Real Friendship by St. Francis de Sales (Church Doctor) from the "Introduction to the Devout Life"

DO you, my child, love every one with the pure love of charity,
but have no friendship save with those whose intercourse is good
and true, and the purer the bond which unites you so much higher
will your friendship be. If your intercourse is based on science
it is praiseworthy, still more if it arises from a participation
in goodness, prudence, justice and the like; but if the bond of
your mutual liking be charity, devotion and Christian perfection,
God knows how very precious a friendship it is! Precious because
it comes from God, because it tends to God, because God is the
link that binds you, because it will last for ever in Him. Truly
it is a blessed thing to love on earth as we hope to love in
Heaven, and to begin that friendship here which is to endure for
ever there. I am not now speaking of simple charity, a love due
to all mankind, but of that spiritual friendship which binds
souls together, leading them to share devotions and spiritual
interests, so as to have but one mind between them. Such as these
may well cry out, "Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is,
brethren, to dwell together in unity!" [106] Even so, for the
"precious ointment" of devotion trickles continually from one
heart to the other, so that truly we may say that to such
friendship the Lord promises His Blessing and life for evermore.
To my mind all other friendship is but as a shadow with respect
to this, its links mere fragile glass compared to the golden bond
of true devotion. Do you form no other friendships. I say "form,"
because you have no right to cast aside or neglect the natural
bonds which draw you to relations, connexions, benefactors or
neighbours. My rules apply to those you deliberately choose to
make. There are some who will tell you that you should avoid all
special affection or friendship, as likely to engross the heart,
distract the mind, excite jealousy, and what not. But they are
confusing things. They have read in the works of saintly and
devout writers that individual friendships and special intimacies
are a great hindrance in the religious life, and therefore they
suppose it to be the same with all the world, which is not at all
the case. Whereas in a well-regulated community every one's aim
is true devotion, there is no need for individual intercourse,
which might exceed due limits;--in the world those who aim at a
devout life require to be united one with another by a holy
friendship, which excites, stimulates and encourages them in
well-doing. Just as men traversing a plain have no need to hold
one another up, as they have who are amid slippery mountain
paths, so religious do not need the stay of individual
friendships; but those who are living in the world require such
for strength and comfort amid the difficulties which beset them.
In the world all have not one aim, one mind, and therefore we
must take to us congenial friends, nor is there any undue
partiality in such attachments, which are but as the separation
of good from evil, the sheep from the goats, the bee from the
drone--a necessary separation.

No one can deny that our Dear Lord loved S. John, Lazarus,
Martha, Magdalene, with a specially tender friendship, since we
are told so in Holy Scripture; and we know that S. Paul dearly
loved S. Mark, S. Petronilla, as S. Paul Timothy and Thecla.
[107] S. Gregory Nazianzen boasts continually of his friendship
with the great S. Basil, of which he says: "It seemed as though
with two bodies we had but one soul, and if we may not believe
those who say that all things are in all else, at least one must
affirm that we were two in one, and one in two --the only object
that both had being to grow in holiness, and to mould our present
life to our future hopes, thereby forsaking this mortal world
before our death." And S. Augustine says that S. Ambrose loved S.
Monica by reason of her many virtues, and that she in return
loved him as an Angel of God.

What need to affirm so unquestionable a fact! S. Jerome, S.
Augustine, S. Gregory, S. Bernard, and all the most notable
servants of God, have had special friendships, which in nowise
hindered their perfection. S. Paul, in describing evil men, says
that they were "without natural affection," [108] i.e. without
friendship. And S. Thomas, in common with other philosophers,
acknowledges that friendship is a virtue, and he certainly means
individual friendships, because he says that we cannot bestow
perfect friendship on many persons. So we see that the highest
grace does not lie in being without friendships, but in having
none which are not good, holy and true.

[106] Ps. 133:1 - [Song of Ascents] How good, how delightful it is to live as brothers all together! (New Jerusalem Bible)

[107] S. Thecla (V.M.) was a native of Lycaonia, converted (so
say S. Augustine, S. Ambrose, S. Epiphanius, and others of the
Fathers) by S. Paul, who kindled so strong a love of virginity in
her heart that she broke off her intended marriage, and devoted
herself to Christ. She is said to have followed S. Paul in
several of his journeys, and a very ancient Martyrology, which
bears the name of S. Jerome, published by Florentinus, says that
she was miraculously delivered unhurt from the persecutors'
flames at Rome. It seems doubtful whether she died a natural or a
martyr's death. The first Christian Emperors built a great Church
at Seleucia, where she died.

[108] Rom. 1:31 - without brains, honour, love or pity. (New Jerusalem Bible)

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