The Six Characteristics of the Spirituality of the Catechist

Spirituality of the Catechist: Online Retreat for Catechists

This reflection is part of the Spirituality of the Catechist Online Retreat. Read the overview post here.

“Catechists must have a deep spirituality.”
(Guide for Catechists 6)

One of my favorite Disney movies is Big Hero 6. The story centers around a computer prodigy named Hiro who forms a team of superheroes to combat an evil villain. Along the way, these tiny superheroes realize that while each of them have their own special gifts, they are stronger and more effective when they work together to combat darkness.

As catechists we work together as a community of disciples to share our faith with others. The word catechist comes from the Greek word “to echo.” In order to thrive spiritually and to pass along the faith effectively, we need spiritual practices that will help us convincingly echo Christ today. The Guide for Catechists—issued by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 1993—outlined the six characteristics of the spirituality of the catechist:

  1. Openness to God
  2. Openness to the Church
  3. Openness to the world
  4. Authenticity of life
  5. Missionary zeal
  6. Devotion to Mary

These six characteristics are the “big hero six” of our catechetical ministry. Together they form a tapestry for a catechist’s spiritual life that keeps us nourished so that we can echo Jesus and the teachings of the Catholic Church clearly, lovingly, and enthusiastically. Note that the six characteristics emphasize the words openness, authenticity, zeal (or energy), and devotion. These are the hallmarks of a catechist who will, in the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, “go forth to set the world on fire.”

To set the world on fire, we must be on fire ourselves! You have most likely heard the expressions, “You cannot give what you do not have,” or, “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” This is especially true for us as catechists. Spirituality in general refers to how we relate to and express our love for God. Every person has a spirituality. When you are in a relationship with someone, you take care of that relationship and seek to nourish it. Spirituality is about cultivating a living relationship with the person of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit so that we might come to know and love God and others more fully. In a similar way, catechists are on a spiritual journey where we accompany others on theirs.

Over these next few weeks, these six characteristics will be unpacked in more detail to help you become a more fruitful disciple and catechist. One of the most important things to remember is that we are disciples not of a program but of a person. Speaking at the Jubilee for Catechists in 2016, Pope Francis reminded us that “the Lord is not an idea, but a living person: his message is passed on through simple and authentic testimony, by listening and welcoming, with joy which radiates outward.” This radiating joy emanates from an open and welcoming heart, and it will help us be the light of Christ for those who are struggling.

Being a catechist is a privilege and a delight. And while it can also be frustrating and challenging, it is always rewarding and inspiring. We see minds changed, hearts opened, and lives transformed. Catechists play an indispensable role in the New Evangelization; we are “a hope for the mission of the third millennium” (Guide for Catechists 37).

We are echoes of hope, echoes of love, echoes of truth, and echoes of mercy. What an incredible gift catechists are. Some might even say you are a hero. And in many ways you are!

Tuesday’s post gave us an overview of our retreat by Joe Paprocki. Be sure to read that if you missed it, and take the time to introduce yourself as a retreat participant in the comments of that post or this one.

Subscribe to Catechist’s Journey so you don’t miss any of the posts. This is a free online retreat, brought to you by Loyola Press as part of our ongoing commitment to nurturing the spiritual life of catechists both online and with valuable resources throughout our catechist guides.

About Julianne Stanz 80 Articles
Julianne Stanz is the Director of Outreach for Evangelization and Discipleship at Loyola Press and a consultant to the USCCB Committee on Catechesis and Evangelization. She served previously as Director of Discipleship and Leadership Development for the Diocese of Green Bay. Julianne infuses her talks, retreats, and seminars with humor, passion, and insights from her life in Ireland. A popular speaker, storyteller, and author, Julianne is married with three children and spends her time reading, writing, teaching, and collecting beach glass. She is the author of Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church, Developing Disciples of Christ, Braving the Thin Places, and co-author, with Joe Paprocki, of The Catechist’s Backpack.


  1. Yes, we witness to a person. Jesus true God and true man. What a blessed life we have be being called to this tremendous ministry. We echo what Jesus has taught us with the Father and the power of the holy spirit. We are blessed.

  2. I respectfully disagree: There is but one Hero. We are faithful servants who, by the grace of God, were given the wisdom to answer our particular calling. Catechism is not our work, but the work of the Holy Spirit through us.

    • I think a hero is anyone who exhibits traits that are admirable. The saints are definitely heroes and the Church calls us all to be saints. Jesus is much more than a hero…he is our Savior. A hero is someone who stands just a little taller than the rest of us. Jesus, while becoming one of us, is God…wholly other!

      • Well said, Joe. Describing what saints are to children (or anyone) and how we can be(come) holy ourselves through faithful, loving community, whether it be the Church or another way of living on the same path, makes us all happy. What God created us to be!

  3. Yes Jesus is our hero but we are Jesus on this earth now. We are his hands and feet and speak his words as catechists. I ask for his inspiration through the Holy Spirit before making every lesson. And when a lesson plan deviates, I follow his lead. He always leads!

  4. I think a hero is someone who goes beyond what is expected. God asks us all to become a hero by going a step further in our lives.

  5. “Catechist are on a spiritual journey where we accompany others on theirs”. I like this quote because it reminds me of my call to holiness and to mission.

  6. On 4 impt words in d spirituality of a catechist which are openness, authenticity, zeal and devotion.these help me assess myself as a catechist now.

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