The Catholic Hero's Journey

"The Catholic Hero's Journey" by Kayla Knaack (

Pixabay (2015), CC0 Public Domain

This November I decided to go out on a limb and try something new: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).

The goal: 50,000 words in 30 days.

The challenges: usual kid/job responsibilities, gun-hunting season taking hubby out of the equation, Thanksgiving break.

I knew if I were going to be successful I would have to plan ahead, so back in October I began to learn about novel plot structures. There are so many options! Three-Act Structure, Five-Act Structure, Save the Cat, Twenty-Seven Chapter, etc, but what appealed to me most was the Hero’s Journey.

Hero’s Journey is a structure popularized by Joseph Cambell with the 1949 book Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he applied the structure to many ancient myths and world religions, including Christianity. In fact, C.S. Lewis lauded the Hero’s Journey, asserting that Christ is the fulfillment of the stories written in our hearts.

Here’s the basic structure applied to Jesus’s life:

  1. THE ORDINARY WORLD: The world before the Incarnation.
  2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE: The Incarnation.
  3. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR: Jesus meets John the Baptist in the Jordan and is baptized. The Holy Spirit descends and God announces that Jesus is His Son. His *baptism foretells the baptism of the Holy Spirit as opposed to John’s baptism of repentance.
  4. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD: Jesus immediately goes into the dessert to prepare for his public ministry.
  5. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES: (The bulk of the journey) Jesus is tempted in the dessert, He gathers apostles and disciples, they perform many miracles starting with the miracle at Cana which sanctifies *marriage, they perform *anointing of the sick, Pharisees and Sadducees debate with Him.
  6. THE ORDEAL: (a turning point) Jesus faces his antagonist (death) and raises Lazarus.
  7. THE REWARD: People cheer Hosanna as Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. At the Last Supper Jesus institutes the *priesthood and the *Eucharist.
  8. THE ROAD BACK: The Passion, Jesus must face death head on.
  9. THE RESURRECTION. (climax) The Resurrection, duh. Jesus conquers death.
  10. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR. Jesus returns and breathes the Holy Spirit to the apostles, which they will later pass along through Pentecost and the laying on of hands in *confirmation. In the next line, He gives them to power to *forgive sins.

*Note, the institution of all seven sacraments are integral parts of His journey.

So then I got to thinking: if we are called to follow Jesus, how can our lives as Catholics follow the Hero’s Journey road map? Certainly we are all born into the ordinary world with original sin. Our call to adventure is our baptism. Meeting with the mentor is our catechesis. In confirmation we cross the threshold when we are sealed with the Holy Spirit and sent off into the world as soldiers for Christ.

Sadly, for many Catholics the journey stops there.

We become disillusioned by the trials of our lives, strained relationships, financial hardship, health struggles. But the reality is that all of these difficulties are part of the “tests, allies and enemies” segment of our lives, preparing us to meet our purpose.

If we just stay the course, learning from our tests, leaning on our allies, rebuking our enemies, and relying on the sacraments, we may find ourselves approaching a turning point. This is the ordeal, where our life’s purpose will be revealed. As Christians, it is likely to come in the form of a cross, but His yoke is easy and His burden light. If we carry this on the road back, we can meet our ultimate climax of the resurrection, and go on to receive the elixir of eternal life.

As the saying goes, you are the hero of your own story.

Where are you in the journey?

Copyright 2017 Kayla Knaack


About Author

Kayla is a Wisconsin mom clinging to faith and humor as she stumbles through life. She and her husband are raising their three kids in a century farmhouse while also building their family business, Pigeon River Brewery. She blogs at Grab a beer and join her!


  1. Good for you, Kayla. There is a richness to this treasure trove of Our faith that is unlimited! How did your writing go? Are you a member of the Catholic Writers Guild? Seems to be right up your alley. We need your unique insight infused in the culture of literature.

    • Hi Susan! I have been a Catholic Writer’s Guild member for about a year now. I attended parts of their online conference last year, and hope to make it to a live conference in the future. Great group!

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