St. Anne and St. Joachim were married, St. Felicity and St. Perpetua were young mothers, St. Ignatius and St. Francis were roommates, and St. Monica and St. Augustine were mother and son. All of these dynamic duos and saints have one characteristic in common – the bond of authentic friendship.
It is one of the greatest gifts and greatest joys. Recently, I have found it fascinating to read about the lives of saints, especially those that were friends. I don’t know about you, but I want to get to Heaven and striving for sainthood and learning how to do so by studying the lives of the saints is one of the best ways to do so. With that said, not only should we all be striving to get to Heaven and become saints, but we should be running alongside, hand and hand with our friends and our family.
I have had the privilege to grow up as an only child. I say privilege because I love the relationship that I was fortunate to form with my parents growing up. I like to say that my parents and I are the closest of friends, although they are always quick to remind me they are my parents first. With that said, they raised me to make friends and be social, always encouraging play dates when I was young and made the house welcome to anyone as I grew older. It wasn’t however, until college that I realized what authentic friendship truly looked like. That’s not to say I hadn’t had authentic friendships throughout my childhood, but I hadn’t truly understood what the characteristics of an authentic friendship were. Exactly three years ago I walked into the Catholic Center on my college campus and was welcomed by my now community of truly authentic friends. I will be completely honest, I teared up in mass that first night because never before had I been surrounded by so many young saints in the making that beautifully, boldly, and outwardly wanted to practice their faith.
Friendship is an image of the love that God has for us and according to St. Augustine, “since authentic and generous friendship mirrors the love that Christ showed for us on the Cross, and which He described when teaching in John that, ‘no greater love can one have than to lay down your life for a friend.’” St. Augustine held friendship at such a high regard; it is so important and so valuable because he even believed that, of everything that exists in the world, only true friendship can lead a person to God.
Some say you choose your friends, but I am beginning to believe that they were chosen for me. Sure, I placed myself at the Catholic Center three years ago and made friends with individuals outside of the Catholic Center that shared similar morals, values, and lifestyles, but each and every individual along the way was placed in my life for me to mirror the love that Christ has for all of us, just as they have done so for me.
I am no academic scholar, literary genius, or theologian…yet…but C.S. Lewis who conveniently is all of those things describes this authentic friendship that I write about more eloquently than I ever could. I encourage you to read his words more than once, dwell on who in your life is or should be running alongside you in your pursuit of sainthood–maybe it’s a sibling, your childhood best friend, an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, your roommate, or maybe it’s your mother like St.Monica who so beautifully ran to Heaven alongside her son St. Augustine. Or maybe, just maybe Christ is at work in your life in ways you have yet to even realize or pondered before.
“In friendship we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain house, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”
– The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis