Let's start with the Old Testament Patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Ruth, David, and the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos, for starters. Does any Christian doubt the likelihood of their salvation? Yet did they have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ"?
Jesus famously declared: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father but through me." (Jn 14:6) If this is true, and the Old Testament saints are in heaven, they are there only by virtue of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, even if they could not have personally known anything about Jesus, who would only come centuries later.
What this suggests is that salvation through Christ is based on the objective fact of Christ's substitutionary atonement and the incorporation of the faithful into His mystical body by the means provided by God during particular dispensations of salvation history. For the Old Testament saints, this meant the animal sacrifices prescribed by God through the Hebrew patriarchs and prophets, whose rituals looked forward to the promised Redeemer. For those of us who have lived since the publication of the New Testament, this means the re-enactment of the sacrifice of Christ in the Lord's Supper, which looks back to the Passion of Christ and His once-for-all sacrifice in human history.
Michael Voris seems to have something of this sort in mind in his provocative new "Vortex" feature entitled "Personal Relationship With Jesus Christ" (Church Militant, January 7, 2016). He may seem unnecessarily harsh in his denunciation of the prevalent Protestant-like talk about the need for a "personal relationship with Jesus" among many contemporary Catholics. But if you listen closely, I think the real message may be something else.
Yes, it's true that a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" doesn't seem to have played much of a role in the redemption of the Old Testament saints. Nor does it seem essential (or even possible!) in the salvation of a child who dies in infancy, or those who are severely mentally retarded.
But on the other hand, perhaps Voris' point is that a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" is very much the key to one's salvation, but that it has been misunderstood by those who take it to mean something purely subjective and experiential. What could possibly involve a more personal relationship with Jesus Christ than any of the seven sacraments? By being baptized into his Body? By becoming a partaker of the divine nature by way of Holy Communion? By being absolved by Him of one's sins through the sacrament of Confession? But the point is that all of these are objective performances, things one does. That is, they are more than mere experienced feelings of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
On this reading, perhaps even Abraham and the other Old Testament saints very much had "a personal relationship with Jesus Christ," even if it wasn't expressed in ways familiar to contemporary evangelicals and evangelical Catholics. After all, Jesus said to His fellow Jews: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." (Jn 8:56) I doubt this means that Abraham understood that God would become incarnate as a historical man named Jesus. Yet by faith he certainly is said to have trusted in the redemptive promises of God; and one of those promises, if yet seen only inchoately in Abraham's day, was the promise of a Messiah, which came gradually into focus as the fullness of time -- the time of Jesus' birth -- drew nearer.
So did this entail having certain feelings and emotional experiences on the part of Abraham. That he felt things profoundly during certain junctures in his lifetime, I have not doubt. But the point, I think, would be that his salvation rested on something objective: keeping the terms of the Covenant God imposed upon him. This is where his faith effectively came to expression; just as ours comes to effective expression in our keeping the terms of the New Covenant imposed on us -- that is, in our fulfillment of the precepts of the Church.