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“To know who you are, you have to know where you came from…”

Beginning Feb. 4, NBC’s reality TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?” will explore this premise through the personal journeys of celebrities who long to discover more details about their past. In its sophomore season, viewers can watch as Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Vanessa Williams, Lionel Richie and other stars uncover hidden secrets about each of their lineages.

This is a new venture for reality TV. As viewers, we’ve become accustomed to reality shows like Survivor, The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars, which test contestants skills, emotions and physical strength, but we have never seen a reality show that digs deep into one’s intimate history, the very basis for one’s being.

The show’s summary reads:

“As each celebrity discovers his or her unknown relatives – most of whom overcame hard times – the show will take viewers back through world history to expose how the lives of everyone’s collective ancestors have shaped our world today.”

There’s no denying that who we are is tied to those who have come before us – both family members and non-family members. We all belong to the human race, and this camaraderie is intensified during times of tragedy and struggle – think 9/11 or the earthquake in Haiti.

A couple weeks ago at Mass, my priest told the story of a young boy he spoke to after the service. The priest was trying to find the boy’s parents amidst the post-Mass crowd, so he asked the boy, “Who do you belong to?” hoping to find his mother and father.

Instead of pointing out his parents, the boy pointed straight to heaven and simply replied, “God.”

What a profound statement!

In the New Testament, we are reminded that humans are from God and that, ultimately, we belong to God. But in our culture, we are often defined by those around us – our families, our friends and most often, our significant others. “Who do you think you are?” can be translated to “Who are you dating?” or “Who are you married to?”

On the show “Who Do You Think You Are?,” viewers will watch as celebrities discover where they came from and what family line they belong to. As Catholics, we are in luck. We know our heritage. We know whom we belong to. The quest to finding who we really are begins by merely pointing up.

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