A statue of St. Francis of Assisi is seen on the grounds of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America in Washington. In his column, Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., reflects on saints, such as Francis of Assisi and the sacrifices they made in order to follow Christ. CNS photo/Sydney Clark
A statue of St. Francis of Assisi is seen on the grounds of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America in Washington. In his column, Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., reflects on saints, such as Francis of Assisi and the sacrifices they made in order to follow Christ. CNS photo/Sydney Clark
In his book “The Four Loves,” C.S. Lewis observes that, for those who seek out Christian friendships, there are no coincidences in regard to who we encounter in life, and with whom we find common ground and ultimately strike up lasting relationships. Lewis writes, “A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ Those friendships are the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

God has reasons for placing us in each other’s lives. We strike up friendships for various reasons. Sometimes it is because we have a lot in common and our friendship becomes a celebration of those things we hold dear. But sometimes we come from very different backgrounds and our friendship forms over a need to discover some new insight that can only be encountered by venturing beyond our comfort zone. No matter the circumstances, friendship is not just an experience of enjoying the company of others. At its best, friendship is an opportunity to discover Christ.

The Christopher News Note “Making a Friend of Jesus” points to the lives of the saints as a guide for cultivating a friendship with Jesus. St. Catherine of Siena grew so close to Christ that she conversed with him throughout her day. When she prayed the “Glory Be” prayer, she addressed Christ directly, saying, “Glory Be to the Father, and to You, and to the Holy Spirit.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori encouraged this kind of conversational approach to prayer, writing, “Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with him, familiarly and with con?dence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends. Speak to him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fear – of everything that concerns you. Converse with him con?dently and frankly; for God is not wont to speak to a soul that does not speak to him.”

St. Francis of Assisi’s desire for closeness with Christ led him to abandon the wealth of this world for a life of poverty. This was a tremendous leap to abandon his social status and the friendships that naturally came with that status. Yet, Francis was met with the most amazing blessings of friendship within this new life because so many people wanted to follow his example. The story of Francis reminds us that when we put Christ first, even if that entails distancing ourselves from certain social scenes accompanied by a life of status, we awaken ourselves to much deeper and more fulfilling friendships.

God brings us together because he wants us to help each other get to heaven. Discovering, as C.S. Lewis says, “the beauties of others” enables us to recognize the presence of God in each human soul. That recognition can guide our interactions with all people we meet and make us aware that we are greeting Christ each time we encounter another person. It is this awareness that deepens our friendship with Christ because he wants to be found within the souls of all children of God and most especially in the weak, the vulnerable, and the outcast. So we should cultivate strong friendships, and in this way, we will learn how to discover Christ in others and allow others to discover Christ within ourselves.

For free copies of the Christopher News Note MAKING A FRIEND OF JESUS, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or email: mail@christophers.org.

Father Ed Dougherty, M.M. is a member of The Christophers’ board of directors.