“The true center can never be the exact midpoint between two extremes, for poles are always unstable, ever changing. The true center is above.” – Michael O’Brien
Praise God! This reflection that a friend shared with me really hits the nail on the head with regards to true friendship. Any friendship, whether it be in a marriage, between two religious, or two single lay persons, should be a tripartite relationship, with God as the focus. If all friendships were oriented towards God, imagine how serene a place the world would be!
Pray without ceasing!
[Editor’s Note: The following is a reflection from Imagine Sisters contributor Eric Garris*.]
When I first entered the seminary five years ago, it was a great struggle for me to find Godly friendships outside of the seminary. The majority of my friends from high school went off to colleges around the country, and although I remained in contact with them, whenever we would get together over breaks I found that there was something missing in our friendship. I brought this struggle to spiritual direction; my spiritual director and I reflected on this and we came to the conclusion that what was missing in these friendships was God. My friends really didn’t understand what I was doing with my life in choosing to go to the seminary. Whenever we got together they would tell me how I was “wasting my life” in going to the seminary, but unfortunately I soon realized that these “friendships” were doing more harm than good.
The summer after my first year of seminary I went on a weeklong silent retreat, and during this retreat I read and prayed with a book recommended to me by my spiritual director: Maurice and Therese: The Story of Love. My director told me this book would benefit me greatly, for it featured a series of letters between Maurice, a struggling seminarian, and the Little Flower of Lisieux, St. Therese. The book captivated my heart and I read Therese’s letters to Maurice as if she had been writing them to me. I soon realized that this was the type of friendship that I desired: a Godly friendship that centered around the love of the Father, Son, and guided by the Spirit. After the retreat I went back to my spiritual director and told him of my desire to have a relationship/friendship with a nun. He told me, “Every Francis has a Clare; ask God to give you a Clare, and if it be His will, it will be done.”
I brought my desire to the Lord in prayer to have a nun friend, and lo and behold, the Lord responded to my prayer! He put not just one Bride of Christ in my life, but a whole community of women devoted to living out their relationship with Christ the Bridegroom. To put it simply, what these women do is show me how to love like Him who loved us first and how to be loved by Him. As a man who is seeking to live a celibate life in a world saturated with sex, celibacy is very contrary to what society says. My relationship with these nuns has shown me that there are other people out there seeking to live a life of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom. In that context, I am able to have a relationship with a woman that is pure and a place where the love of Christ is central. It is truly beautiful, and for this I give thanks!
*Eric Garris is a seminarian for the Diocese of Cleveland.