Be steadfast in true friendship, because there is nothing so precious in human relations. It is a great consolation in this life to have a friend to whom we can open our heart.
Last month, Marty and Ashley and I started our Lepanto festivities with Mass, Morning Prayer, and breakfast together at Sidewinder, and it got me thinking about a post that I meant to do over the summer, back when Ashley, Jennifer, and Regina came to Michigan to spend a three-day weekend with me.
As college students, I think that one of our greatest struggles is learning to properly balance our various responsibilities. I very firmly believe that one of those responsibilities is the time that we make for our friends, and that it is one that we are often tempted to neglect terribly.
For the first four years of college, I made a friend here and a friend there, but did not have a faith community like the SSP with whom I could struggle and grow on a daily basis.
Perfection is in the struggle.
Fast-forward to my super-senior year, where every day either began or ended – or both – with the SSP; whether at Mass, in Adoration, worship music Mondays, prayer vigils, talks, the Liturgy of the Hours, or throwing dinner together at the old Domus Damascus and watching The Office.
Going from a community life like that, to my third year at a seasonal job 500 miles away where I had nothing even remotely resembling the SSP, proved to be a harrowing experience.. The first two years were different – I went from practically nothing to effectively nothing. Pockets presented themselves, but not consistently, and often so inconveniently timed. But this year, to go from being surrounded by young men and women who were constantly challenging me to draw closer to Christ, and with whom I interacted on a daily basis, to an environment in which I was effectively alone in that procession to the Cross [which we talk about in the Rule], took its toll. I’m still healing – emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically – and I have no idea how much longer this healing process is going to have to go on.
When we talk about the vocation of a student, it shouldn’t be a time in our lives in which we are constantly alone. There is never a point in our life when it should truly be so. We are exhorted to do well in our work, in our studies, in our chores, in the daily responsibilities of life, both as a student and beyond, because Christ sanctified all of those things in those decades of His life about which we hear very little in Scripture. Before Christ’s public ministry, He spent His years sanctifying the ordinary day-to-day struggle, so that we might have an example for our own, ordinary, day-to-day struggle.
But nowhere in His life did Christ give indication of attending to what we might sometimes wearily term ‘obligations,’ to the point of neglecting legitimate personal needs. While it is good for us to learn to be alone with God, if we are ever alone to the detriment of our soul, there is a problem, a consequence of sin.
We were created to be in relationship with God, and Jesus Himself had friends, with whom He talked, and laughed, and ate, and shared stories. We are blessed to be given so much in Scripture which attests to the sanctification of friendship. Christ was, to his friends…
… someone who loved them, someone to whom they could speak of their joys and sorrows, someone they could question with complete confidence.
Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God
Inasmuch as we, as students, have an obligation to make sure that we get enough sleep to perform well in our exams; inasmuch as it is a disservice to our selves and imprudent to sacrifice our legitimate need for rest in order to be able to retain what we enter university to learn; we have a legitimate need to love and to be loved.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth. A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds; For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself.
Institutionalized education is overrated.
In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Part of our Catholic Christian contribution to the work of the Kingdom is balancing our studies with extracurricular activities which, like a good night’s rest before finals, refresh the spirit. If the main key to effective evangelization is joy, how can we expect to maintain our Joy in Christ if we do not prioritize an adequate amount of time to feeding it?
I read somewhere that we have an obligation to enjoy those with whom God has seen fit to surround us. We are called to love, to truth, to beauty, to goodness – to Joy. As students, God spends a lot of time calling us to these things through our friends. Friendship…
… both requires and develops generosity, selflessness, sympathy, solidarity, and, especially, the possibility of making mutual sacrifices… Down through the centuries, friendship has been (and still is) a pathway along which many men and women have come close to God and gone to heaven. It is a natural and simple path which eliminates many obstacles and difficulties… [T]he Acts of the Apostles show us how St. Paul had many friends, whom he loved dearly. He misses them when they are not there, and he is filled with joy when he gets news of them.
Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God
There is a fine line between sanctifying our daily work and getting caught up in the fast-paced, all-about-me, go!-go!-go! lie of the world. Part of doing God’s work is making time to slow down and be happy in the company of good friends.
I am so grateful to be home. And just last night, Beth hugged me and again told me that she was glad that I’m back. Regardless of how much longer I’m going to need to heal, at least I know with such certainty that I am in the right place for it.