Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A group of women in the congregation are discussing the book, The Friendship of Women by Joan Chittister. I had wanted to give this book to them at Christmas time but they didn’t come in time. For the past year I have found myself looking forward to this group of women, most of whom are older than I. They have become friends—that special people that give life and meaning to our lives.

Friendship is an interesting thing. I have long found that women are more likely to have friendships outside of their marriages. My 96 year old mother’s best friend who is 95 misses each other terribly now that Mom has had to move to an assisted living facility. They cannot hear each other on the telephone anymore. Mom can’t see or speak, but when I talk of Mary K. her face lights up and then there is a look of great sadness on her face.
That friendship began when they had just moved to the same town in 1949. For 50 years they have shared each other’s joys and sorrows. They both had difficulties in their families and I am sure that they shared at the deepest levels.

Over the almost 30 years of ministry I have had, I have found that women depend upon their women friends. We are allowed to have friendships much more than men. I have always thought that it was probably of the nature of women to have close friends. But Chittister’s book explodes that myth.

In Roman times, friendship was considered the greatest acts of the human soul. In fact, it was thought that women were incapable of the deepest friendship that men had. Today however, I find that straight men are often bereft of the deep abiding companionship except for those who are friends with their wives. Male friendship is rare in an age when any companion is considered a sexual partner. What a sad commentary on our society!

“Cicero, the great Roman orator, wrote his classic essay “On Friendship” not as a tribute to personal affection, but as a final attempt to save the failing republic of Rome from the encroaching monarch and dictatorship by reviving democratic networks that rested on shared ideals, on personal relationships.” (Chittister p. xv)

I wonder if it isn’t about time that we start affirming friendship all around. It there is anything that is necessary in the renewal of the Church, the renewal of our democracy, the renewal of families; it is when the great value of friendship is raised up. The trust needed to make our human institutions work must begin in the trust that is learned in close friendships. It is the glue that makes society stick together and respect one another.

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