Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about our need for God-centered friendships. I hope it caused you to take some time to assess your relationships, looking for signs of a mutual lifting up and encouraging one another to grow in holiness.
The other day, a friend of mine gave me some pamphlets written by Fr. Emmerich Vogt, a Dominican priest. My friend was hoping that we might be able to distribute the pamphlets at my church. Fr. Vogt travels around the country giving talks on transformation, a subject dear to my heart. One the pamphlets in his Self Knowledge series was on friendship, and he raised some really excellent points about what it means to have healthy and holy friendships.
Quotes from Scripture and writings of the saints are scattered throughout the pamphlet, and I thought this one from St. Therese of Avila was especially good. She’s writing about the signs of true friendship:
Genuine love is a copy of that which the good Lover, Jesus, had for us. It is for that reason that it brings us such immense benefits… The hearts of true friends do not allow them to practice duplicity: if they see their friend straying from the goal, or committing some faults, they will speak to him about it; they cannot allow themselves to do anything else.
And if after this the loved one does not amend, they will not flatter him or hide anything from him. Either, then he will amend or their friendship will cease…
Happy the souls that are loved by such as these! Happy the day on which they came to know them. O, my Lord, will you grant me the favor of giving me many who have such love for me.
Wow, those are powerful words on what a real and honest friendship is supposed to be about. In our world today, I think a lot of us, myself included, sometimes shy away from speaking the truth to those what we care about. It might get messy, it might cause pain, etc., so we avoid the potential conflict. But is avoidance a sign of true friendship?
Fr. Vogt wrote that St. Thomas Aquinas would say that it’s not. St. Thomas explained that true friendship is benevolent. The friend wants whatever is good for their friend, but just wishing good for someone is not enough. True friendship is also marked by beneficence, which means we will do whatever we need to do within our power to bring about that good.
If we were to take an honest assessment of our friendships, where would they stand? Hopefully, each of us have a few relationships that would pass the tests presented by St. Therese and St. Thomas. I’m sure there are some of us who might not have any friendships with these attributes and levels of honesty.
If that’s true of you, all is not lost! What a great New Year’s resolution this would make 🙂 I think it would be a great idea for all of us to work on friendships in 2012. Let’s work on the one’s we have, making them more honest and authentic, and/or let’s make some new friendships which have as its goal the desire to help each other make it to heaven.