How Not Working on Your Catechesis Can Make You a Better Catechist

I really enjoyed this article by Michael Hyatt called The Four Disciplines of the Heart and wanted to share it.

In this article, Hyatt talks about the need we all have to step back and take some time to recharge.

This is something I’m not always good at so it really spoke to me.

Hyatt outlines four ways or “disciplines” that allow you to do that.

They are:

  • The Discipline of Reflection
  • The Discipline of Rest
  • The Discipline of Recreation
  • The Discipline of Relationships

What are the four disciplines?

Reflection is basically biblical prayer. Reading and reflecting on God’s word and allowing it to penetrate your heart. Doing this gives you creative insight and improves your teaching.

Rest is just that–rest. Taking time to just do something else. I like to just play with my kids and forget about the computer and email for awhile.

Recreation is more than amusement Hyatt says. It’s activity that allow you to create something and express yourself. Painting, writing, and baking are some ideas for this. I think a lot of people get this from gardening as well.

I like to think of recreation as re-creation–doing something that allows you to get in touch with yourself and what’s going on inside you. It helps to renew you and make you whole again.

And finally, relationships. This is simply connecting with people you know, like, and love on a deeper level. This can be re-creative in itself I think.

Social media relationships are fun, but nothing beats a deep theological discussion with a friend. It’s very energizing!

Why is this important for catechists?

I think it’s important for catechists to step back and take some time to refocus.

Volunteer catechists usually work full-time or have full-time duties in the home. Then, there’s the catechetical duties on top of that. It can be a lot!

You might think you don’t have time to step back. You may be tempted to skip that and go right into the lesson planning.

However, your work for the Lord can not run on your own power or ingenuity. It has to be powered by the Lord.

You can’t be an effective catechist without regular prayer. You need that–and the Church needs you to be a catechist!

Why is this important for catechetical leaders?

For catechetical leaders, this is extremely important.

Often in lay ministry, the line between personal and ministry is blurry. There’s always something to do and too few people to do it.

You feel guilty not giving more of yourself. It feels selfish if you don’t attend every function.

But for leaders it’s even more important to rest and re-create! If you don’t, you’ll burn out.

Catechetical takeaway

I think the most important of all these disciplines is prayer.

Prayer is the force multiplier discipline because it has the ability to accomplish the other three as well.

It seems like a waste of time when you’re busy and strapped for time. However, you need that spiritual energy to flow into you before you can give it out to your students.

“The soul of an apostle–it should be flooded first of all with light, and inflamed with love, so that, reflecting that light and heat, it may enlighten and give warmth to other souls as well.”

The Soul of the Apostolate

I’m writing this post as much for myself as for you. I need to continually be reminded of this myself. I have the tendency to neglect prayer to work, work, work. But that’s a recipe for failure.

These four disciplines, and especially reflection or prayer, are key to being filled with God’s light and love to in turn radiate it in your catechesis.

Take some time to work these into your schedule. You’ll see how not working on catechesis can actually make you a better catechist.

Image: Dynamite Imagery /


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  1. Yes. Effective preparation has to extend beyond being familiar with the contents of the textbook.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      So true, and so hard for me to do sometimes. I mean I know it intellectually, but in practice it’s a bit trickier to get down. I guess it’s just discipline, which is what 90% of life comes down to I think. You have to consciously make it part of your schedule. But knowing that it’s really important helps you do that I think.

  2. I know that sometimes I get so bogged down in blogging, writing, and reading “Catholic stuff” that I get a bit of tunnel vision. I think this is a really good post and needs to be said.

    Living your life, leisure, and happiness all contribute to a good catechist. The faith must be lived… otherwise it is taught in a static and sterile way.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Hey Joseph! That’s exactly it I think! We get productivity tunnel vision. I get so caught up in producing that I forget who I’m producing for. Social media doesn’t help with that either…as you well know.

      I think it’s a good point too that the tunnel vision gives you a sterile sort of catechesis. It’s not animated by your passions and interests. It just gets rote. One of the best ways to get creative in your catechesis is to inject interests outside Catholicism and catechesis into your teaching. It’s great for analogies and stories.

      Thanks for commenting.

  3. You are great about aiming to keep prayer at the focus of your ministry! I always appreciate you connecting the need to pray and live in relationship with Christ with the ministry of evangelization and catechesis.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Thanks William! I believe it is a very important part but I also think it’s the most neglected part. I think we have to keep plugging that one.

      • KEWL no more studies hehe. Seriously your point is well taken. Sometimes I feel so duty bound that I am exactly that–BOUND. And I am pretty sure that does not give people in my life the sense of my “joy in the Lord” does it? I say go to daily Mass and pray that Rosary, do some good strong reading, and then finish off by watching “Walking Dead” or go listen to some good live jazz. To me that is a good day. Strange how we need it all, and how it all fits together. But we do, and it does. Great post!

        • Marc Cardaronella says:

          All work and no play makes Jack a dull catechist huh? 😉

          I think you’re right Richard, it is strange how we need it all and how it all fits together, even things that are seemingly unrelated. I read an article on Copyblogger that said the best way to be creative in your field is to read tons of stuff outside your field. He called it the “Crossroads Effect” when seemingly unrelated things come together to enhance something else. I think that’s really true.

          Thanks for the comment!

          • “seemingly unrelated things come together to enhance something else”

            Yes. It’s remarkable how often I can use something out of the newspaper in class to reinforce teaching. E.g., just last week we reviewed the story of David & Bathsheba by discussing a letter in Dear Abby.

          • Marc Cardaronella says:

            Exactly it!

          • The Dear Abby bit in case anyone is curious:

            DEAR ABBY: I have seen many letters in your column from men who are conflicted about being attracted to a person other than their spouse.

            I handle it by calling it “art appreciation.” In a museum you can’t touch the art but only admire it from a distance. I, too, enjoy the “view” without getting too close. It has served me well because it allows me to fantasize without getting into trouble. — “MUSEUM-GOER” IN CAMPBELL, CALIF.

            DEAR “MUSEUM-GOER”: While this technique may work for you, I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone because many wives pick up on those “art appreciation” vibes and feel disrespected or threatened when their husbands stare at other women. I remember that this subject has been raised at least once in the Bible. If King David hadn’t spent so much time enjoying the view from his rooftop, Bathsheba’s husband would have died a natural death.

          • Marc Cardaronella says:

            Oh yeah, that kind of art appreciation could get dangerous. 😉

  4. This is great, Marc! Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  5. “…it’s even more important to rest and re-create! If you don’t, you’ll burn out.”

    Unfortunately, “no” may be the most important words a volunteer can learn to say.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      You got that right! It’s so hard for catechetical leaders to fill positions sometimes that they go to the same people they know will help. But that’s really not a good strategy because volunteers get used up. I try to treat my volunteers very well, always let them know that I appreciate them, and give them too many jobs. It limits what can get done but it’s much better in the long run. People stay with me longer and enjoy themselves more.

  6. Excellent points, especially for leaders in catechetics and ministry. Each of us only has so much “creative fuel” and we need to develop disciplines in our life that will foster the creative process. Check out for more on this. One of AC’s key points is that in order to thrive in a create-on-demand world, we need to begin “far upstream” from when we need that creative idea.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Hi Jim! Great to hear from you again! It’s been a while.

      That makes a lot of sense to begin “upstream.” It’s very difficult to just pop something creative out. I have a tough time with that too. I find ideas need to “gestate” to really work. So it does help to cultivate an idea slowly before having to make work. I think that’s what having rest and reflection time does for you too. Your creative brain only really works well when it’s turned off for a bit or engaged in other kinds of activities. Sometimes rest can give you a ton of productivity and ideas. That’s why you always remember to do’s you forgot when you’re not at a place to write them down. 😉 I always get great ideas in the shower too.

      Thanks for the comments.

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