When people hear the idea of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they often believe that this is something foreign to Catholicism. Along these lines, some believe that the more spontaneous kind of exchange implied in such language is more a hallmark of Evangelical Christianity whereas Catholicism is more concerned with ritual and structure. After all, in Catholicism our relationship with God is grounded in a sacramental economy. In this way, the communion between the human person and God is initiated and mediated by the Church. Although personal prayer is certainly an aspect of Catholic spirituality, the main emphasis is on the sacraments.
Such a viewpoint is correct, but also limited. It is true that our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is established through the sacraments. This reality is often expressed in language that might seem foreign to contemporary audiences. As unique and different as ideas such as “ontology” and “metaphysics” may seem, they all point to reality that is simple enough to understand. Our relationship with God is a reality that penetrates deeper than the limits of our intellect, our sentiments, and even the desires of our heart. This reality penetrates the depths of who and what we are.
This does not mean, however, that we are not to cultivate the more subjective elements of intimacy with Jesus Christ. Although the objective reality is given through the mediation of the sacraments, our subjective awareness of this reality must grow and mature. We receive the total gift of God’s divine life every time we receive the Eucharist in a state of grace, but that does not automatically translate into the intimacy which is a hallmark of the saints. Through our friendship with other Catholics and our private prayer, we must cultivate the stillness that helps us enter into the mystery of God’s love.
To help foster a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we must learn to receive the incredible gift we are given through the sacraments. This receptivity is fostered and nurtured by bonds of intimacy with God and neighbor. Most people can accept the idea of personal prayer, but many fail to see that there is an intrinsic connection between our relationship with God and with our neighbor. In this way, the command to love God and neighbor is one interconnected mystery of communion. The two cannot be separated.
Great work is being done to help Catholics develop this subject awareness of Christ’s love. On this website, I hope to provide tools to help believers to develop a daily practice of private meditation. In addition, the evangelization efforts of folks such as Sherry Weddell (author of Forming Intentional Disciples) and Brandon Vogt (http://brandonvogt.com/) are helping Catholics to connect with their faith in new and exciting ways. I encourage you to look into their efforts and use their insights to form strong bonds within your local community.