Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lights to Guide Us – How To Grow Spiritual Friendships

If you ever find yourself stuck in the middle of the sea,
I’ll sail the world to find you.

If you ever find yourself lost in the dark and you can’t see,
I’ll be the light to guide you.
Find out what we’re made of, when we are called to help our friends in need.
You can count on me.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a friend as a person whom you like and enjoy being with; a person who helps or supports someone or something.  These lyrics from the Bruno Mars song, “Count On Me,” is also a definition of friendship–someone who will be there when we are lost, the light to guide us; we can count on them.  We have friends we meet with socially, Facebook friends whom we may never meet personally, childhood friends, neighborhood friends, work place friends, etc.  While these relationships are important, there is also the need for spiritual friendships, those friendships that go beyond our general interests.  A spiritual friend is one whose journey toward God mirrors our own–a companion who shares our faith and our longing for God.

Im at the center back.
After reading a pamphlet on spiritual friendship, I began to think of how being part of the Pauline family as a Cooperator has helped me to develop friendships that brought me closer to Christ.  It has given me the opportunity to develop friendships with the sisters, priests, brothers, and other lay people in the Family.  When struggling with a problem, I know I can always call a “Family” member who will be there for me.  I can count on them.  They have shown their friendship when life events necessitated speaking to or praying with someone.  They have been and continue to be lights to guide me.

Just recently a woman I met at a Cooperator Retreat, who is going through the formation program, asked me to correspond with her and share ideas on how to grow in holiness.  I was so excited!  That’s what friends are for!

In this busy world we live in, what are some ways to find and grow a spiritual friendship?  Very often, they are right in front of us.  Here are some ideas:

•    Perhaps a co-worker or neighbor will stand out as someone who shares not only our interests but our love of prayer.  Pick up the phone and make a lunch date.  Too busy?  Send an email, Facebook message or old-fashioned snail mail.  You never know what will happen.

•    Join or start a prayer group.  Years ago I prayed for help and support during a stressful health situation with my father.  In less than a week a friend invited me to a prayer group meeting.  Fourteen years later I still participate, and this group has fostered personal and spiritual friendships for me.

•    Our beloved saints can also be our companions along our journey; friends to turn to when we need a helping hand.  Like us, they are individuals who struggled and had their own gifts and weaknesses. 

Numerous resources about the saints are available:

•    The Classic Wisdom Collection of books published by Pauline Books and Media is an excellent resource to learn more about our saints.  Besides stories about many saints, the Daughters of St. Paul share their stories of how the saints impacted their lives and vocations.

•    The new Queen of Apostles Prayer Book, published by Pauline Books & Media, is filled with prayers to the saints for all of our intercessions.  Stay open for the ways in which our saints might connect with us.  A conversation may suddenly mention the name of a saint you may be praying to or a holy card for that saint might suddenly fall out of a book.  We all know about St. Therese of the Little Flower sending roses down from heaven as a sign of her intercession.  During Pope Francis’ recent flight in January to the Philippines he prayed to St. Therese for his trip and asked her to send him a rose.  He did not receive a rose but a picture of her.  He commented that, “instead of a rose she came herself to greet me!”
My copies look...loved.

•    The two Saints Alive! Collection, (The Faith Proclaimed and The Gospel Witnessed) also published by Pauline Books & Media, are filled with stories of men and women who can be our companions along the way. As stated on the back of the book, “this book is a pleasurable way to meet some of the people we hope to live with some day.”

•    We members of the Pauline Family, especially, recognize Blessed James Alberione as an excellent companion.  We look to him for guidance in the world of social communication.  Like him, let us bring the light of the Gospel to others.

•    St. Paul, whose extraordinary conversion story led so many people to Christianity, is a personal favorite.  He never met Jesus personally, yet “saw” him.  Like St. Paul, I want to “see” Jesus.  I pray to St. Paul to show me the way to a more personal relationship with Jesus.

•    St. Joseph, whose feast day we will celebrate tomorrow, is a powerful intercessor, the “faithful cooperator in our redemption,” as the Pauline prayer manual describes him.  With him as our companion, we can imitate his humility and ask him to walk with us in our day-to-day struggles.

Why not use the remaining weeks of Lent to “adopt” a saint or start a friendship with someone to walk with you on your journey?  Share with us your story of a spiritual friendship or how you would like to develop one for yourself or another.  To quote St. Thomas Aquinas, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

“Keep smiling, keep shining, knowing you can always count on me, for sure.  That’s what friends are for” (Dionne Warwick, “That’s What Friends Are For”).

Photos: Maryann Toth
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Maryann Toth has been a Pauline Cooperator for six years. Semi-retired as a credit/AR manager in NJ, she is a wife, a mother of two daughters, and a grandmother of four. She serves as a Eucharistic minister and belongs to a Divine Mercy Cenacle group. Maryann assists at Pauline book fairs and J-Club events, schedules meetings and prayer times for local Cooperators and friends of the Pauline Family, and currently accompanies a candidate in the Cooperator formation program. She participated in a Pauline Cooperator pilgrimage to Italy in 2010.

5 comments:

Bernadette said...

Great advice. There is nothing like talking things over with someone who shares your faith and is spiritually on the same page. Together, we can help each other on the road to Heaven.

Association of Pauline Cooperators said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Association of Pauline Cooperators said...

Thank you for the inspiration, Maryann! I am the one who deleted the other comment because I spelled your name with an e- However I give the e back for Excellent! Sr Margaret

M-L Handal, NYC said...

I was touched, Maryann, by your helpful reflection on spiritual friendship, as well as your thoughts and suggestions about fostering prayer groups. As Pauline Cooperators, we have the wonderful gift of such friendship simply by being a part of the Pauline family. What a beautiful suggestion to replicate such friendship to others, as well. No matter how busy we are, we always have a few minutes to reach out in friendship to another, especially to those in need. Also, in these last days of Lent, what better reminder can we have than to re-examine the vitality of our personal and communal prayer lives. Thank you.

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