an extra one for leap years. While that’s a nice thought, it is not factual. It is more like wishful thinking. Some people have scoured Scriptures for anything Jesus said that might be construed as putting people at ease and came up with the 366 uses formula. While the word fear occurs hundreds of times in the Bible, it is not always connected with “do not fear.” Try any online Bible search for all of the occurrences of the various ways of saying “do not fear” and you will NOT come up with 366 as nice as that would be!

  4. I think people who are afraid of death do not realise that they are going to a better place when they depart from this world. We are all God’s children and our life on earth is borrowed time. In death we are returning to our heavenly father to be with Him in paradise forever. It can only mean perfect love and happiness . How can we be afraid of a place like that?

  5. A fear I have over come is not feeling worthy enough to be a teacher of the faith for children and now adults at my parish. I would take many of the classes offered by my Diocese but I always took them for my personal enrichment not to become a Catechist. I even took one of the personal evaluations to find out what you would be happy doing in the church with four different groups (youth, seniors, RCIA class, and bible study class). Mine came back each time that I would be happiest washing dishes and stuffing envelopes. But I belong to a small rural church with a visiting priest that cannot always make it for Mass and sometimes our pastoral administrator is out of town at the same time; someone had to lead the services or there wouldn’t be any. It seemed my fellow parishoners looked to me and I looked toward God and said who me, not me I can’t do that. Then I went on a retreat called Come to the Water: Jesus the Fisher of Men (or in my case Woman). It changed my who me, not me to why not me. I am a Master Catechist now looking to start sharing my faith not just in my parish but in my deanery.

  6. Faith in the ressurrection gives us the assurance that death is not the end. Jesus has conquered death, and we have hope in life after death. We need not fear death or despair.

  7. The best way to dispel someone’s fears is to help them to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you can learn to have a conversation with Jesus, you can overcome anything. Sometimes we need to learn to offer up our pains and sufferings in order to be able to carry them. Most of all, we must never lose hope. Jesus went through the most suffering that any human being will ever go through and he still asked that the Father’s will be done. The pain was temporary and his life in heaven, eternal. Thanks to the resurrection, we have that same promise. We can’t wait until we are sick or hurt or dying to develop that relationship with God. You can’t test a relationship that isn’t there. You must learn how to talk to God in good times so that when the bad times come, you’ve already got those lines of communication open and that trust that is needed to get you through. We must pray always; use words if necessary. 🙂

  8. In order to help others with their fears we first need to find out what exactly are they afraid of and why are they afraid. Every fear will be treated differently with the exception of helping that person pray to God for strength the to overcome. All the psychology in the world is great but in the end you need to turn that fear over to God and let him work in you, with you, and for you.

  9. I think people are afraid of death because there is a tremendous trepedation about losing everything they have in their lives. (both people and (“things”) I struggle with my faith when it comes to believing that we will overcome death. I can think of nothing more glorious than one day meeting Jesus and old family and friends when the resurrection comes. I have so much respect for family and friends who belive that there will be another life after this one on earth. I pray for the strength to be stronger in my own beliefs regarding death not being the end.

  10. In my hospital ministry I helped people to overcome their fear by sharing
    my faith with them. Helping them to know that God is with them always.
    They need not be afraid because we believe that Jesus suffered and died so we may have eternal life. They have the gift of God’s Grace to get through
    whatever trials we have in this life.

  11. My greatest fear had always been death. I couldn’t face it, think about it or see it. The ironic thing was that I was in a line of work where death was a part of my everyday experience. I finally faced it when death touched my life personally and I came to realize that God was in the midst of it and if I believed in God and in His Resurrection then I needed to embrace death and all its components. This was a slow process but I no longer fear it. The fear of death is more the fear of the unknown, no one actually knows what’s next. I still wonder about where or when I will see my loved ones again and whether I will recognize them or they will recognize me or even if it matters. What I do know is that Jesus conquered death for us and as children of God we too will conquer it. Knowing that God is there waiting for us helps to alleviate that fear. Until I was able to overcome my own fear I couldn’t help anyone else face their own fear, now I’m just there for those who face death and hopefully my consoling words and the use of scripture will help them to eventually turn to the word of God for solace.

  12. Comparing Jesus’ cross to a trophy is symbolic in that one must have a lot of determination, sweat, tears, & focus to be their absolute best & victorious. A trophy is an award of personal achievement and we are surrounded by the media coverage of the summer olympics which highlight the elite athletes and their medals of glory. Thinking in terms of Jesus’ cross, he suffered so much with carrying it, falling, and then being nailed to it. But we haved been saved from sin through His resurrection and God’s plan. How humble I now feel when comparing Jesus’ cross to a trophy/medal.

  13. I really like that mentioning what you are afraid of and then making the sign of the cross — give it to Him. Will use that in prayer with the teens. Thanks.
    Getting over a fear – I have come to realize what a blessing it has been in journeying now with a few people and being there with them when they died. Not sure why, but have really lost much of any fear of dying. I also have been learning how to become aware of those who have died or as close as a whisper – helping, watching over us, even closer because you don’t have to wait until they wake up in the morning – they are 24/7.

  14. I think people are afraid of death because it is unknown. We don’t know what exactly happens to us. I think they may also fear it because they don wan to leav family friends and the lif ghat they have.

  15. All comments were delightful to read. Thank you all for sharing. As we come to the end of 2012 liturgical year, there are many fears that we shall face. We can just feel them even from reading the Liturgy of the Word. So, let’s replace Fear with Faith, Hope, and Love shall we? Let’s determine to do no matter what. I visit the cemetery often to come at peace with my inevitable death. Give it a try. All your fears, troubles, sufferings, etc. will turn into deep peace that you know that only He can give because He is Peace Himself. God bless everyone, JMJ+

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