Boosting your relationship with the Holy Trinity

You cross yourself and begin to pray. But then you realize that not only Jesus, but also the Father and the Holy Spirit are God. And you don’t know who to pray to or how to pray because you don’t want to make any of them feel neglected. What do you do?

Luckily enough, Christians have asked themselves how the fact that God is One in three persons affects the way he relates to us and how we relate to him.

But the first thing we must take into account is that when it comes to having a relationship with God, it’s not about a competition of who gets more attention.

“The persons of the Trinity are one God, so you don’t have to worry about neglecting one or the other—the Holy Spirit, for example, never feels forgotten,” said Father Daniel Barron, director of spiritual formation at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary.

Father Barron especially called to mind the passage in which Phillip asks Jesus to show his disciples the Father, “and that will be enough.” And Jesus scolds him: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:8-9).

That, however, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek a unique relationship with each one.

“Still, it gives God great honor and glory that we really know and love Him as He is: three distinct persons,” Father Barron continued. “God reveals himself to us as Love—not a solitary monad far away, but an inseparable community who desires to draw us into that union.”

A way to do this is to practice the “triple colloquy” that St. Ignatius of Loyola suggests in his Spiritual Exercises, he said.

A colloquy is an intimate conversation which the saint recommends at the end of each meditation and is to be done with a transparent heart, without a fear of showing affection. He suggests a “triple colloquy,” by speaking with each person of the Holy Trinity.

“As one begins to pray this colloquy, one begins to experience that there is a distinct relationship that develops with each of the persons of the Trinity. It’s difficult to put into words, however, and perhaps unique to each person,” Father Barron said. “Still, when we open our hearts to God, he opens his heart to us. We can even trust that God is working in and through our imagination to reply. Don’t be afraid to listen and let the Lord speak!”

In the process to grow in relationship to the triune God, however, there is much that may need purification and healing.

“Perhaps the biggest obstacle to a deepening relationship with the Trinity is emotional pain. Wounds from our human relationships can keep us locked down in spirit and unable to open up to the love of God,” Father Barron said.

“If a person feels like emotional pain is keeping him/her from intimacy with God, the first step to healing is going to prayer and telling Jesus the whole story of the hurt… It’s even good to ask Jesus where he was when this happened and why he allowed it,” he said. “As you pray this way more and more, you gradually realize—in faith—that you are not talking to yourself and that you are not alone. If you are not alone, it doesn’t hurt so bad. The more frequently you let Jesus see your wounds, the more quickly his wounds will heal yours.”

COMING UP: Nothing about us without us

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

The slogan “Nothing about us without us” was used by Solidarity in the 1980s in Poland, borrowing a royal motto from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the mid-second millennium. Then, it was expressed in Latin: Nihil de nobis sine nobis. Later, it appeared in Polish on the banners of 19th-century Poles fighting their country’s partition by Russia, Prussia, and Austria: Nic o Nas bez Nas. Today, it’s often used by disability activists asserting their claim to be fully participant in society.

“Nothing about us without us” also applies to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, which will meet in Rome in October.

That Synod will involve seven bishops’ conferences from nine Latin American countries who will consider their pastoral situation under the theme, “Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology.” As is usually the case in these meetings, the bishops at the Synod will work with materials drafted in Rome. Early indicators from the Synod’s preparatory document suggest that the Amazonian Synod will be longer on environmentalism than on theology. International media attention will doubtless focus on the Synod’s discussion of climate change and its relationship to Amazonian deforestation.

Recent synodal history suggests, however, that more will be afoot at the Amazonian Synod than what its announced theme suggests.

The 2014 and 2015 Synods were called to consider the crisis of marriage and the family throughout the world. Yet they became the occasion for powerful churchmen to try to deconstruct Catholic moral theology and sacramental discipline, according to the tried-and-failed theologies and pastoral practices of the 1970s. The 2018 Synod, summoned to discuss youth ministry and vocational discernment, began with an effort by the Synod general secretariat to enshrine the world’s language of sexual plasticity (and the lame understandings of happiness that underwrite that language) into an official Church document. When that failed, Synod-2018 became the occasion for the Synod general secretariat to promote an ill-defined notion of “synodality” that struck more than a few bishops present as a prescription for local-option, choose-your-own-doctrine Catholicism on the model of the (imploding) Anglican Communion.

This pattern seems likely to continue at the Amazonian Synod. There, the deeper agenda will be the ordination of mature married men — viri probati — to the priesthood. Proponents will argue that this dramatic change in the Church’s longstanding tradition of a celibate priesthood (which, contrary to much misinformation, antedates the early Middle Ages by hundreds of years) is necessary because Amazonia is a Catholic area deprived of the Eucharist by a lack of priests. One hopes that the counterclaims — that Amazonia is mission territory requiring wholesale evangelization, and that Amazonia’s lack of priests reflects racial and class divisions in Latin American Catholicism that discourage priests of European pedigree from working with indigenous peoples — get a serious hearing.

Proponents of ordaining viri probati in Amazonia, including retired Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, have insisted that any such concession there would have no implications for the universal Church. That cannot be, however. Should the Amazonian Synod request the Pope to grant a dispensation from the discipline of celibacy for that region, and should he grant it, it will be just a matter of time before bishops conferences elsewhere — Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Austria come immediately to mind — make similar requests, citing pressing pastoral needs. On what ground would those requests be denied?

In a year-end interview with Vatican News, the Synod’s general secretary, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, insisted that the Amazonian Synod would not discuss environmental issues only, but would also confront “ecclesial themes” — and would do so in a way that Amazonia could be “a model for the whole world.”

We can be grateful to the cardinal for his candor in, however unintentionally, letting the celibacy cat out of the synodal bag. Any decision to ordain viri probati in Amazonia would inevitably have major consequences for the entire Church. A decision of this magnitude cannot be taken by an unrepresentative segment of the Church and then turned into a “model” for everyone else.

That is why the principle of “Nothing about us without us” must apply here. Whatever else “synodality” may mean, it surely must mean that decisions bearing on everyone should involve as broad a consultation and as global a reflection as possible. Bishops who agree should make their concerns known now, not after the Amazonian synod meets.

Featured image by Vatican Media | CNA