Bernardo M. Villegas
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Crisis of Friendship (Part 2)

 For those of who want to make sure that our society will never face the crisis of friendship that the U.S. is presently experiencing, it would be wise to listen to the advice of Pope Francis who has written abundantly on this topic.  From the website www.opus.org, we will find an article entitled 5 Characteristics of Friendship from Pope Francis.  Listed below are the five characteristics, with a brief reflection on each one:

1.       Friendship is a generous, self-giving love, which leads us to seek the true good of our friend (cf. Christus vivit, no. 151).  Love in general means seeking the good of the one loved.   Therefore, friendship means seeking the good of the one loved.  A friend accompanies, encourages, shares with and helps the other person to grow, since one’s capacity for self-giving increases.  As the Prelate of Opus Dei, Msgr. Fernando Ocariz wrote in a Pastoral letter (November 1, 2019, no. 8), “Since it is a question of discovering and loving the good of the other person, friendship also means suffering with our friends and for our friends.”

2.     Patience and time are needed to forge a good friendship between two people (cf. Message, 15 September 2015).  As we saw in the first article of this series, presence is an indispensable ingredient in a relationship of friendship, i.e “being there for our friends.”   As Msgr. Ocariz wrote, “At times, the pace of life today can lead us to forget the importance of a good friend:  we have to know how to ‘waste time’ with our friends.  Each friend is an adventure of getting to know one another, with its high and low points, its joys and sorrows.  But like any adventure, it is investing in something worthwhile.  Each person is unique, as is each relationship of friendship (ibid, no. 8). 

In this regard, it is important to point out that mutual interests fuel deeper friendship.  If we want to have many friends, we must try to cultivate a good number of interests, such as hobbies, sports, gardening, bird watching, etc.  These mutual interests would be the occasion for our being able to “waste time” with our friends and a constant topic for conversation.  For example, in my personal experience, I have accumulated an increase of friends the moment late in my life I took an interest in football when I spent two years as a Visiting Professor at the IESE Business School in Barcelona, home of what is arguably the best football team in Spain.  Even as a senior citizen, I can still strike close friendships with people half my age on the basis of watching and talking about some games of the best football leagues in the world today, not to mention the World Cup.

 

3.      Even though friends may be quite different from one another, they always share things  in common that bring them together (cf. Christus vivit,  no. 151).  Friendship is like a good movie.  It broadens our view of the world when we take the risk of looking at it through the eyes of another person.  Our friends help us to understand ways of viewing life that are different from our own, that enrich our inner world, and, when the friendship is deep, that enable us to experience the world in a different way (Msgr.  Ocariz, ibid, no. 8).

This is especially applicable to those of us, like the OFWs, who have spent some years of our lives in a different country and culture.  Filipinos make friends easily even with those from different religions and cultures, thanks to our multi-cultural society, having been colonized by different countries.  We are a melting pot.  This explains why our OFWs are appreciated for their ability to make friends easily in the countries to which they have migrated.  They are quick to adapt to different cultures.  Because of our society is multi-lingual, Filipinos also are quick to learn new languages.

 

4.      Friendship is not a fleeting or passing friendship, but rather a stable, firm and faithful bond that matures over time (cf. Christus vivit, mo. 151).  This faithfulness is attained when we are willing to love others just as they are:  not in spite of their weaknesses and defects, but rather because of them, loving the uniqueness of each one’s personality.  To do so, we need to ask God to give us a heart to the measure of His:  in first place to fill my heart more with Himself and then to help us love all men and women, without ever gossiping about them, knowing how to understand and pardon the defects of others, since I know how much God puts up with me (St. Josemaria, Notes from a family gathering, October, 1972).

 

Pope Francis in a recent General Audience (January 11, 2023) reminded us that everyone should be our potential friend among those who are close to us for one reason or another.  He wants us to ask ourselves: “How do we look upon others?  How often do we see their faults and not their needs; how often do we label people according to what they do or what they think!  Even as Christians we say to ourselves:  is he one of us or not?  This is not the gaze of Jesus:  He always looks at each person with mercy and indeed with predilection.  And Christians are called to do as Christ did, looking like him, especially at the so-called ‘distant ones’.  Indeed, Matthew’s account of the call ends with Jesus saying, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’. And if any one of us considers themselves righteous, Jesus is far away.  He draws near to our limitations, to our miseries, in order to heal us.

5.      Friendship Is so important that Jesus shows us He is our friend.  He shows us He is our greatest Friend, who loves us and accompanies us just as we are (Christus vivit, no. 153).  A Christian’s friendship desires the greatest happiness—a relationship with Jesus—for those close to him or her. Let us pray as St. Josemaria did, ‘Give us, Jesus,  hearts to the measure of Yours! (Ocariz, ibid, no. 23).  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.