I have many friends and several great friends. The one thing my closest friends and I have in common is friendship in the Lord. This phrase indicates that we put God first, always, in our lives, and family, friends, work, play, seconds.
Perhaps the greatest virtue, besides the love of God and love of His Church, which I share with these few close friends, is detachment. We are not dependent upon each other in a worldly manner. In fact, when we speak together, we talk of the things of God, not the things of men. Our conversations center around the spiritual life, prayer, miracles, saints, intercessions, and Scripture.
My sister-friends love God and love His Church. My closest brother-friends love God and love His Church. These friends also, of course, love Mary, Our Mother. Ties may been made on other principles, such as sharing activities when our children were young, or Church activities, but those ties quickly changed into something deeper and more lasting-love of Christ, the Bridegroom.
I am blessed in my friends, whom I rarely see. Without the cell phones or Internet, we would be even farther apart. But, with some of my friends, we can not talk to each other for months and still pick up as if distance and time did not matter. Such is real friendship in the Lord, which transcends time and space.
When we get to heaven, God willing, our primary relationship with each other will be brothers and sisters in Christ. How sad that too many Catholics do not know what this means. I know Catholics who do not know how to be a brother or a sister, perhaps never having Christian relationships in the home, or, worse, only relating from a sexual foundation. This twisting of friendship cannot be tolerated in those who desire friendship in the Lord. No manipulation or unsaid desires can impinge on true friendship, which must be free of compulsion or constraints, either psychological, emotional, physical or spiritual.
In times past, especially in American who experienced immigration and prairie life, distance and time destroyed family ties, almost forcing the small communities to rely on the local churches. And, indeed, in the Midwest, where I am now for a short period of time, until I cross the Mississippi, people congregated around the pastor, either Catholic or Lutheran or Methodist, in this area, an formed communities based on friendship in the Lord.
These types of communities have faded in modern times. Except for a few parishes where I have experienced real community, such as in Alberta with the Byzantine Catholics, or in Alaska, with Catholics dedicated to real Catholic education, or in Mississippi, after Katrina, when all were working for a common cause, I have not encountered true community life since I left a highly organized one in 1979. That community taught me what friendship in the Lord was really about....freedom.
Freedom in friendship must be a topic rarely raised. Commitment demands that a person has incorporated some freedom in their personal lives. I am convinced that only in relationships of marriage or in a community of religious, such as a monastery or convent can people become mature enough for real friendship in the Lord.
There are so few really, truly unselfish people. Most of us have some level of self-love which needs to be destroyed before one can experience the freedom necessary for friendship in the Lord. It is not that we have to be perfect in order to enter into real friendship, but a certain amount of distance and detachment is necessary. Without some emotional distance, one falls into the same patterns of falsity one did before conversion, or in dysfunctional families.
Friendship in the Lord happens when one decides to follow Christ and take the life of virtues seriously. As one gets closer to Christ, one is able to love in a righteous manner. Dying to self creates real friendships. Only when one is through the purification of the emotions and the senses can one truly be a friend.