Gift of Spiritual Friendship

Dear friends,

I want to thank you all for your prayers while I was away, and for your warm welcome when I returned. You were very much in my thoughts and in my prayers, especially when I celebrated Mass each day.

Although there were many things I both enjoyed and appreciated during my time away, one of the greatest blessings was spending time with my very dear friend, Fr. Prentice Tipton, a priest from the diocese of Saginaw, Michigan. I say this with all sincerity, for every time we get together, I come away a better man, a better Christian. I have noticed the same effect after spending time with my brother Michael. Have you noticed this about certain people in your life? When I spend time with my brother or with Fr. Tipton, I always feel encouraged to grow and become a better person. Their life inspires me to pray more faithfully, to want to grow deeper in my love for God and neighbor. Their sharing and our conversation open my eyes to see Jesus more clearly in the ups and downs of daily life. They help me to face my weaknesses more honestly and to trust God more completely. As I reflect again on these experiences, my gratitude and appreciation deepens for the gift of spiritual friendships and what a blessing they can be.

Saints Basil and Gregory (fourth century), whose feast we celebrate on January 2, had this kind of friendship. St Gregory speaks of it in one of his homilies:

“Basil and I were both in Athens. I was not alone in my regard for my friend, the great Basil. I knew his irreproachable conduct, and the maturity and wisdom of his conversation. In the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom. We became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires, the same goal. Our single object and ambition was virtue, and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come . . . With this end in view we ordered our lives and all our actions. We followed the guidance of God’s law and encouraged each other to greater virtue.”

How different some of us would have been if we had such friendships at the age of 7, 12, 18, 25, or . . . What St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians is true: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” A common saying today that expresses the same idea is: “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you what kind of person you are.” C.S. Lewis always has a good spin on things: “The next best thing to being wise is to live in the circle of those who are.”

The bottom line is that we are all influenced, for good or ill, by what we love and attach ourselves to, and by the choices we make in life regarding friends, books, magazines, music, TV shows, etc. Children and young people may resent the interference of their parents when it comes to such choices, but many youth are spared a great deal of pain, regret, and sorrow by having parents who love them enough to guide them toward better things and educate them in the wisdom of the Gospel.

The key to making good choices is to know the ultimate goal and purpose of life that God has revealed, and to base our choices upon it. If I do not know or care about the ultimate goal, namely, returning to our heavenly Father through a Christ centered life in the Spirit, how will I be able to judge whether a choice I make is good or bad? How quickly life becomes small, boring, superficial and empty when people no longer have something greater than themselves to live for. Unhappiness will always be the lot of those whose choices remain within the narrow confines of the immediate, the temporal, the fleeting moods and impulses of the moment—disconnected from anything deep, profound, and ultimate.

Fr. Pedro Arrupe, a Jesuit priest who died in 1991, expresses similar sentiments in his memoirs:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in an absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love (with God), stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

 If I’m blessed one day to reach the eternal shores of heaven, for which I pray and hope, I will be eternally grateful for all those who inspired and guided my steps toward God and the Christian way of life. May God keep us in wisdom, especially in our choice of friends, so that we will make good choices that always lead us to Him.

God love you,

Fr. Steven

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