We’re approaching the height of Confirmation season. One of the things our Bishop is telling all the Confirmation candidates (spoiler alert to anyone in our diocese) is that they need good, Catholic friends. How true this is for Every Single One Of Us! In my own life, Catholic friends have been a source of joy, fun, consolation, laughter, inspiration, spiritual growth. Whatever state of life we are in – married or single – we need our friends. I’ve discovered, as friends get married and begin families, they need friends in new and different ways. Friends who are very different from you and who inspire you to try harder or challenge you to see beyond your own viewpoint and ways of doing things (sometimes learned the hard way). Friends who don’t really get your line of work and so will take you out of yourself by doing or talking about something completely different. Friends who do share your work and will help you laugh about it. Friends you’ve known so long you can happily curl up on the sofa with, each with your own book. Friends are the remedy and the consolation for much in our life. I do think that the need for good friendships for own interior growth cannot be underestimated. There is a wonderful chapter about this in this fabulous book – for all you ladies out there.
Of course, it is rare (especially as you grow older, don’t you think?) for friendships just to happen, with very little effort. Some friendships just click – you both adore each other – and not very much work is involved at all – or at least it doesn’t feel like work. When I was younger, I only bothered with these kind of friendships and pretty much ignored everyone else. (Yes, how obnoxious.) Now I am older, I am valuing friendships all over the place. Do you know why? Hopefully because I’m a little maturer. But also because, over the last four or five years, I’ve realised the potential within friendship for our apostolate.
Each of us, if we’re baptised, has an apostolate – whether it’s active or kinda dusty. Each of us, through our union with Christ as his disciples, are called to be busy and active in bringing others to him. All the people we are in contact with in our daily life. All of them. The lady on the desk at the gym. The lovely lady who shows me new eye makeup at the Clinique counter. My driving instructor. The people I went walking with in the bluebell forest at the weekend. (Just a quick scan through my past week…) Building up friendships is the absolute best way to bring others to him. It creates the foundation which, once developed, can be the basis for evangelisation. Our friendship is the first stage Sherry Weddell talks about in her book.
This is the obvious kind of apostolate. The less obvious kind is with our Catholic friends who are maybe a little less strong in their faith. Jesus uses our friendships here, too, if we pray for our friends and about them. What would he have us do? How can we help them grow deeper in their faith? After all, the more passionate disciples he has, the more the new evangelisation can spread.
I admit it, I prefer this kind of apostolate to the previous one, and some things I’ve tried here include: inviting someone to a talk, a retreat, a course (discern what they’re ready for); invite someone to be a catechist-helper on a programme (not teaching, but helping with a small group – it is the best way to ensure they get the catechesis they never had themselves as a teen); invite friends round for dinner – a mixture of on-fire Catholics and on-the-edge ones; let friends know you really need some help with cooking food/giving lifts/registering people for your Catholic event; invite them on a hike with your Catholic friends; start a reading group (you want to be careful here – inviting Sunday-Mass-going-only-Catholics to study Church documents with you is not going to cut it; however, there are some interesting, less threatening books that gently introduce people to the faith – Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning; Walter Ciszek’s With God in Russia (oh dear, notice the concentration camp theme); Jacque Philippe’s Interior Freedom). Above all, pray and offer small mortifications for them – this is the most effective thing we can do in our apostolate.
Just because we’re catechists doesn’t mean we’re not called to be evangelists too In every sphere of our lives… using all our creativity, imagination, effort…
Friendship is a wonderful gift. As we grow into our catechising-evangelising lives, we realise that some of our best friends are those we have brought to the faith or catechised, or both… And we have received much, much more grace than the little drop of water we have poured in.