Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 3, Chapter 19

Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 3, Chapter 19

CHAPTER XIX. Of Real Friendship.

DO you, my child, love every one with the pure love of charity, but
have no friendship save with those whose intercourse is good and true,
and the purer the bond which unites you so much higher will your
friendship be. If your intercourse is based on science it is
praiseworthy, still more if it arises from a participation in goodness,
prudence, justice and the like; but if the bond of your mutual liking
be charity, devotion and Christian perfection, God knows how very
precious a friendship it is! Precious because it comes from God,
because it tends to God, because God is the link that binds you,
because it will last for ever in Him. Truly it is a blessed thing to
love on earth as we hope to love in Heaven, and to begin that
friendship here which is to endure for ever there. I am not now
speaking of simple charity, a love due to all mankind, but of that
spiritual friendship which binds souls together, leading them to share
devotions and spiritual interests, so as to have but one mind between
them. Such as these may well cry out, “Behold, how good and joyful a
thing it is, brethren, to dwell together in unity!” [106] Even so, for
the “precious ointment” of devotion trickles continually from one heart
to the other, so that truly we may say that to such friendship the Lord
promises His Blessing and life for evermore. To my mind all other
friendship is but as a shadow with respect to this, its links mere
fragile glass compared to the golden bond of true devotion. Do you form
no other friendships. I say “form,” because you have no right to cast
aside or neglect the natural bonds which draw you to relations,
connexions, benefactors or neighbours. My rules apply to those you
deliberately choose to make. There are some who will tell you that you
should avoid all special affection or friendship, as likely to engross
the heart, distract the mind, excite jealousy, and what not. But they
are confusing things. They have read in the works of saintly and devout
writers that individual friendships and special intimacies are a great
hindrance in the religious life, and therefore they suppose it to be
the same with all the world, which is not at all the case. Whereas in a
well-regulated community every one’s aim is true devotion, there is no
need for individual intercourse, which might exceed due limits;–in the
world those who aim at a devout life require to be united one with
another by a holy friendship, which excites, stimulates and encourages
them in well-doing. Just as men traversing a plain have no need to hold
one another up, as they have who are amid slippery mountain paths, so
religious do not need the stay of individual friendships; but those who
are living in the world require such for strength and comfort amid the
difficulties which beset them. In the world all have not one aim, one
mind, and therefore we must take to us congenial friends, nor is there
any undue partiality in such attachments, which are but as the
separation of good from evil, the sheep from the goats, the bee from
the drone–a necessary separation.

No one can deny that our Dear Lord loved S. John, Lazarus, Martha,
Magdalene, with a specially tender friendship, since we are told so in
Holy Scripture; and we know that S. Paul dearly loved S. Mark, S.
Petronilla, as S. Paul Timothy and Thecla. [107] S. Gregory Nazianzen
boasts continually of his friendship with the great S. Basil, of which
he says: “It seemed as though with two bodies we had but one soul, and
if we may not believe those who say that all things are in all else, at
least one must affirm that we were two in one, and one in two –the
only object that both had being to grow in holiness, and to mould our
present life to our future hopes, thereby forsaking this mortal world
before our death.” And S. Augustine says that S. Ambrose loved S.
Monica by reason of her many virtues, and that she in return loved him
as an Angel of God.

What need to affirm so unquestionable a fact! S. Jerome, S. Augustine,
S. Gregory, S. Bernard, and all the most notable servants of God, have
had special friendships, which in nowise hindered their perfection. S.
Paul, in describing evil men, says that they were “without natural
affection,” [108] i.e. without friendship. And S. Thomas, in common
with other philosophers, acknowledges that friendship is a virtue, and
he certainly means individual friendships, because he says that we
cannot bestow perfect friendship on many persons. So we see that the
highest grace does not lie in being without friendships, but in having
none which are not good, holy and true.

[106] Ps. cxxxiii. 1.

[107] S. Thecla (V.M.) was a native of Lycaonia, converted (so say S.
Augustine, S. Ambrose, S. Epiphanius, and others of the Fathers) by S.
Paul, who kindled so strong a love of virginity in her heart that she
broke off her intended marriage, and devoted herself to Christ. She is
said to have followed S. Paul in several of his journeys, and a very
ancient Martyrology, which bears the name of S. Jerome, published by
Florentinus, says that she was miraculously delivered unhurt from the
persecutors’ flames at Rome. It seems doubtful whether she died a
natural or a martyr’s death. The first Christian Emperors built a great
Church at Seleucia, where she died.

[108] Rom. i. 31.