What Is Spiritual Friendship?
A key benefit members of the St. Francis de Sales Association enjoy is the opportunity to develop and maintain life-long spiritual friendships. Fr. John Crossin, OSFS, recently appointed Executive Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and former executive director of the Washington Theological Consortium has written and spoken extensively on the topic of spiritual friendship and shares his insights with us in the following series of essays:
The Experience of Friendship
We experience a joy in friendship. Friends enjoy spending time together. Going to a fall football game together—wearing the right color, cheering in unison, sharing hot dogs, and celebrating victory—speaks of the joy of being with friends. There is a strong emotional quality to friendship.
Kinds of Friendship
There are different kinds of friendship. Friendships involve different levels of communication and sharing.
Friendships can be tremendously enriching. Each friendship may have a different focus and depth. All have elements of attraction and joy.
Last spring semester I mentioned Spiritual Friendship in a course I was teaching on spirituality. One of the students shared with me that he had never heard the term. He was intrigued with the concept—it seemed to describe one of his relationships.
Discerning God's Plan
With a true friend we can share our hopes and discouragements. It is comforting to have an understanding ear to hear our concerns both spoken--and unspoken. It is good to have a person who can serve as a “sounding board” to whom we can vocalize our ideas that seem new or unusual.
Friends do not expect us to be perfect-nor do we expect them to be. Sometimes we will share our mistakes and even our deeper faults with one another. This can be a great aid in the healing process in the varied situations of our lives.
Patience in Friendship
In life we are always going either backward or forward. There is no standing still. Though we might not notice the subtle changes in our relationships, they are happening.
As we come to spiritual maturity, we grow in appreciation of our talents and blessings. We realize that we are not entitled to them. We have not earned them. They are gifts from God.
One danger is that we might take things for granted. We can easily perceive that ‘what we grew up with’ is the norm. Americans who lived through the Great Depression seem to me to be most appreciative of other people and thankful for their support. They are also very careful about conserving and maintaining material possessions. Those of us who grew up in more affluent times seem more likely to take people or possessions for granted.