Christian Friendship: tracing Christ in our hearts

Sr. Agnes Therese with Meaghan 
Today, June 8, is an important day for me. Today, my friend Meaghan will make her first promises (like first vows) along with other applicants at Madonna House, a lay apostolate in Combermere, Canada . I met Meaghan when she was visiting our community and became friends with her when she came to join us as a postulant. Although she felt the Lord calling her out of our community and to Madonna House, we have continued to grow in friendship by exchanging letters, and this has been a tremendous blessing for me.

It’s funny to me how important this and other friendships are in my life, because St. Francis de Sales didn’t think it necessary that those of us who walk the safe, even path of religious life have friends. I’m not sure what world he lived in – but it’s not mine! Friendship, and especially friendship with other consecrated people, is one of the greatest gifts in my life. These friends are a comfort and a challenge to me. And the signs of friendship are all around me: a palm cross from a Marian Brother stationed in D.C., a funeral card from a Franciscan sister in New Hampshire, a hand-sized rag doll in the likeness of St. Agnes of Prague sent from Meaghan for my feast day, a business card from a Dominican sister in Nashville, and, of course, a stack of correspondence which never seems to get any smaller.

I cherish these signs of friendship – they are a constant reminder to me that I am not alone in attempting to give my whole life to Christ. Of course, my married friends are also a marvelous witness of holiness, but in a different way. After all, consecrated people are supposed to be a sign, an eschatological witness that says, “Heaven is coming! Love Jesus now!” And I need that witness and that reminder just as much as anybody else – I can’t be a sign for myself! This is part of why religious community is such a precious gift: I spend my days with my sisters, who are striving with me (but also, mysteriously, all alone) to love Christ well.

In spite of this, there have been times when I have wondered whether friends are just a crutch that we use to get by until we lean entirely on Christ. I think it can be helpful to ask what it was that drove Christ (who lived completely for the Father, to do the Father’s will) to be friends with his disciples – and what drives him to be friends with us. In friendship with the disciples and in friendship with us, Christ, like every friend, seeks an alter idem, another self. When this desire is manifest in our fallen humanity, it can lead to selfishness and destructive relationships. We often try to manipulate or control our friends to make them like us. It is different with Jesus: he seeks himself in each heart because he is the blueprint of human perfection, and his image is traced in each person’s very soul. By his friendship with us, the frail outline of his image is sharpened, darkened, and made clearer. This can happen in our relationships with others, too! We can allow the Christ who dwells in our hearts to seek and strengthen his image in our friends. This is a great challenge, a great joy, and a great mystery.

Let us not be afraid of the friendships the Lord offers us – each of which is an opportunity to become more like him, the model of all friendship. And as we walk this road with one another in reverential love, let us always be tracing those lines of Christ’s portrait deeper and firmer in the hearts of our friends, trusting all the while that his image is being engraved ever more deeply in our own hearts as well.

Please join me in praying for Meaghan and her fellow applicants who will make first promises today. May they live each day more firmly in friendship with Christ and one another.
-Sr. Agnes Thérèse Davis, TOR
Sr. Agnes Thérèse wrote the song below as a gift for Meaghan

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  1. Thank you so much Sr. Agnes Therese! Each night when I give thanks to our Heavenly Father I always thank Him for our dear friends. We have been so blessed with such wonderful friends.
    May God bless you! :-)

  2. It looks like some sentence or paragraph got partly deleted:
    "have wondered whether friends are just a crutch that we use to get by until we"

    Otherwise, thank you for your insight into friendship.

  3. Thank you so much for this blog post, Sister Agnes Therese! I am entering religious life in less than 3 months and have already been blessed with beautiful and deep friendships in the world. It's so comforting to me to get little glimpses of the friendships in consecrated life! I'm praying for your dear friend Meaghan and for you too (your name is so beautiful!). Thank you for your reflection, it is just what my heart needed today.


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