James and John, Peter and Andrew, Benedict and Scholastica, Monica and Augustine, Francis and Clare, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, John Bosco and Dominic Savio, Margaret Mary and Claude de la Colombiere, Basil and Gregory--- what do all of these couplets share as a common thread? They were all saints and they helped each other mutually--- as spiritual friends-- to attain true sanctity of life. The Bible states that finding a true friend is indeed a treasure, a pearl of infinite price. Jesus came to the world as one of us, but very close to us, being God and man. He even stated at the Last Supper, "I call you friends..." Therefore, what are true signs of an authentic "Spiritual Friendship" and what are the benefits? Let's dive in!
1. JESUS THE TRUE FRIEND. In order to establish a true spiritual friendship, there must be a "Third" Friend in that duo; that "Friend" is Jesus Christ. He is that true and faithful Friend that will never fail us. The deeper and more sincere one's friendship with Jesus is, the deeper he can establish a "Spiritual Friendship " with another.
2. MUTUAL PRAYER. True friends should pray constantly and mutually, one for the other. Indeed the greatest gift we can give to another is prayer!
3. MUTUAL SHARING OF SPIRITUAL TREASURES. St Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises, the last exercise which is "The Contemplation to attain love" comments on this point.
"Love consists in a mutual sharing of goods, for example, the lover gives and shares with the beloved what he possesses, or something of that which he has or is able to give; and vice versa, the beloved shares with the lover. Hence, if one has knowledge, he shares it with with the one who does not possess it; and so also if one has honors, or riches. Thus, one always gives to the other."
(Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, #231: The Contemplation to attain love).
4. SPIRITUAL TREASURES PRIMARILY. Giving is part of friendship; however, the primacy should be given to that of spiritual treasures. St. Thomas Aquinas astutely observes that in giving in the material realm the giver is impoverished. However, giving in the spiritual realm, both the giver and the receiver leave both enriched! So, give, but give even more spiritually!
5. FRIENDSHIP DESTROYER! Good friends can become arch-enemies if either of the two allows the devil of envy to insinuate his ugly head in their midst. Crush the ugly head of the devil of enemy by rejoicing in your friend's success. Let the words of St. Paul be your binding force: "We should weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice."
6. FRATERNAL CORRECTION. Although difficult, although risky, although, delicate, fraternal correction is necessary in true "Spiritual Friendships". If a true friend is aware of his friend walking toward a spiritual precipice, about to be burnt by fire, about to be attacked by ravenous wolves, then he should speak out! Doctors are all in accord with "Preventive medicine is better than curative medicine."
7. WILLINGNESS TO BE CORRECTED. In humility, it should be said, that he who corrects should be just as willing to be the one corrected! Only God is perfect!
8. NO FAIR-WEATHER FRIEND. A true friend will be there in the good times as well as the bad times. He is there at the party as well as at the funeral. He is there when the sun shines and the birds sing and the flowers exude fragrant aroma. However, he is there at the funeral, the dark and cloudy days, the endless tunnel where no light appears visible. A true friend is faithful to what spouses promise on their wedding day: "I promise to be faithful to you in good times and bad, health and sickness, riches and poverty, until death do we part."
9. SPOUSES/MARRIED COUPLES. St. Thomas Aquinas asserts that on a human level, married spouses should be the best of friends. May that be the case! The married vocation is a vocation that should lead to sanctification, growth in holiness and heaven. The ultimate choice of a future spouse should be the following: this person will be my best spiritual friend, life-long partner, whom I will cherish and help to be a bridge and ladder to heaven. Maybe a high ideal, but we should aim high!!!!
10. MERCY. True spiritual friends are always ready and willing to forgive the weaknesses, limitations, and failures of the other. In a word, to be ready to forgive the 70 times 7 times. "Be merciful as your heavenly father is merciful."
Of primary importance, the advantage of finding, establishing and cultivating a true "Spiritual Friendship" is that both friends serve as solid bridges to unite with the "Best of all Friends" Jesus the Lord. He said, "I do not call you servants but friends...." May God provide us with a solid spiritual friend in this life, to be a trampoline to unite us with the saints in heaven--- our ultimate destiny. Heaven is FRIENDSHIP, with the angels, the saints, the Blessed Mother and with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.