On friends

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With a tip of the biretta to the Laudator:

And even with the friendships we make later in life, founded not on accidental association, but on a real community of tastes and interests, how seldom they last a lifetime, or anything like a lifetime! Destiny shuffles our partners for us; one friend or the other gets a different job, goes to live somewhere else; it may only mean changing from one suburb to another, but how easily we make an excuse of distance! More and more as we grow older, we find that the people we see most of are recent acquaintances, not (perhaps) very congenial to us, but chance has thrown them in our way. And meanwhile the people we used to know so well, for whom we once entertained such warm feelings, are now remembered by a card at Christmas, if we can succeed in finding the address. How good we are at making friends, when we are young; how bad at keeping them! How eagerly, as we grow older, we treasure up the friendships that are left to us, like beasts that creep together for warmth!

Msgr. Ronald A. Knox (+1957)
Pastoral Sermons and Occasional Sermons (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002), p. 328.
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13 Responses to On friends

  1. Andrew says:

    Amicitia quae desinere potest, vera numquam fuit. (S. Hieronymus)

  2. Johannes Quinque says:

    I have had so many friends through the years. I would love to keep them all close, but with work and family, I have to give myself to what is most important. I do still have friends…but mostly connect with people I am working with or involved in ministries with at my parish.

    Perhaps what is more important than maintaining friendships (other than Facebook and Christmas cards) is making the most of the time we do have to plant seeds of the gospel and to share the fullness of the truth revealed by Christ through his Church.

    We will have plenty of quality time with all our friends in eternity, but to truly love sometimes we have to sacrifice receation if it does not further Gods plan for salvation.

    These are just my thoughts based on my walk in life at the present time. Surely others experience friendships differently, with different spiritual gifts and callings.

  3. Elizabeth D says:

    This is one reason why, not only for spiritual but for human reasons, the Church needs to try to provide and facilitate ways for celibate Catholics and widows or widowers to form community together, even those who are not seen as good candidates for the various forms of consecrated life. Parishes have a role to play here, the parish is the family of a celibate layperson. This cannot be only a pastoral visiting system where a deacon or EMHC is designated to make Communion visits. How many elderly Catholics wind up with no other practicing Catholics around them at the end of their life? The breakdown of Christian family life, and also the loss of so many religious vocations, affects not only the young, but the old. I love Catholic old ladies. I also am a celibate and it is not likely I will have any practicing Catholic family when I am elderly, nor will I likely have any relatives nearby or interested in me. I also feel deeply the fact of not being welcomed into any community of conscrated life, when I think of the end of my life. At the end of my life I will depend profoundly on Catholic friends, and if that fails me then I will suffer greatly.

  4. Elizabeth D says: This is one reason why, not only for spiritual but for human reasons, the Church needs to try to provide and facilitate ways for celibate Catholics and widows or widowers to form community together, even those who are not seen as good candidates for the various forms of consecrated life. Parishes have a role to play here, the parish is the family of a celibate layperson.

    Then we need to stop shuffling priests around every six years. It is hard for a parish to be a family with an endless parade of stepfathers.

  5. Mike says:

    I am grateful to have found such friends — welcome and needful in late middle age — through the Traditional Mass and through the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. May everyone of good will be so blessed.

  6. avecrux says:

    Amen, Anita Moore OP.
    I think the constant shuffling of
    Priests is the most destructive force I have witnessed re: parish life. Especially when Pastors need to make constructive changes. They can’t move too quickly and need to gain trust with their parishioners. Then, the Pastor starts doing good things, people get excited, buzz forms, community starts to build and the whole thing gets a royal kick in the crotch because Fr. Hawaiian shirt has just been appointed as the Pastor – and we all have to smile and say how it’s all about growth and detachment and we’ll all be holier because a great Pastor gets taken away. Well – that’s not how it works. People lose hope, community disintegrates and the next time something cool starts to happen, people avoid it because they don’t want to get burned. I understand that the spiritual life should not be all about consolation – but you know, we’re not angels. Human beings need support and beauty and friendship – and there is only so long you can do the white-knuckle sucky parish thing and pretend you are ok.

  7. I love all these comments, especially Elizabeth’s, with whom I have so much in common, and I have the same reflections as her about parochial life and the consecrated life.

    I often come back to the texts ‘He gives the lonely a home to live in’ and those wonderful words in Wisdom about the childless and their inheritance. A God who can make everything out of nothing can surely provide for us in His own way and at His own time, but it’s the whole trust thing … as usual!

    As I get older, I am starting to see friendship as the highest form of human love. I struggled with it for years because I didn’t know how to make or keep/sustain friendships, and I also tended to choose poorly and end up being burned. But I think I am getting better at it now.

  8. TNCath says:

    What a lovely thought.

  9. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “How good we are at making friends, when we are young; how bad at keeping them!” Yet can there not be, as well as (where appropriate) awareness of guilt for failing to keep up as we might have done, in an awareness nonetheless of proper enduring love of absent friends (and the not unreasonable hope of something similar on their part, mixed with a readiness to forgive any culpable neglect of ours), an image or more of the Communion of Saints?

  10. Elizabeth D says:

    I am consoled that what I said struck a chord with others, and I particularly liked and identified with Phillippa’s comment.

  11. Lin says:

    Up until two years ago, I would have agreed with you on not shuffling priests. However, after our current assignment is almost Protestant. We are praying for early retirement. On friends, I have only one that I can speak of any Catholic subject and we have like beliefs and practices. Many boomers have lost their faith and think me odd. I’ve actually had a Protestant friend (?) say I have always had strange ideas. Reading this blog keeps me connected to,others who believe as I do. Pray the Rosary for the salvation of souls!

  12. AnnTherese says:

    Friendships have their seasons, and some I’ve lost touch with or have chosen to disconnect from may be winter friends. But I can remember and appreciate when our friendship was in full bloom and thriving– and the gifts I received from that person, sometimes important lessons.

    At any moment, a new friend may be made– if we are open to that. My friends are incredibly diverse, which has been interesting, at times challenging, and always enriching.

    Some are soul-friends– whether we are near or far from each other, whether we talk daily or once in a blue moon –they are like gold.

  13. wanda says:

    Anita M and avecrux, I identify with your posts and agree absolutely. A parish can only take so many heartbreaks. Every 2, years, every 3 years, there goes young fervent, faithful Father off to a new assignment. I have to feel good for them, they get to get off the merry-go-round of 3-4 churches – the good ol cluster arrangement. Ultimately, I have gotten more resigned and that’s not a good feeling.