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.
Spiritual friends are friends with whom we feel we can share our spiritual concerns. These relationships may emerge gradually.
We build our relationships on trust. Slowly we might move from sharing outside events, like football games or concerts, to familiar events like meals, to inner events like the stories of our lives.
Spiritual Friends offer us encouragement, not only to use our talents but also to be our best selves. Virtues are nourished in relationships. We often learn to be patient or gentle or humble from the example and encouragement of friends.
Friends keep us in their prayers. They also become part of our own daily round of prayerful conversation with God.
In prayer, we discern the good qualities in our Spiritual Friends that we would like, in some small way, to make our own. In our inner conversation we say: “If I could only have fifty percent of her patience….”
Friends can also pray together. Sometimes I ask the couples on Engaged Encounter weekends whether they pray together. They often respond with a puzzled look. Sometime they respond that they go to mass together—which I heartily commend. But many don’t seem to have gotten to the point where they realize that the special type of friendship that they share can have its deepest roots in prayer. The couple has the deepest friendship when they are spiritually close.
In Catholic Christian thinking, spiritual friendships are about becoming holy. Thus they are about loving. The holy person is the loving person.
Our deepest friendships are spiritual. They are about loving God and all the neighbors put in our path by God. Love reaches out. We build a network of friends who seek to do the good. The Association is such a network.
John W. Crossin, OSFS