Do Catholics Have a Personal Relationship With Jesus?

In the combox a reader asks,

Father, regarding your reference to the “personal relationship with Jesus” that evangelicals emphasize … what is that? I hear that a lot in Catholic circles now also … but I have never seen it explained. How does one recognize that experience or how does it feel? The evangelicals seem to mean a type of emotional experience … which I am grateful to the Catholics not to be under that obligation of emotionality … but what am I missing?

For the Evangelical Protestant the “personal relationship with Jesus” means first of all, having a conversion experience in which you repent of your sins and ask Christ to save you. This is called “getting saved” or “asking Jesus into your heart” or “being born again” or “accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior”. However, “having a personal relation

ship with Jesus” also means living the Christian life, being filled with the Holy Spirit, learning to pray, to give sacrificially, to love others and seek to be transformed into the image and likeness of  Christ.

There is nothing wrong with this as such, at it’s heart this sort of conversion experience and life in Christ is also at the heart of what it means to be a Catholic. However, for a Catholic there is also much more to it. Read more.

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  • Jonathan Cariveau

    Father, I really like your answer. One thing I would also say to Confused, though, is that thinking of the Church as not requiring an emotionally ardent love (if that’s what he means by “emotional requirement”) for Jesus Christ as Divine Spouse and Spiritual Lover is, well, not true in my opinion, and that misunderstanding leads some Catholics to ignore this aspect of the marriage to Jesus Christ. Evangelicals *do* understand this aspect better than many Catholic laity often do, either because they associate as a “Protestant thing,” or for other reasons, or simply for spiritual apathy.

    The fact is that the Church calls us to become Saints, plain and simple. The Saints were, if possible, *more* zealous, more passionate, and more in love with Jesus Christ than even the Protestant tries to be, only in the context of the Sacramental Life of the Church. If we are truly serious about becoming Saints, we should actively desire and actively work to fan up the flame of the Holy Spirit’s passion, power, and life in our hearts through piety and stimulating the religious zeal and divine love for Jesus Christ that is so latent and dormant in some Christians of *every* Church or ecclesial community, including many Catholics. Seeing as the Church calls us, every layman and woman, to strive for Sainthood, we must endeavor to experience Jesus Christ as personal lover more and more, solemnly and joyously, most preeminently in the Holy Eucharist where we must recall that He unites us to Himself in marital perfection and beautiful love every time we partake of Him, but also experiencing the fire of His Spirit in every circumstance of our lives.

    That is what I would tell Confused. It isn’t unnecessary, it is not something the Church does not oblige on the faithful, heck, it isn’t *even* an obligation at all – it’s spiritual and physical marital union with a Divine Lover, the Holy and Triune God, in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Virgin made Church. No Catholic has a pass from pursuing this ardently, and yes, as in every marriage, dry spells will come. But that’s no excuse from praying, exciting religious piety and zeal, and sincerely asking Jesus Christ to come by His Eucharistic Presence and by His Spirit to stir the heart to greater and more ardent and flaming love for God and man. Faith and Reason are ultimately predicated to ardent Love, the very Nature of God, and Love is available to us – He became flesh to unite Himself to us.

  • Jonathan Cariveau

    All of that, of course, is dead if not united to works of love. A love that does not work, toiling under the burden of the Cross patterned after Christ’s own and united to it, is no love at all.

  • jedesto

    ” Every time we go to confession we go down on our knees, repent of our sins and accept the forgiveness of Jesus Christ and vow on to sin again.”
    Father! Surely you mean that we vow NOT to sin again.

  • veritas

    Tomorrow I am going to walk up to the altar rail at my Cathedral and receive Jesus into my mouth, from there into my whole body.
    I do this every week, sometimes several times in a week. I can’t imagine a more intimate way of receiving Jesus, my Lord and Saviour. Nor can I imagine a more personal relationship.

    “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you…” John 6.

    This is a command of Our Lord. But what a command! He is commanding us to let Him come into our lives so intimately that we actually eat Him!! He actually physically enters into every cell of our body. He actually becomes part of the nourishment that makes our body live.

    But that’s just for starters. He also enters our souls to lead us to eternal life.

    This is so awesome that perhaps that is why Protestants just can’t accept it and have to look for something else – a nice “feeling” perhaps.

  • Susan

    If you can’t imagine then you have never experience it… I have been a catholic for more than 50 years ..missing mass only 3 times in my life, have received all of my sacraments except holy order . But truly knowing Him as my personal savior for the past 25 years has brought all of the above to life knowing his word is truly alive and His Spirit really does lead me in to all truths . Knowing him not only in his true presents in the Eucharist and as the one true God but also as my friend ,counselor ,redeemer ,my joy and reason for being and to finally realize what it means-to be my savior that He love me that much that he would lay aside His deity and become one of us , suffered, die and was buried and ROSE AGAIN just so I could spend eternity with Him and that he hears me when I pray and speak to me thru his word and will never leave or forsake me no matter what the situation may be .. To know all thing work together for my good ,that is just awesome ..and I am more in love with Him now than when I first begun this incredible journey. Emotional yes but wonderful is more the word