By Fr. Alexander Ezechukwu, OCD
Get to Know God’s Friends
Wouldn’t you like to become better friends with those around you?
If you could skip over the bumps and bruises in your relationships with others, I’ll bet your world would be happier.
What better master of friendship is there than the contemplative mystic St. Teresa of Avila, who founded some 16 Discalced Carmelite convents for women in Spain and inspired the founding of many monasteries for men as well?
I’m currently doing a doctoral research on Saint Teresa’s spirituality of friendship. I have gathered five important tips on strengthening friendships from a few chapters in St. Teresa’s book, The Way of Perfection. Although this book is mainly about prayer, and was written for the saint’s fellow Carmelite sisters, it has been used to help people in all walks of life.
As St. Teresa says, “to get to know God's friends is a very good way of getting to know Him.”
Before I launch into the five points, I need to spell out a fundamental principle of friendship spelled out by St. Teresa. That is, true friendship comes when both parties acknowledge that our life’s goal and our true good is heaven. And keep in mind that for St. Teresa, heaven is union with God, a life with God.
As St. Teresa says,
“It seems to me that one loves very differently from others when one has learned the great difference between this world and the other one. This world is only a dream and the other is eternal.”
- The Way of Perfection, Chap. 6
The saint also describes two types of love. One is pure, seeing the other’s eternal destiny, while the other is “mingled with our sensuality and weakness.” The lesser kind of love can occur, for example, when one’s own self-interest is tainted by the friend’s wealth or worldly influence.
Well, here are the saint’s suggestions for better friendships.
Five Tips on Friendship
1. Don't worry about whether your affection is being returned. As the saint says, “the return of affection is insubstantial like straw, as light as air and easily carried away by the wind.”
2. There are people who are affected by very small things. If you are not like this, “do not neglect to have compassion on others.” In other words, be sensitive to how others feel.
3. Look beyond the body and fix your eyes on the soul. If you dig deep you will find “gold within this mine,” and you “will think nothing of the work of digging.”
4. Do you find a fault within your friend? Then, “practice with perfection the virtue that is opposite of her fault.” Good example inspires!
5. Did you have an argument? “If you should be cross with one another because of some hasty word, you must at once correct the matter and pray earnestly.”
These five tips would help any friendship, whether in a religious community or not. There are a lot more gems about friendship, as well as growing closer to God through contemplative prayer in The Way of Perfection. Also, you may like to read the delightful novel Sister Teresa & Father Jerome: A Love Profound on St Teresa’s friendship with Father Jerome Gratian who helped to consolidate her reform of the Carmelite Order. Both books can be purchased from our Carmelite Book Service.
A Carmelite Calling
Are you a single man age 18-35 interested in Carmelite spirituality? Would you like to know more about our Carmelite charism – how this understanding of friendship fits with forming our lives as Discalced Carmelite friars?
If you attracted to Carmelite spirituality, you might have a God-given calling to become a Carmelite friar.
Ask yourself: Is God calling you to become a witness for him by living as a consecrated Carmelite brother or priest?
Contact me, Fr. Alex, Carmelite Encounter Director, at +44 (0)7477 673932, firstname.lastname@example.org
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