What about friends?
How do they fit into a devout life?
hen I was in Mexico several years
ago, doing free work to help build a website for some nuns, the Mother Foundress
put her arms around me as I left. She leaned her forehead against mine, and
we stayed that way in contemplative silence for a few minutes.
Then she said, “I love
Understanding that this was spoken
by a nun, I replied, “And I love those who love Christ more than they
So what does this teach us about
Scorn for Creatures?
Many persons can get confused about
friendships when they read about saints and mystics of the past who spoke about having
“scorn for creatures.” To modern ears, this sounds cruel and inhuman because
it seems to contradict the command to love our neighbors. But the problem really is
in misunderstanding the old language of “scorning creatures.”
In modern psychological language,
“scorning creatures” means simply to break our illusions of
identity that we put into relationships we have
with other persons. To break those illusions, we do not really scorn other persons
themselves, we scorn the manipulation of others for
our own benefit. Hence, when we “scorn creatures” we stop using them to
satisfy for our own needs, and we turn our attention to God as our ultimate and only
source of indentity.
Although it’s a mistake to manipulate
others for the sake of personal fulfillment, a person who seeks to live a
holy life can be friends with anyone who desires to
live a holy life. In this case, the bond between these persons is the bond of
mutual love for Christ.
In any friendship, however, it’s
important that one rule be respected: friendship can never fall into expectancy
or it will destroy itself.
This rule really derives from a mystical
understanding of God’s gifts: God gives us many gifts, not for our personal
benefit, but to help us do His will. We must accept these gifts as they are given,
when they are given, without expecting them. We can ask for them in our need,
yes—and then we must
patiently for God to do what He wills.
And so it is with friends. We turn to
Christ for all our needs; we seek His Kingdom before all else. And when God gives us
time for mutual sharing with a friend, free of all expectancy and demand—like
wildflowers in a meadow—we rejoice.
Nevertheless, all friendship
must be like Saint John the Baptist pointing to the Cross: Him, not
Even the most intimate bonds of friendship
and the closest affinity of minds cannot truly lay claim to . . . peace if they are not in
agreement with the will of God. Alliances based on evil desires, covenants of crime and
pacts of vice—all lie outside the scope of this peace. Love of the world cannot be
reconciled with love of God, and those who do not separate themselves from the children
of this generation cannot join the company of the children of God. But those who keep God ever
in their hearts, and are anxious to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace,
never dissent from the eternal law as they speak the prayer of faith. Thy will be done on
earth as it is in heaven.
—From a sermon by Saint Leo
the Great, pope
Office of Readings, Monday,
Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time