|As You Think
A Quarterly Column
by Father Paul Keenan
We are very pleased to welcome Father Paul Keenan to
SoulfulLiving.com as our newest columnist! With
each new issue, Father Paul will provide us with an
opportunity to pause and ponder, as he shares his
thoughts and wisdom on positive thinking and the use of affirmations
in our daily lives.
The other day, I had brunch with a friend who was visiting from out of town. I met him seventeen years ago, when I was a graduate student and he was a professor of Philosophy. He taught me and we were both members of a large religious community, and we
became friends. Whenever he comes back to New York, we try to get together for a meal. Next week, another friend is coming into town, a mutual friend of ours, from England. The three of us met at the same time and place, seventeen years ago. He lives in England, and
travels a great deal; and whenever New York is his destination, he and I manage to get together for lunch.
This issue is about Connection, and to me there is no more wonderful and amazing connection than that of friendship. There is something so special about the bond of friendship. The Scottish author, James Boswell, put it this way: “Friendship, ‘the wine
of life,’ should, like a well-stocked cellar, be continually renewed.”
Friendships may be of long or short duration. I have friendships that have lasted over forty years, and I have friendships that are just a few months old. In different ways, both have that essential “connection,” that bonding of souls, that is, as
Boswell says, “the wine of life.”
What happens in a friendship? What kindles it? It is a question, I think, of seeing. Two souls look at one another and recognize something kindred. A bond is formed, but “bond” is not exactly the right word, is it? It is more like an energy, a common
force, that brings two souls together. The word “connection” comes from words meaning “to tie together. In friendship there is that sense of energies meeting and entwining.
It is amazing, isn’t it, how effortless true friendships can be? You may not correspond or speak for months or years, and then, when you do meet, it‘s as though you had never parted. Old memories rise up to greet you, and the flow of amity brings you
immediately in the present, together. It matters not whether you have traveled to opposite poles of the universe; once you are back in touch you are as close as ever.
Why is that? It is, I think, because friendship is one aspect of our being made in the image and likeness of God. Aelred of Rievaulx was a twelfth-century monk, a disciple of Bernard of Clairvaulx, and he wrote a treatise On Spiritual Friendship.
In it he paraphrased the words of St. John, saying, “God is friendship, and he who abides in friendship abides in God and God in him.” As a Catholic and a Christian, I believe that God is a Trinity, three divine persons in one divine nature – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Aelred believed that as well, and he saw, deep in the reality of God, the grace of friendship among the Father, the Son and the Spirit. When God created us, Aelred believed, he made us in his image and likeness; and so we, too, are destined for friendship – friendship with
God and friendship with other human beings.
That’s why true friendships seem timeless – they are part of an eternal plan wherein friendship is at the very heart of the universe. They are, in a way, so effortless because friendship itself is part of our very essence. We are made for it, and when
it occurs, we are simply allowing our human nature to do what it was meant to do.
When you stop to think about it, friendship was at the very heart of the creation process itself. It seems to me that the Book of Genesis tells us that God made friends with his creation, at every step of the way declaring that it was “good and very
good.” If I am thinking correctly here, then the entire universe is permeated with friendship. Friendship is the energy that binds together God, the universe, and us. When Gerard Manley Hopkins writes that, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” would we be far
wrong to extrapolate, “The world is charged with the grandeur of friendship?”
It is in friendship, then, that we discover the true nature of God and the true nature of ourselves. We are meant to be on a mission for friendship. Seeing how much division appears in the world today, we must not be discouraged, but rather strengthened
in our resolve to do what we are meant to do – make friends.
St. Francis of Assisi said, “It is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” He was speaking of friendship – of making friends with life and even with death. That is a noble
© Copyright 2007 Father Paul Keenan. All Rights Reserved.
Read Father Paul Keenan's Past
Winter 2006-'07 - "Life's Deeper Meaning"
Summer-Fall 2006 - "The Many Faces of Courage"
Jan-Apr 2006 - "Five Life Lessons"
Oct-Dec 2005 - "Having, Being, and Stillness"
July-Sept 2005 - "The Spiritual Law of Gravity"
April-June 2005 -
"Spiritual Spring Cleaning"
Father Paul Keenan is the author of six books, the most recent of which are “Elisha’s Jars” and “Beyond Blue Snow,” both from Illumination Books. He hosts a daily radio program, “As You Think,” Mondays through Fridays from 9p.m. – 1 a.m. ET, on The Catholic
Channel/Sirius 159. www.fatherpaul.com.