What makes a true friend and where can you find one?
Those questions lingered in the air at a recent Notre Dame conference examining wisdom â€” ancient and new â€” about the meaning of friendship.
Catholics are called to â€œrenew the discipline of friendship,â€ said Philadelphiaâ€™s Ukranian Bishop Boris Gudziak in his opening remarks. For Christians, there is no more important question than: â€œCan you love?â€Â
Here are some thoughts on how to do so from the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.Â
Friendship gives meaning to life.
Friendship is a topic that has fascinated mankind from Cicero and Aristotle to todayâ€™s leading philosophers such as Alasdair MacIntyre, who has spoken at all 20 of the Centerâ€™s conferences.
If a friendless person were to experience all the beauty and mystery of the universe, said Cicero, â€œthere would be no pleasure for him in the awe-inspiring sight, which would have filled him with delight if he had had someone to whom he could describe what he had seen.â€
Or, as MacIntyre put it, â€œSubtract friendship, and much of life would be colorless.â€Â
Subtract friendship, and much of life would be colorless.
Without friends, he said, â€œWe become unable to flourish, and unable to recognize that we are unable to flourish.â€
Thatâ€™s why the modern crisis in friendship has disastrous consequences.Â
Loneliness drives the â€œdeaths of despairâ€ rising nationwide, as people numb emotional pain with opioids and alcohol, said the bishop.Â
It also leads people to sexualize their thirst for love, said writer Ron Belgau, who in 2013 spoke at Pope Francisâ€™ Meeting With Families as a same-sex attracted but chaste Catholic.Â
â€œFriendship is less valued in our society, so most young peopleâ€™s experience of emotional intimacy is a series of romantic/sexual relationships that are quasi-marital: sexual but non-committal,â€ he said.
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How to find a friend? First, pray that one finds you.
â€œGood friendships,â€ said MacIntyre, â€œare not achievements but gifts.â€ That means that they arenâ€™t the end result of networking, and they arenâ€™t merely relationships of convenience, as when you are friends with someone because they play tennis with you or share your career.
â€œFriendship does not rest upon some calculation of cost and benefit,â€ he said. Friendship â€œlies beyond dessert as it lies beyond calculation. So it is with all genuine gifts.â€
You can find a friend in your spouse â€” but shouldnâ€™t stop there.
Margaret Monahan Hogan quoted St. Thomas Aquinas on the virtue of friendship in marriage. â€œThe greater the friendship, the more solid and long-lasting the marriage will be, as we are â€˜United not only in flesh but in domestic activity.â€™â€
In fact, one of the chief goods of marriage is this holy friendship. â€œThe sexual side of marriage is overemphasized,â€ said Belgau, â€œwhile the friendship in marriage is underemphasized â€” but the friendship makes it work.â€
Nonetheless, human beings need friends outside their own house. â€œFind a home and get out of the house,â€ said Georgetown Universityâ€™s John Carr. â€œFind a faith community where you feel at home, but donâ€™t become closed in. Go out.â€
How St. Therese dealt with loneliness as a child
You can find friends online â€” if you go deep.
One refreshing aspect of the conference was the willingness of speakers to point out the positive effects digital media can have on friendship â€” and not just the negative.
â€œSocial media can edify us, lead us to virtuous people and virtuous friendships, which ultimately lead us to God,â€ said Daughter of St. Paul Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble. She even said, â€œMedia friendship is not necessarily less ideal than real-life friendship,â€ citing friendships that existed through letter-writing.Â
Pittsburgh priest Father Anthony Sciarappa agreed, saying, â€œThe key to virtue on social media is to be deeply self-reflective, not divorced from our real person.â€
To be a good friend, you have to be humble and open.
Donâ€™t limit your friends to those who are the â€œbest and brightestâ€ or even to those who share all of your opinions, said several speakers.
â€œOne needs to be open to friendship, wherever it might occur,â€ said MacIntyre. â€œLack of openness may stem from pride. It is in fact pride that makes us too often ungrateful for gifts â€” even the gift of friendship.â€
To put aside pride also means to put aside your political agenda.
Friendship is the key to breaking tribal divides.
Associating only with those you agree with tends to â€œradicalizeâ€ your views, said Father Jordi Pujol of Romeâ€™s Sante Croce University. â€œFriendship is the key to breaking tribal divides.â€Â
â€œPeople arenâ€™t interested in â€˜warriorsâ€™ â€” social justice or cultural,â€ said Carr. â€œWarriors donâ€™t make friends, they attack people.â€
But wherever you find it, friendship takes a lot of time.
â€œHow many good friends should you have?â€ asked scholar Gilbert Meilaender. â€œNot a lot â€¦ a number you can spend time with on a nearly daily basis.â€
Why? Because â€œto be close to peopleâ€™s souls you have to do a lot of work,â€ said film director Whit Stilman.
This is, after all, what Jesus Christ did.
â€œOur faith, our theology, our very civilization is based around the claim that God has become friend with us,â€ said Bishop Boris. â€œFull immersion in the sweat, tears, and joys. â€¦ What a God! What a Lord!â€
The ultimate goal for friendship is still the goal Jesus himself set: â€œTo lay down oneâ€™s life for oneâ€™s friends.â€
Hereâ€™s how to go from the empty tomb to friendship with the Risen One
Worried about the future? Find peace in this short prayer
It’s relatively easy to be worried about the future. We simply don’t know what is going to happen today, tomorrow, or next year. This state of uncertainty can cripple us at times, keeping us from doing anything out of fear of the unknown. St. Josemaria Escriva consoled someone in a similar frame of mind, who…
It’s relatively easy to be worried about the future. We simply don’t know what is going to happen today, tomorrow, or next year. This state of uncertainty can cripple us at times, keeping us from doing anything out of fear of the unknown.
St. Josemaria Escriva consoled someone in a similar frame of mind, who said to him (as quoted in The Way of the Cross), “Father, I am having a very rough time.”
In response, the saint composed a short but peaceful prayer of abandonment, entrusting to God everything past, present and future.
My Lord and my God: into your hands I abandon the past and the present and the future, what is small and what is great, what amounts to a little and what amounts to a lot, things temporal and things eternal.
Asking his friend to pray this prayer, St. Josemaria wrote, “Then, don’t worry any more.”
The only way we can move forward in calm is to entrust our “rough times” to God and then let the worry go. He is in control, and will be with us every step of the way.
Pope Francis reminisces about 6th grade
Perhaps it wouldn’t be wrong to say that our Jesuit pope also has Salesian roots. Pope Francis hinted at this on Sunday, May 24, the feast of Mary Help of Christians, which is an important Salesian feast. “Today, on the day of Mary Help of Christians, I address an affectionate and cordial greeting to the…
Perhaps it wouldn’t be wrong to say that our Jesuit pope also has Salesian roots. Pope Francis hinted at this on Sunday, May 24, the feast of Mary Help of Christians, which is an important Salesian feast.
“Today, on the day of Mary Help of Christians, I address an affectionate and cordial greeting to the Salesians,” he said, following the midday Regina Coeli prayer at the Vatican’s Apostolic Library. “I recall with gratitude the spiritual formation I received from the sons and daughters of Don Bosco.”
The Pope did not mention it directly, but he was referring to 1949 when he and his younger brother, Oscar, were enrolled as boarders at Colegio Wilfrid Barón de los Santos Ángeles run by the Salesians at Ramos Mejía.
Pope in Salesian school
The Virgin Mary, under the title Mary Help of Christians, is the principal patroness of the Salesians of Don Bosco, the religious congregation that Don Bosco founded in 1859 in the northern Italian city of Turin, to serve the young people.
The city’s Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, which was commissioned by Don Bosco himself, remains the heart of the Salesians of Don Bosco.
The Argentine Pope’s remarks on Sunday is not the first time that he has spoken about the influence of the Salesians of Don Bosco in his childhood.
Turin, June 22, 2015
Pope Francis visited Turin, June 21-22, 2015, during which he joined the Salesians in celebrating the 200th birth centenary of Don Bosco, who was born on August 16, 1815, and died on January 31, 1888.
During his visit, the Pope met the Salesians, including the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, known as the Salesian sisters, which Don Bosco co-founded with Saint Mary Mazzarello.
While commending Don Bosco’s ministry for young people, the Pope recounted fond childhood memories of his family’s closeness to the Salesians and how, when his mother was ill, he was taken out of public school to spend one year studying with the Salesians.
The Holy Father spoke of how he grew very attached to the Salesian community in the year he spent with them and that one priest, in particular, followed him from Baptism to the realization of his vocation, accompanying him ultimately on his journey to the Jesuit Order.
Salesian priests Fathers Enrico Pozzoli and Cayetano Bruno are particularly remembered by the Pope.
“Evangelii gaudium with St John Bosco”
Again, in January 2019, Pope Francis wrote a preface to the book, “Evangelii gaudium con don Bosco” (Evangelii gaudium with St John Bosco), a collection of reflections by 25 members of the Salesian family.
Commending the spirit of joy of Don Bosco, despite the thousands of “difficulties that besieged him every day”, the Pope recalled his association with the Salesians as a boy in Argentina.
While studying in a Salesian school, he wrote in the preface, he found that same “climate of joy and family.” The Salesians, he said, trained him to appreciate beauty, work, and cheerfulness – and this, he told the Salesians, “is your vocation.”
Houston church closes again after priests test positive for COVID-19
Catholic churches in Texas had begun offering Mass for the public again in early May. But at one parish, public Masses were abruptly suspended again after three priests tested positive for COVID-19. “Today we learned that three members of the Redemptorists community living and working at Holy Ghost Parish have tested positive for COVID-19, Fr.…
Catholic churches in Texas had begun offering Mass for the public again in early May. But at one parish, public Masses were abruptly suspended again after three priests tested positive for COVID-19.
“Today we learned that three members of the Redemptorists community living and working at Holy Ghost Parish have tested positive for COVID-19, Fr. William Bueche, C.Ss.R., pastor of Holy Ghost, said in a statement May 16. “While the individuals themselves are asymptomatic, they, and the other members of the community, are in quarantine in the residence isolated from the others. All members of the household have been tested and are awaiting results.”
Fr. Bueche said that one of the individuals who tested positive had been active in celebrating public Masses at Holy Ghost since the church reopened on May 2. He urged anyone who has attended Masses in person at Holy Ghost since the reopening to “monitor your health for any symptoms and be tested for COVID-19, as a precautionary measure.”
The priest said he informed the City of Houston Health Department about the situation.
In a statement issued Monday, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston noted that, Fr. Donnell Kirchner, a 79-year-old priest at Holy Ghost died. “The specific cause of death is unknown, but he had been recently treated at an urgent care clinic who referred him to a hospital emergency room,” the statement read. “He was diagnosed with pneumonia but he was not admitted to the hospital and ws sent home with medication. It is not clear if he was tested for covid-19 at either faciity. He returned to the residence he shared with seven other members of his religious order.”
The statement said that following Fr. Kirchner’s death, the other Redemptorists “sought medical advice, and all were tested for the coronavirus. Although the parish had followed cleaning, sanitation and social distancing guidelines described by State health officials since reopening on May 2, they determined at that time it was best to close the church immediately to public Masses until the results of their tests were known.”
The archdiocese also noted that in-person attendance at Holy Ghost had been “closely controlled” and that attendance at Mass on Sunday never exceeded 179, far short of the 900-person capacity. Weekday Mass attendance as a “small fraction of that amount.”
An earlier statement on the parish website said that Masses would be canceled as of May 14 because the Redemptorist community was self-quarantining while awaiting results of the COVID-19 tests. Suspension of Masses included the funeral for Fr. Kirchner originally scheduled on Saturday, May 16.