During Advent, To Reconcile All Things featured a weekly reflection on preparing for the coming of our Lord, written by a young adult in the YCDM (Young Catholics of the Diocese of Des Moines) community. This fourth reflection comes as the Christmas season winds down, in order to help you carry the joy of Our Lord’s Incarnation into Ordinary Time and beyond. Enjoy!
As we enjoy the last week of the liturgical season of Christmas and prepare to enter back into Ordinary Time, we continue to celebrate the gift of Jesus. During December it was easy to feel close to Christ: we sang about Him with famous artists on the radio, witnessed His illuminated presence in nativities along our streets, and pondered His ultimate sacrifice as we twirled candy canes in our hot chocolate. Christ feels close during the Advent season and Christmas celebrations, but once the songs start changing, the lights get put away, and the candies vanish from sight it’s hard to hold onto the Christmas spirit.
It isn’t supposed to be that way, though, so I’m going to share some insights on how to keep the Christmas spirit alive all year long. Now don’t panic, it’s not going to be some extravagant formula or rigorous spiritual routine. It is a personalized approach: the development of a loving relationship between a child and their Father.
Many of us know Christ gave His life so we could be unified with the Father. But few of us realize the Holy Spirit is given to us so we can cultivate that relationship. We are sons and daughters of God! Stop right now and take a moment to consider what that means for you. What does a loving relationship between a Father and his child look like?
“Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”
(Galatians 4:6, RSVCE)
Each of you will answer that question differently and that is part of God’s plan. He created the whole universe and in it we can see the uniqueness of each flower and the vast differences between mountains. It is in this uniqueness that He also created each of us. Sometimes we think there is one perfect formula for connecting with God and only one way in which we can have a relationship with Him, but that’s not the case. He created us to be unique and therefore we all connect in unique ways to our Father.
Some of us share similar ways to connect with God, while others connect with God in vastly different ways. Gary Thomas’s book, Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God, outlines nine human temperaments that affect the ways in which we best communicate with God. Knowing your temperament will help you connect with God as you focus more on how you were personally created to hear His voice.
- Naturalists: These people connect best through being in nature: hiking, camping, hunting/fishing, etc., as they believe nature clearly points to a Creator. Some examples are Saint Francis of Assisi, King Solomon, Saint Augustine, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. And don’t forget many of Jesus’ apostles were fishermen!
- Sensates: These people connect best through their senses: incense, intricate architecture, communion, adoration, rosaries, etc. Some examples are Peter walking on water, Thomas feeling Christ’s wounds, the Biblical woman who touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed of her bleeding, and interest in objects such as the Shroud of Turin.
- Traditionalists: These people connect best through ritual and structure: the history and traditions of the Church, liturgy of the hours or divine office, rosary, Latin mass etc. Some examples include Pope Benedict XVI as well as actors Bill Murray and Zac Mabry (of The Little Rascals fame, by the way) in his podcast the Roman Circus.
- Ascetics: These people connect best through solitude and simplicity: silent retreats, isolated monasteries or convents, adoration, etc. Some examples include Saint John the Silent, and the Carmelite, Benedictine, and Trappist orders.
- Activists: These people connect best through defending or protecting the faith: social justice activists, defenders of the faith, Christian lobbyists, apologists etc. Some examples include Moses, Nehemiah, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, G.K. Chesterton, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Pope Francis.
- Caregivers: These people connect best by serving others: volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the homebound, teaching Sunday school or RE, etc. Some examples include Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Mary Mother of God, St. Martha, and Pope Francis.
- Enthusiasts: These people connect best through mystery and celebration: singing praises, dancing to the Lord, enjoying Christian concerts or praise nights, miracles, healings, etc. This isn’t necessarily a constant disposition but can be an inspired moment of praise to the Lord. Some examples are Mary’s Magnificat, Elizabeth greeting the pregnant Virgin Mary, King David’s praises in the Psalms, people who witnessed healings and miracles in the Bible, and worship leaders such as Matt Maher.
- Contemplatives: These people connect best through inner reflection: imaginative prayer, adoration, intercession, lectio divina, etc. Some examples include Mary the Mother of God, Mary Magdalene, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Thèrése of Lisieux, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and A.W. Tozer in his “The Pursuit of God.”
- Intellectuals: These people connect best through studying God and the Scriptures: Bible studies, Christian education, Catechetical Institute, understanding doctrine and theology. Some examples include the Apostle Paul, Saint John of Damascus, Saint Augustine of Hippo, and C.S. Lewis.
One of my primary ways of connecting with God is through nature. I love exploring and inviting God to open my eyes to His glory around me. I see Him in the soft blowing wind, the radiant sunset, the fire red fall leaves, and the gently falling snow. Nature leads me into a state of awe and wonder of the Creator. I agree wholeheartedly with King David when he exclaimed, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).
You may connect differently with God than others close to you and that’s okay! Just as an earthly father communicates differently with a teenage son than he would a five-year-old daughter, our Heavenly Father communicates with us based on our individual temperaments. This shows His personalized love to you as His child that He would speak to you in the way you best know and understand. He is not a one-size-fits-all God. He is a Father who wants a personal, loving relationship with you!
Take some time to think and pray about the sacred pathways and examples given above. Which ones resonated with you? This week try to focus on those as your primary ways of connecting and see if you feel more in tune with God. If you aren’t sure, do not get discouraged: the Lord promises we will hear Him when He says, “my sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27). It may take time but do not give up, keep seeking Him–it will be worth it!
Amanda is a nurse in Des Moines, attends St. Theresa’s parish, and is a Catholic faith blogger at https://www.lightonmission.com. Her passion is to help others develop a personal relationship with Christ through discipleship and faith formation.