A Week of Gratitude – Joe Paprocki on Touch

This is a guest post by Joe Paprocki.

massageLast year, for the first time in our lives, my wife and I had a “couple’s massage” at a spa while on vacation. It was a one hour full body massage that was sheer bliss! Afterwards, both of us could not thank our masseuses enough for their gift of touch. What’s amazing is how their touch permeates and transcends the physical and massages the spirit, the emotions, and the mind. Not only did our bodies feel relaxed, but so did our minds, hearts, and spirits.

Our Catholic faith teaches us that we are “composite” beings—not a spirit within a body but a spirit and a body that are one. Through physical touch, we come into contact with the spirit of others. I am grateful for those people in my life with whom I share the intimacy that allows for touch, for without it, my very being would be incomplete.

Joe Paprocki is the National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press and has been a religious educator in the Chicago area for more than 30 years. His books include 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness and A Well-Built Faith. Joe blogs about his work as a catechist at Catechist’s Journey.


  1. says

    For me the sense of touch is very important. When I am hugged, I feel healing in my body. Touch is important in many ways but no more so than in a blessing received. I remember very well the blessings received prior to being welcomed into full communion with the Catholic Church. Then on that very special Easter Vigil when I was confirmed I can remember the cross traced with oil on my forehead and the feeling that the Holy Spirit was rushing through my body. The touch of another human being is like a holy blessing – who can ever forget the touch of a child’s hand as she sits on your knee and just strokes your face expressing her comfort at being with you and her love for you. As Joe mentions it is the “gift of touch” with which we are blessed.

  2. says

    So simple, so true – we are embodied and how easy it is to forget that. It is easy to want to flee these bodies for so many reasons – and you have reminded us not to abandon ship so quickly.

    Grace embodied in a fingertip, what an image. Thanks for this Joe.

    Paul and all guest bloggers – thank you for a great week!

  3. Tim says

    …“Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!” Mark 6:2

    A passing touch, a soft hand on the shoulder, a high-spirited high five can quickly and more effectively communicate a broad scope of emotions as opposed to tones of voice, gestures or expressions.

    Have a good weekend everyone, many thanks for the reflections this week…

  4. Kathy says

    Thank you for all the guest posts, it has been quite an inspirational re-awakening to what is around me using my senses.
    Have a Blessed weekend everyone!

  5. Bob says

    I like to think there are actually 8 Sacraments, the 8th being the “Sacrament of Touch.” When new babies are born they need lots of hugging and caressing. When visiting a hospital patient it is always helpful to casually and lovingly touch the persons shoulder or hold their hand. Couples always reach out to touch their partner – one of the most beautiful pictures is of a 60+ year married couple walking together holding hands, just like they did when they were teenagers.
    Have a “touching” and wonderful weekend, everyone!

  6. Tom says

    Joe, a friend of our family is a masseuse. In fact I’m her son’s godfather. When she was getting her license she needed “guinea pigs” to practice her craft and I complied. I discovered then that Heather, who has always been an amazingly kind and caring person, also had the gift of healing touch. Spending an hour under her care indeed does soothe the body, the spirit, the emotions, and the mind. I know I emerge from those sessions being more open, generous, tolerant, accepting, calm, and forgiving. My heart is full of gratitude and love even as my aching back feels spry again. God has often been present in the form of caring touch in my life. I’m glad for our incarnational faith.

  7. Emma says

    I’m one of those people who doesn’t like being touched by a stranger. I don’t like being bumped or patted nor do I enjoy surprise hugs! I don’t mean any disrespect, but I can’t think of anything much worse than spending an hour almost naked while a strange person massages me. Trust first. Loving embraces and touch between spouse, parent and child, friends, yes : but I react very badly, no matter the situation, to strangers putting their hands on me.

  8. Denise J says

    I helped out at the parish this weekend preparing kids for the sacrament of reconciliation, and am finding this conversation linking the sense of touch, the teaching from the Hebrew scriptures that our bodies and our selves are essentially one, and the talk about the sacraments really interesting.

    Touch is such an integral part baptism, confirmation, ordination, the sacrament of the sick, and marriage. And one of the reasons I am so glad that the church allows receiving Eucharist in the hand is for the moment of touch between communicant and minister, which can make that moment much more intense, more personal for me. (Emma — thank you for that reminder that not everyone receiving communion is going to feel the same way I do.) I understand why — but it seems kind of strange and sad to me that human touch is not part of every celebration of reconciliation.

    The person leading the workshop Sunday talked about her preference for her confessor to lay his hands on her head during absolution. I have experienced that a couple of times, and I agree – it makes ne hear and feel the words of absolution more intensely. I also treasure the memory of when I was on a youth retreat, and we spent the day reflecting on the parable of the prodigal son — including a visit to a pig sty. When we went for reconciliation that evening, the priest sat under a tree, and as each of us approached, he got up, met us halfway, and welcomed each of us with a hug, just as the father did when his son returned. (I am pretty sure this particular exercise would not be encouraged or allowed anymore.)

    I am so grateful for all the times I have been forgiven by someone I have hurt, and have known I was forgiven by their hug, or their handshake, or their touch on my arm.

    Thank you all for this week of gratitude leading up to Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to having a feast for all my senses — not just taste! — next week.

    Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. Hope you all get to taste, and see, and hear and smell and feel the goodness of the Lord!

    Denise J

  9. Katy says

    Enjoyed all the posts this week. As quite a tactile person I readily appreciate a hug. I also agree with Emma on the massage front though; that on the odd times I’ve had a massage I can’t say I felt particularly relaxed with a stranger touching my body.
    Looking forward to lots of hugs this weekend from 4yr old Grace.

    Happy weekend one and all.

  10. says

    I am a very touchy feely person…so massages are a very welcome experience but I have grown into that. I am drawn in by touch to the point that sometimes I don’t feel I have fully engaged a person who I haven’t touched. For example, I have been looking forward to meeting a friends new baby, but I have a bad cold and could only kiss her via a touch of her forehead. I felt completely jipped. She is so precious.

    But, I know that there are many people who aren’t like that. I try very hard to respect boundaries because even though I do love being touched, I don’t want it to be by just anyone. I also have a problem when just anyone touches my children. But it is like Emma said, trust first.

    Today, I spent the morning with a 12 yr old boy who has issues with touch, he just needs his space. It would be completely counter-productive if I were to expect him to engage in that way but he connects with his eyes, he has very direct eye contact when he is attentive to someone. It is almost like being touched.

    This post reminds me that touch is so powerful, it can either leave you wanting more as with the massage or a baby’s cuddle or it can leave you bruised and scared to experience it again. Thank you for the food for thought.

  11. Carol says

    Thanks to everyone for this week.
    The posts were so helpful, in addition all the comments=
    Inspiring, thought provoking, and inviting.

    Have a good weekend everyone.

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