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Tag Archives: friendship

HOW CAN I BE GOOD?

HOW CAN I BE GOOD?

Dear little souls, God loves, you and your sufferings are not unknown to me; you who so ardently feel the happiness of devoting yourselves to others, but are unable to do so, because the occasions seem to fly from you; you who so often try to devote yourselves, but are suddenly held back by timidity and the fear of not being accepted – it is for you that I have collected these little occupations, which permit you to taste, without coming from under the shadow of silence and obscurity, the joys of a devotion known to God alone, of a benevolence all the sweeter to the heart of him who exercises it because no one thinks of thanking him.

THE SWEET OFFICE OF MEDIATOR

This little occupation consists in never suffering two hearts in a family or community to remain for any length of time at variance.

It seems a most natural thing to extend your hand to a friend who is offended, saying simply, with that friendly smile which brightens the whole countenamce: Let us love each other as we did before.

The wounded heart closes, retires, and shrinks back upon itself, exaggerating the injuries inflicted on it by a friend and its own wrongs, and it remains estranged; it desires to revive the old friendship, but it knows not how to commence.

Oh! if some advance were only made.

Make it, you who accept the sweet office of mediator. Go from one to the other; be the bearer of a simple good morning; tell him who is offended that you have seen his friend sad.

Is there a reparation to be made, a pardon to be asked? Take it upon yourself, arrange an interview, cause a smile, a tear. Do not become weary until you have re-established the union between these two hearts.

And then quietly resume your ordinary life, as if you had done nothing, and await some new occasion of being useful.

Oh! what account will not God take of your steps and your words.

– From: Golden Grains, A Collection of Counsels for the Sanctification And Happiness of Every-Day Life, M. H. Gill & Son, Dublin, 1889

MORE WAYS TO BE GOOD

The Repairer of Neglects

 

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PEOPLE’S OPINIONS WILL PASS AWAY, BUT THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD WILL REMAIN WITH US

Let all your life, every hour, be a perpetual prayer of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord…irrespective of what the world says about that.

Let us joyfully and cheerfully dig all those little furrows which Providence has entrusted to each of us.

Let us not allow ourselves to be delayed or disturbed by ambitious thoughts which whisper in our ears, “You could do something better;” by the deceitful desires of a false zeal which would persuade us to desert our daily task; by a ridiculous desire to propagate more beautiful flowers than our neighbours.

Let us occupy ourselves with one thing alone – that is, “to do well what is our duty to do, because God requires no more from us.”

Now, this “doing well” may be summed up in four words: “act purely, actively, joyfully, completely.”

 

How do we please God? – By acting purely, actively, joyfully, completely.

But then we may be forgotten, despised, wrongly understood, calumniated, persecuted… What matters it? This contempt, these injuries will pass away, but the friendship of God will remain with us. And we will have merited it by our patience and fidelity.

The friendship of God!

The friendship of God! Oh! who can say all that is contained in it of sweetness, of joy, of strength, of consolation? No human friendship, in its most ardent dreams, has ever even formed the faintest idea of that sweetness of God’s friendship, rendered more sensible by the Eucharistic union in our souls.

I can also understand this expression of a loving soul: “With the prospect of heaven in a short time, and holy communion every day, how can anyone think of complaining?

– From: Golden Grains, Eighth Edition, H.M. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1889

 

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FRIENDSHIP IS THE UNION OF SOULS, NOT FOR ENJOYMENT, BUT FOR ADVANCEMENT TOWARDS GOD

Who interests himself for the soul of his friend?

We take an interest in his success, in his fortune.

We pray to God to keep him from misfortune and failure.

We seek to procure for him a position in the world – to make him esteemed; we try to obtain for him everything that we think may be agreeable to him.

We sacrifice our own repose and the well-being we might enjoy in order to spare him trouble.

Oh! all this is beautiful, very beautiful; but what have we done directly for the soul of this friend?

What are we doing for our friend’s soul?

Let us beseech God every day to make that soul humble, pure and indefatigable in performing his duties.

With the same delicacy that we would place some pleasure in his path, let us procure for it a pious book which will really do it good; let us furnish it with some occasion of gaining merit by proposing an alms to it, and also, without its knowledge, some opportunity for an act of self-denial or of slight humiliation.

Some suggestions

Have we the courage to refrain from shielding it from a trial that we know will be good for it? It is hard, you say.

Ah! you do not know what friendship is. Does not God love us? God, nevertheless, permits us to suffer. He does more: He sends suffering on us.

Friendship is the union of souls, not for enjoyment, but for mutual perfection and advancement towards God, and in proportion as we advance we feel the happiness of loving one another.

The spirit of friendship is not tenderness, but strength, devotion, tact, purity, self-denial.

What deceives us in the nature of friendship is that we desire more to be loved than to love.

What makes us cowardly is the fear of being loved less. Let us not forget that “a selfish heart likes to be loved; a Christian heart desires to love… even without return.”

– From: Golden Grains, Eighth Edition, H.M. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1889

 

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SPIRITUAL AND INTELLECTUAL ARTILLERY TO DEFEND THE FAITH

“Five hundred years ago this month, our holy father St Philip Neri was born in the early hours of 22nd July, the feast of St Mary Magdalene. Just hours later the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity were infused into his soul in Baptism. In the wretched heat and humidity that afflict Florence in high summer it was prudent to administer the Sacrament without delay.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed

Our Lord tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard which when it is sown is the tiniest seed in the field, but when grown it becomes a tree in the branches of which the birds of the air come and make their nests. The seed that was planted in St Philip’s heart in the famous Baptistery of St John, and which germinated and took root during his childhood in Florence, would eventually flourish into a mighty tree in Rome. His own room was the nest (he actually called it his ‘nido’) in which the fledgling first Oratory would become the base for an apostolic mission that would earn him the glorious title Apostle of Rome.

The purpose of an Oratory in the plan of salvation

As other Oratories began to be established, it was St Philip’s wish that each house remain autonomous, and this status is preserved to this day in the Church’s law. Nevertheless, every Oratory is to be like a branch that stems from and is animated by that supernatural life that was nurtured in St Philip’s ‘nido’ half a millennium ago. The purpose of an Oratory in the plan of salvation is to give encouragement and direction to anyone who seeks spiritual refreshment in the shade of its bough. An Oratory is supposed to provide a spiritual home, usually in an urban context, in which friendship with Our Saviour is nurtured under the gentle guidance of St Philip and the protection of Our Lady.

…where friendship with Our Saviour is nurtured

Mention of the Counter Reformation conjures up images of the Church rolling out all the engines of war. Established religious orders were to be reformed or suppressed; new congregations would be equipped with spiritual and intellectual artillery to defend the Faith and reclaim territories lost to schism. Jesuits were to be deployed around Europe to engage heretics in public dispute, or despatched to risk life and limb recruiting converts from the heathen New World. In contrast to this, St Philip’s mission within the Church Militant took place entirely on the home front. In the words of Bl. John Henry Newman, ‘He put away from him monastic rule and authoritative speech as David refused the armour of his king… His weapons should be but unaffected humility and unpretending love. All he did was to be done by the light and fervour and convincing eloquence of his personal character and his easy conversation. He came to the Eternal City and he sat himself down there, and his home and his family gradually grew up around him.” In other words, it was through personal contact and friendship that St Philip contributed to the success of the Catholic Reformation.

The Christian/spiritual meaning of friendship

Under the tyranny of sentimentalism that reigns supreme today, there is a danger that friendship can take on a shallow meaning and be understood mainly in terms of feelings and utility. To understand how friendship was so effective in St Philip’s apostolate, it is necessary to appreciate the classical and Christian traditions in which he had been formed by the Dominicans at San Marco, and through his later studies in Rome. In the Aristotelian understanding, friendship is a ‘settled disposition’ – a habit, based on virtue. It involves the recognition of an intrinsic good in the other, and a reciprocated commitment to serve that good and make it flourish. In a truly virtuous friendship, the parties will also work together for the common good. Whereas for Aristotele such friendship is only possible between equals (he said that the one good we must never desire for our friends is that they become gods because if our wish were fulfilled then we should immediately forfeit their friendship), St Thomas Aquinas’s teaching on Sanctifying Grace makes even friendship with God a reality, because God actually shares His Divine Life with us through Baptism.

The infectious spirit of generosity and charity

Saint Philip excelled in making men’s hearts receptive to this vocation to live as friends with God. His joyful influence fostered an ambience in which his spiritual children found pleasure in each other’s company and came to assist each other in living virtuously. A shy cobbler whom St Philip spotted sitting at the back of the Oratory was summoned to the front and hugged like a long-lost child returning to a family that included cardinals and princes. A watch-seller on the verge of bankruptcy found himself suddenly overwhelmed by eager customers at the Oratory, where St Philip’s friends had been primed to come to his assistance. This infectious spirit of generosity and charity was fostered by visits to attend to the poor in the Roman hospitals. Even those who came to the Oratory with unworthy motives were eventually captivated by the ‘Winning Saint’, and some found themselves taking Holy Orders or religious vows as a result.

This school of Christian friendship was the magnificent mustard tree which developed from that seed of the Kingdom planted in St Philip’s heart at his Baptism on 22nd July 1515. By his intercession, and under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin, may it continue to flourish in the Oratory today and in the years to come.”

– From: “The Oratory Parish Magazine – From the Provost”, London Oratory, Vol. 92, No. 1130 (subheadings in bold added afterwards)

 

 

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“TO BE LOVED BY GOD IS THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN FRIENDSHIP”

“Who will give us to understand what these few words: ‘the friendship of God’, signify? To be loved by one who is holy, kind, tender, faithful, devoted; to enter into the secret of His life, the radiations of His spirit, to lean on His strength; to be sure of being understood, if we speak to Him, consoled by Him if we are in suffering, pardoned if we have failed, raised up again if we have fallen, in a word, always loved, loved whatever happens, is a happiness so rare, that it is hardly to be met with on earth.

But to be loved by God is to be under the care of our Creator; it is to be loved by Him always with a greater and broader love. It is the perfection of human friendship, that friendship which is only complete, if it has as its centre the God of love.

What are we to complain of, O Lord?

We are loved by You, and You loved us even before we corresponded to this love. Between Your heart and our soul there exists the close bond of a holy friendship, and, whoever we may be, poor or insignificant, despised by the world, ignorant or abandoned, You love us always.”
– Mgr. Gay

 

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“A FRIENDSHIP OF WHICH GOD WOULD NOT BE THE BOND WOULD QUICKLY BECOME DANGEROUS”

TRUE FRIENDSHIP

“If you knew the happiness of having true friends, you would guard with care those whom Providence sends you.

But how are we to know true friendship?

A true friend never flatters.

A true friend knows how to raise our thoughts to God.

A true friend consoles us in our sorrows, and rejoices in our joy.

A true friend is the support of the pious soul, the guide on whom it leans, in order to reach the eternal port.

True friendship is founded on beauty of soul; it is not liable to those variations which occur in worldly friendships. Having its origin in freer, purer, more exalted regions than any other affection, it is the union of several hearts having only piety for guide, and God for object.

A friendship of which God would not be the centre and the bond, would be a false friendship, and would quickly become dangerous.

O you who have true friends, thank Heaven, for it is the sweetest favour that is granted to man here below.”
– Laverty & Son (eds), 1905

 
 

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IN HEAVEN, UNLIKE HERE, OUR FRIENDSHIPS WILL BE PERFECT

SEEKING GOD’S LOVE

But the warning is this: do not ask from any human being that which God only can give. I grant you that God gives himself THROUGH human beings and unites himself through human relationships, provided the people involved realise their human relationships as a mutual giving and receiving of Christ-life and the Holy Spirit, and do nothing to frustrate this. But God does not give himself wholly through any ONE friend, lover, husband, or what not: I mean rather that although every real friendship is a mutual Christ-giving, no one friend can give God to you so perfectly as completely to satisfy and fill your need for his love.

GOD’S LOVE IS INFINITELY GREATER THAN OUR OWN

Human elements enter into EVERY human relationship, and disturb the serenity of them all sometimes. You see, we all tend to ask from the other human being things that God alone can give and we can only attain by a mutual and conscious turning to God together, and accepting from God together whatever suffering is the condition of love – and of course suffering in SOME measure is the condition of all love and every love… God’s love for those we love is infinitely greater than our own, and it is as well to remember it, and to remember it especially when he allows things to happen which threaten both their happiness or safety, and ours.
HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS CANNOT YET BE PERFECT ON EARTH

And it is also the ultimate reason why, despite the Christ-giving element in our relationships, they can never be perfect here. There must be empty places left in our hearts, because the final happiness of both depends upon God himself possessing us completely: once that is achieved, heaven can begin for both, and in heaven of course, unlike here, our friendships will take part, not only imperfectly, in God, but perfectly. That, however, won’t happen here; so, while thanking God for the joy and miracle of your new friendships, do not demand perfection from them, and do not be disappointed when trials arise. Actually, but for the failure of other relationships in your life, and for the suffering you have had through them, which, by the by, you have borne with magnificent fortitude and sweetness, but for those things you would not now be ready, fashioned as it were by the hammer of God.
– Caryll Houselander, 20th century

 

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