This is the time of year we gather together as family to celebrate Christmas and enjoy time with family and friends. We often find ourselves telling stories of how things were in the years past. These are the shared memories we cherish and wish to pass on to the younger generation; times of Christmas celebrations from years back, who was there and what stories were shared in those past gatherings. These stories are an important aspect of who we are and how we remember family members and our time together.
We also have the shared story from the Bible; the important history of Jesus’ birth, those who took notice of this important event and what actions these people played in announcing the Saviors’ entry into human time. Today we hear the story of the magi and how they diligently sought the newborn King. These are our stories; the stories we have heard since our youth and pass on to our children and grandchildren. We pass these stories on because they too are an important aspect of who we are.
But in spite of our shared stories there are many Catholics who do not believe God is a being we can have a personal relationship with. In our “Catholic Life” magazine from the Diocese of LaCrosse I read an article titled “It’s all about relationship”. In this article the author states that only about 60 percent of Catholics believe in a personal God. That is a God we can have a personal relationship with, one with whom we can share our life’s struggles and joys, one we can speak with in prayer, one who answers us by the gift of the Holy Spirit who sometimes places ideas and inspirations within our minds and enlightens us.
I recently heard from a fellow deacon that the diocese he serves invited a pastor from a non-denominational church to provide that diocese with reasons Catholics leave the Church. One of the main reasons he cited was that we as Catholics form our members in the faith but we don’t relate this well to a relationship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We provide the “head knowledge” but not the “heart knowledge”, or the ability to form a relationship. As a member of the clergy of the Catholic Church I found this disturbing, yet when I reflected on this, I acknowledged perhaps there is truth to this. Sometimes when we see our shortcomings it grieves us to acknowledge that we can do better. As a deacon, we received formation to learn the “head knowledge”, but not to the extent our priests are formed. They certainly work hard to learn our faith to a deeper level of understanding. This has always been something that I felt was an area of personal weakness for me, that I did not possess the level of understanding to delve into the deep teachings of our faith. Yet after hearing of this lack of relationship we Catholics have I have re-evaluated what it means to serve the people of God. I believe each of us are called to have a relationship with God that bears fruit. One where we know God intimately and personally, knowing in the depths of our hearts that He loves us unconditionally. Each of us has a story of our relationship with God, how He has touched our lives, and we need to tell others about it. This is how our story continues. This is what being a Catholic is really all about. Without this personal relationship our faith is a story without true meaning, so open yourself to God and start your relationship!