Since 2000, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has expressed his opinion on a variety of faith topics. These texts were initially published in the "Ask the Religion Experts" column which appears every Saturday in The Ottawa Citizen. As of June 2005, Msgr. Patrick Powers, Vicar General, will be taking on the responsibility of the weekly articles.

What do you make of people who say they are spiritual but not religious?

From time to time, I do, in fact, meet people who say just that: they feel no need to practice their own religion - or any other for that matter, but insist that they do commune with God. These are good people who see Gods presence in the world about them: in the beauty of creation, in the kindness of others, in many charitable organizations and even in the advancements in various scientific and medical fields. They relate to God on an individual basis but rarely speak to others about it. Most of them tell me they engage in various forms of private prayer which I would say are usually those of praise and thanksgiving or of petition and intercession. But they are always private.

That point of view contrasts with our own: We believe there is a certain resemblance between the unity of the divine persons and the fraternity that we establish among ourselves in truth and love, as seen in the Vatican Councils document Gaudium et spes (no.24). We believe that humans cannot live the faith without interaction with others. It is a requirement of our nature. For, it is through our common prayer, our mutual service and dialogue that we develop our potential and discover our vocation in life.

Each time we celebrate the Eucharist, for example, we become the body of Christ, sent to transform the world. That happens whenever we engage in many other activities which are essential to our mission such as evangelization, catechesis, social action and various other forms of Christian service. Furthermore, Jesus did not come simply to establish a Church. He came to bring all people into the kingdom. He formed a community as a vehicle for that primary goal - and we will never feel complete until we belong to that community of faith!