Friends are essential to the life of every Christian. Friends are an important part of who we are and who we are becoming. We grow as people with good and healthy friendships; being around people who love us, support us, encourage us and who can also help us to see where we struggle. People who are honest with us and provide us with honest feedback based on a context of knowing who we are.
There have been a few men I have met in these past six years, convinced that one of the reasons God might be calling them to the priesthood was because they had no real desire for friendship. As a Vocation Director, it’s important for me not to dismiss men who share this, but to help understand what makes them see a desire to be alone and without others “as a gift”. Of course there could be many reasons; they were hurt by people in their lives who should have loved them, family or friends. Usually it isn’t too hard to understand once we listen to the story of someone’s life.
It is erroneous and flawed thinking of course. To not want to be with people and to desire good and meaningful friendships and relationships with others, is not only not a gift, but it is a necessity for the priest. Men who are to be priests must desire good, meaningful and healthy friendships with both men and women to be balanced men and in the future balanced priests. I would, however, emphasize that friendships need to be good, meaningful, healthy and balanced. Often what leads a person to not want friendship is a deficiency in what they have had as friends.
We celebrate today as Catholics, the lives of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen who both became bishops and are remembered as “Doctors of the Church”, in other words offered us many things very significant in the living out of our Catholic Christian faith. These were two very intellectual men who encouraged and supported one another in deep and meaningful friendship. They were competitive in their intellectual pursuits, but supporting, encouraging and learning from one another still. They sought the path of holiness together and embodied the true meaning of Christian love for the people in their lives but for each other as brothers in the Lord. These two men brought many people with themselves to Heaven. Their friendship undoubtedly made both of them wake every day wanting to be better Christian men and they both helped one another become that.
This is what we should all want; I know I do. I feel blessed by the friends that God has graced my life with. The older I get, having lived long enough to have known good friendship and not-so-good friendship; I am thankful for the people in my life who help me become a better version of myself day by day. I am thankful for the time I can spend with these people and today as I think of these two great saints, I continue to hope and pray for my dear friends as I know that they pray for me too.