Catholic Identity? It’s in the W.A.T.E.R.

This coming Monday (April 29) is my last evening with the 6th graders. Following the closing Mass in church, I should have about 20 minutes left with them and I plan to use that time to send the kids off with something concrete about how to live out their faith as a Catholic.

First, I’m going to show them some images of Chinese artist Liu Bolin who is known for his “Invisible Man” images in which he literally paints himself so as to completely blend in with his surroundings.  [Image by TED Conference under CC license]

liu bolin art hi res hide in the city china camouflage painting (24)

I will use these images to illustrate the point that, in many ways, we all try to conform and, while it is good to conform to  positive things, we sometimes conform to things that are not good for us. As Catholics – as followers of Jesus – we are called to stand out!

With that in mind, I’m going to share 5 ways that we Catholics are called to stand out – 5 characteristics of Catholic identity – that they can practice in their day to day lives. And where do we find this Catholic identity? It’s in the W.A.T.E.R.

When we are baptized in the waters of Baptism, we Catholics are equipped with the following.

We have a(n)…

  • W – Way about ourselves. We treat all human persons with respect and perform works of mercy because we recognize that ll people have inherent dignity.
  • A – Attitude of gratitude. Our belief in the Resurrection removes all fear and fills us with hope and gratitude to share with others, especially those in despair.
  • T – Team that we belong to. We are never alone. We have the Church and the Communion of Saints with us at all times and in all places.
  • E – form of Expression that is unique. We express our understanding of the mystery of God using more than words – we use sign, symbol, and ritual.
  • R – Resources that support our faith. We have Scripture and Tradition which equip us to understand, explain, and share our faith.

(by the way, these 5 characteristics of Catholic identity are drawn from my book, Practice Makes Catholic! The W.A.T.E.R. acronym does not appear in that book…I just thought it up for my 6th graders!)

To help them remember this, I am going to present them each with a bottle of holy water on the backs of which I will paste a small piece of paper (laminated) with the W.A.T.E.R. acronym identified and described as above.

I should have just enough time to go over each of the 5 characteristics and offer examples for each before we say our tearful goodbyes! 😉

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. Happy Day to you, Joe.
    I am one of the many folks who draw humor, encouragement, strength, joy and GREAT ideas from the blog. Thank you.
    For the last three nights I have facilitated an AFF group in one of our parishes on a journey with “A Well-Built Faith.” I know you are three or four books forward of that title – but just to let you know: it works! Of all the resources I use for AFF/post-RCIA/parent engagement/Catholic Basics – “Well-Built” is most well received. Again – thanks for sharing the gift.
    Stef McNeill, Director of AFF, Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee

    • Stef, thanks so much for the great feedback! It does my heart good to know that AWBF is working so well for AFF!

  2. thank you so much for the really cool idea–we may just use it in our 7th grade Retreat–the Holy Water would be a fantastic take-home favor! I appreciate all the info and support you give all catechists–parish and in schools–through this blog. Go, Joe!

  3. For my last class I shall teach the kids to sing the “Amen” song as sung by Sidney Poitier in the movie “Lilies of the Field”. I try to include one music themed class each year. I’ll show them the scene in the movie where “Homer Smith” teaches the German nuns the song, and then we’ll see how we do in our rendition!

    Thanks Joe for your motivating blog entries, they helped me in my journey as a teacher this year.

  4. Joe-We used this lesson during our Confirmation retreat last week and it was a HUGE HIT with our rising 9th graders. It was part of our final presentation of the day and the images of Liu Bolin grabbed the kids immediately even though it was 2:00 PM. That speaks volumes! We had parent volunteers prep the holy water bottles ahead of time (but we didn’t fill them because we worried about “holy water battles” on the bus ride back to the parish) and we suggested that the candidates bring them to Mass that weekend to fill them. We closed with a renewal of baptismal promises and had everyone come forward to bless themselves with holy water that we had on the prayer table. The Catholic Identity presentation earned very high marks from the students on our feedback sheet. It has a guaranteed spot in all future retreats. Thanks so much for sharing your creative lessons. We love them! ~The Sacramental Prep Team

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.