Friends Forever: St. Augustine, Friendship, and Catholic Evangelism by Brother André Marie

Summary: friendship as a means of perfection and evangelizing others.

Full paper is available at:  http://www.catholicism.org/downloads/St_Augustine_Friendship.pdf

The title of this paper, “Friends Forever,” is meant to be a little ironic. The expression is one that high school girls tend to write in each others’ yearbooks at graduation. Often times, such friendships, whether or not they are worthy of the name, last not too long after graduation. The only way to make friendships last forever is to base them in Christ, for “No friendship is faithful except in Christ; in Him alone can it be happy and eternal.”

That such friendships do truly last forever is a common opinion of theologians, for one of the “secondary” or “accidental” subjects of the beatitude of the elect is the enjoyment of each other in the Beatific Vision where the concord of the Mystical Body will make us “one heart” with the Sacred Heart of Jesus: “And there will be one Christ loving Himself.”

It was my intention to outline, using the thoughts of St. Augustine, the evangelical and apostolic utility of the bond of friendship, as well as its power to sanctify the individual who extends it. All of us have “friends” of some type or another, even if they are not truly worthy of the name. We can take advantage of these bonds, however tenuous or superficial, for our own advantage, as well as that of our neighbors. We may think we lack the apostolic advantages of the North American Martyrs, but what we really lack (besides, perhaps, their sanctity) are their numerous disadvantages. One advantage we have over them is that, in our “mission territory,” we are already known and have established a rapport with the natives.

In order to use friendships for such a holy end, the soul of the individual must be steeped in supernatural virtue, which implies the living of a devout life: frequently receiving the sacraments, praying, practicing the moral virtues, the theological virtues, and sailing on the breath of the Holy Ghost by utilizing His seven-fold gifts. This supernatural panoply begins with, and depends upon Faith, that virtue which is the initium salutis, the beginning of salvation, for “A man must be a friend of truth before he can be a friend to any human being.” Thus we see that the interior life, a good in itself (bonum honestum), is also a useful good (bonum utile) for the purposes of evangelism.

By failing to live the life of virtue, which even the pagan Cicero recognized as necessary for this union, those friendships we have may become easily corrupted and an occasion for our own damnation. We must heed the caveat of our guide and teacher, all too familiar as he was with the vices occasioned by bad friendships: “The bond of human friendship has a sweetness of its own, binding many souls together as one. Yet because of these values, sin is committed, because we have an inordinate preference for these goods of a lower order and neglect the better and the higher good.” For friendship inevitably unites us to our friends “and of many [makes] us one,” and of close friends it can be said that they are “two in body but one in mind,” so we must choose our friendships wisely and terminate them when they become a danger, while never ceasing to pray for and exhort our former friends, as our Master did for Julian and Boniface.

In order to make these friendships become holy and advantageous to all concerned, we must recall the necessity of grace, and the consequent necessity of prayer, which is a duty of Christian friendship: “for there is no true friendship save between those thou dost bind together and who cleave to thee by that love which is ‘shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us.’”

Friends Forever

In this life, friendships are uncertain. Augustine’s own sad experience with Julian of Eclanum and others taught him that hidden treacheries, instability, and other vices always threaten friendships and make us, frail creatures as we are, ever vulnerable: “How confused it all is! One who seems to be an enemy turns out to be a friend and those whom we thought our good friends in fact are our worst enemies.”

Only heaven, with its uninterrupted, ecstatic union with our Final End can give men the constancy they need to be “friends forever”:

“Blessed is he who loves his friend in Thee... for he alone loses none dear to him, to whom all are dear in Him who cannot be lost.”

Catholic saints, bishops, and popes in the Bible

I should expand these further, but not sure how to organize the information to be concise and useful.

  • 2 Tim 4:21 - "Try to get here before winter. Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brothers send greetings." (St. Linus, 2nd bishop of Rome; St. Claudia) See also: Martial’s ‘Epigrams’ (iv. 13, xi. 53)
  • Philippians 4:3 - "Yes, and I ask you also, my true yokemate, to help them, for they have struggled at my side in promoting the gospel, along with Clement and my other co-workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Clement, possibly 4th bishop of Rome)

Here are a few more from Romans 16 (all Catholic saints):
  • St. Priscilla aka Prisca -- 1st Century Jewish tent-maker; married to Aquila. Convert. Martyred in Rome.
  • St. Aquila -- 1st Century Jewish tent-maker. married to Priscilla. Convert. Their house was used as a church. Martyred in Rome.
  • St. Aristolubus -- 1st Century. Said to have been one of the 72 disciples commissioned by Jesus to preach the coming of the Kingdom. Legend says that after the Resurrection. Aristolubus evangelised Britain and died a marytr.
  • St. Herodion -- Relative of St. Paul; Bishop of Patras, Greece. Martyred.
  • St. Rufus -- Brought to Rome with St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Zosimus during the persecutions of Trajan. Marytred with St. Zosimus by being mangled by wild animals in AD 107, in the Roman arena.
  • St. Nereus -- Soldier in the Imperial Roman army; member of the Praetorian Guard. Convert. Baptized by St. Peter. Exiled for his faith; marytred with his brother St. Achilleus, by beheading.
  • St. Jason -- St. Paul stayed at Jason's home in Thessolonica. Bishop of Tarsus in Cilicia and evangelised the Greek island of Corfu. Imprisoned for preaching the faith; maryted by being torn apart by wild animals. 
  • St. Quartus -- One of the first disciples of the Apostles. Died 1st Century. 

Faith of the Early Fathers by William Jurgens is a useful reference. ($5 - $18)
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The Good News: Jesus Christ obliterated death

Christ Jesus ... has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. -- 2 Tim 1:10
What part of destroyed or obliterated isn't understood? Particularly for those in Christ?

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. (1 Cor 12:21)

Christ obliterated death. The "dead" are indispensable in Christ.  Through Jesus Christ, their intercession and prayer to God is indispensable for you.  Are they dead to you?  Where is your faith that Jesus obliterated death, particularly for those IN CHRIST?


2 Cor 1:11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers.

1 Tim 2:1-3 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. 3 This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Rom 12:4-5 For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

And the massive implications of 1 Cor 15.  Better err on the side of caution, because if you underestimate Christ's power over death, your faith is in vain, and you may still be in your sins.

Note that Abraham and Lazarus have a conversation "across the chasm".  If the chasm can be reached, how much easier is it to love across the chasm of Heaven and Earth with Jesus Christ?

Usually this involves complaints with intercession and claims of various forms of necromancy about those in Christ (called the Communion of Saints) of those who have gone before us. The protestant message seems to weaken how much Christ has obliterated death.
Mark 12:24-27 Jesus said to them, "Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in Heaven.  And as for being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, `I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?  He is not God of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong."
Matthew 27:51-54 And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.   The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, "Truly, this was the Son of God!"

For those uneasy, here is an explicit approach:
  • Jesus, I would like to ask you to ask Elijah to pray to the Father for ... 
  • Jesus, I would like to ask you to ask Lazarus to pray to the Father for ...  
  • Jesus, I would like to ask you to ask the entire Kingdom of God to pray to the Father for ... 
Catholics (Christians) do this implicitly through Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit as members of His Body.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. -- Ephesians 4:1-6, 16

In Charity and Truth by Pope Benedict XVI


Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 29 June, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, in the year 2009.

CONCLUSION
78. Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. In the face of the enormous problems surrounding the development of peoples, which almost make us yield to discouragement, we find solace in the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5) and then encourages us: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). As we contemplate the vast amount of work to be done, we are sustained by our faith that God is present alongside those who come together in his name to work for justice. Paul VI recalled in Populorum Progressio that man cannot bring about his own progress unaided, because by himself he cannot establish an authentic humanism. Only if we are aware of our calling, as individuals and as a community, to be part of God's family as his sons and daughters, will we be able to generate a new vision and muster new energy in the service of a truly integral humanism. The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism[157] that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God. Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity. On the other hand, ideological rejection of God and an atheism of indifference, oblivious to the Creator and at risk of becoming equally oblivious to human values, constitute some of the chief obstacles to development today. A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism. Only a humanism open to the Absolute can guide us in the promotion and building of forms of social and civic life — structures, institutions, culture and ethos — without exposing us to the risk of becoming ensnared by the fashions of the moment. Awareness of God's undying love sustains us in our laborious and stimulating work for justice and the development of peoples, amid successes and failures, in the ceaseless pursuit of a just ordering of human affairs. God's love calls us to move beyond the limited and the ephemeral, it gives us the courage to continue seeking and working for the benefit of all, even if this cannot be achieved immediately and if what we are able to achieve, alongside political authorities and those working in the field of economics, is always less than we might wish[158]. God gives us the strength to fight and to suffer for love of the common good, because he is our All, our greatest hope.
79. Development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us. For this reason, even in the most difficult and complex times, besides recognizing what is happening, we must above all else turn to God's love. Development requires attention to the spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God's providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace. All this is essential if “hearts of stone” are to be transformed into “hearts of flesh” (Ezek 36:26), rendering life on earth “divine” and thus more worthy of humanity. All this is of man, because man is the subject of his own existence; and at the same time it is of God, because God is at the beginning and end of all that is good, all that leads to salvation: “the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's” (1 Cor 3:22-23). Christians long for the entire human family to call upon God as “Our Father!” In union with the only-begotten Son, may all people learn to pray to the Father and to ask him, in the words that Jesus himself taught us, for the grace to glorify him by living according to his will, to receive the daily bread that we need, to be understanding and generous towards our debtors, not to be tempted beyond our limits, and to be delivered from evil (cf. Mt 6:9-13).
At the conclusion of the Pauline Year, I gladly express this hope in the Apostle's own words, taken from the Letter to the Romans: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honour” (Rom 12:9-10). May the Virgin Mary — proclaimed Mater Ecclesiae by Paul VI and honoured by Christians as Speculum Iustitiae and Regina Pacis — protect us and obtain for us, through her heavenly intercession, the strength, hope and joy necessary to continue to dedicate ourselves with generosity to the task of bringing about the “development of the whole man and of all men[159].