Building a Personal Relationship with Christ
March 2012 — Vol. 1, Issue 5
Fr. Jim Gallagher, C.S.C.
“The most important thing in the journey toward the priesthood and during the whole priestly life is a personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ.”
Pope Benedict XVI wrote these words in a letter to seminarians on the occasion of the close of the Year of the Priest. Here he points to a reality that is not only at the heart of the call to and the ministry of the priesthood but that of the religious life as well. The call comes from the Lord, the work is the Lord’s, and the Lord sustains us in it.
It is a truth that is echoed in the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross: “‘Come, follow me.’ It was the Lord Jesus calling us.” Because of our Baptism we were already disciples of Christ. Yet we heard a call to take a further step; to give over our lives to Him in a more explicit way.”
For many of us in Holy Cross, this call did not come through a clear, undeniable sign. It came through snippets of conversation, through a rising desire in our hearts, through a sense that God had something more in store for us. As well, we followed this call not because we had come to a perfect knowledge of Christ; rather it was our desire to grow in our relationship with the Lord that led us to Holy Cross.
For this reason, the best piece of advice that we can give to anyone who is wondering how they are being called is to seek out ways to draw closer to the Lord. If it is the Lord’s call that you seek, draw close to Him. As you draw close to the Lord, the little sign posts along the way stand out a bit more, the relationship that will sustain you along the way is developed, and you give the One with the answers to your questions the opportunity to speak to you.
The Sacraments are profound moments of encounter with Christ. As you make a regular practice of participating in the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, you grow in your relationship with the Lord. This relationship also grows through time in prayer, time with Scripture, time with devotions. As with any relationship, your relationship with the Lord will grow by spending time with Him.
It is also important to remember that Christ made it clear that He is there when we reach out to our brothers and sisters in need. Spending time serving others is always a wonderful way to place yourself in the Lord’s presence. Through these and other ways there are plenty of opportunities to draw close to the Lord. The key is to see the need and to make the time.
Growing in your relationship with the Lord is something that is going to take time. Don’t try to add four or five new things to your schedule right off the bat. Find one or two ways to increase your efforts to draw close to the Lord. Then take the time to let them settle into your routine before looking for more that you can do. Growing in your relationship with the Lord is a lifelong journey, so be patient with it.
As well it is important to remember that you need not wait until you have the deep personal relationship with the Lord that you desire before taking the next step in your discernment. Discernment is a part of the process of entering more fully into one’s relationship with Christ. To answer the call is to take the next step in following Him.
The step toward entering a formation program is not one that comes when you are at the end of your journey with the Lord. It is one that you take when you are ready to enter more deeply into the process of growing close to the Lord. For many the religious life and the seminary give the sort of structure and encouragement that helps men grow in their relationship with the Lord in the ways that they are most in need of growth.
As Christians our vocation is the path that will lead us to be more fully conformed to Christ. We discern that vocation by drawing near to the Lord. We take up that vocation by taking the path that leads us to the Lord.
Prayer from the Tradition
Enter your email address to receive our monthly discernment e-newsletter: