I recently read the book Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship (Ave Maria Press, 2010) by Mary DeTurris Poust for a forthcoming review. There are several snippets throughout Mary’s fine reflection that could be shared here, but I’d like to offer just one today to consider. Early in the book, while explaining what she means by “spiritual friendship” as opposed to your more popular conception of friendship, Mary writes:
A spiritual friend can offer insights and prayers, comfort and encouragement when we are struggling with our children or a problem at work. We can pray with one another — or for one another. We can talk about spiritual questions that not everyone else wants to discuss. Whether we live across the street or across the country, we can join our hearts and minds and provide each other with a spiritual refuge. Such companionship can bring us a deep sense of peace that comes from knowing we are loved in a particular way, that we are not alone, and that what we are longing for and striving for is not so impossible or crazy after all. And all of that, in turn, allows us to approach the rest of our relationships and responsibilities with a spirit of hope and a sense of solidarity. It is powerful stuff.
Indeed close friendships are “powerful stuff.” The nature of a “spiritual friendship,” it seems, takes the intimacy of a close friendship and includes another emphasis that might not otherwise be found in one’s relationship with other friends: God. Now, to be clear, obviously God is found in all relationships, but the term “spiritual friendship” suggests that God becomes a focal point or emphasis in the relationship with another.
We all have those mentors and friends in our lives to whom we confide concerns and joys, look up to and model our lives after and from whom we seek wisdom in our more trying circumstances. These types of friends seem to fall under this category that Mary DeTurris Poust highlights as a rich, if often overlooked, element of the Catholic Christian tradition.