I entered elementary school in 1970 in a brand-new school at a brand-new church. Holy Family Catholic Church and School had the light of the Second Vatican Council in it: the best of 2,000 years of unbroken connection to Christ and His Church married to a sense of renewal as we took our places in the new buildings.
Our teachers were mostly religious sisters then, and we learned in a very “old-new way.” Gone were the stern sisters with rulers, instead we learned “New Math,” but we still memorized the Baltimore Catechism.
The Baltimore Catechism is much maligned in some quarters as “rote,” but I happen to think it's a wonderful overview of the Faith. Its simple, straightforward way was perfect for us little ones, and I drew great comfort from the answers to the big questions. For me, one of the most profound Q&A’s in the Baltimore Catechism was one of the first: Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this life, and be happy with Him in the next.
Know Him, love Him, and serve Him. What a wonderfully brief description of the Christian life! In just a few little words, we learn so very much about the Christian Faith. That one sentence sums up the nature of God and His intention for us, and our own purpose.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about our God-made desire for Him:
The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to Himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for: “The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his Creator.” (Catechism, #27)
In these two passages from the catechisms, we learn much about how much God loves us and Who He is. Our Father God loves us so immensely He seeks us out, constantly drawing us to Himself. One might even say that the Father creates a “God-shaped hole” in our hearts that only He can fill. We cannot be complete without Him. Because He loves us, and creates in us the capacity to love Him in return, our service and worship is neither forced nor menial…it is the love freely returned to a loving Father in thanksgiving for His love already poured out.
All this brings us to the first in the list of “whys,” and that is to “know” God. We've often heard that love is spelled t-i-m-e, and with God it is no different. God is a Divine Person, and we must come to know Him the same way we learn about any other person. We can spend time reading about God in Scripture or spiritual writings, we can sing about Him, or write poetry about Him, but at some point in order to truly know Him we are going to have to talk to Him and listen to Him talk to us.
When we hear Holy Mass we are present with Him across time and space, and when we spend time in prayer we can open our hearts and minds to what God has to say to us. You see, our God is not some distant sovereign, though surely He is our King; first and foremost He is our Father. Like a good father He wants to be involved in our lives, and wants nothing from us but our love.
It's through our relationship with God, our personal relationship with the God Who saves, that we can fulfill our ultimate purpose: to be happy with God in the next life.
© Copyright 2006 Catholic Exchange
Mickey Addison is a career military officer, and has been a catechist at the parish level since 2000. He and his wife have been married for 19 years and they have two children. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This article was previously published on the Rosary Army’s website and is used by permission.