See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

You've got to have friends...


The teaching magisterium of the blogosphere writes about friendship...
.
In the past couple of weeks I have noticed a few bloggers have taken it upon themselves to dissect the meaning of friendship for all of us to educate ourselves on just exactly what it all means and more precisely - what is permitted regarding: levels of friendship, lasting friendship, intimate friendship, breaking up friendship, and so much more.  On some level it is a welcome discussion these days when many people imagine they have hundreds of BFF's on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, to whom we reveal very intimate detail of our lives - or not.  The measure of popularity being the number of followers and friends one has - right?  Not so much.  But that isn't my topic for this post anyway.
.
Same-sex friendship.
.
As I have often repeated, it can be rather annoying that in these days two men or two women who are friends - close friends, best buddies, inseparable, live together, what have you - must be defined as same-sex friends.  Subsequently, same-sex friends are today looked upon with suspicion... are they gay?  If they are single and they live together they are even said to be a source of scandal - because people do not know for sure what goes on in that house...  Seriously.  Perhaps because of sexual scandal, or more importantly the homosexual movement, same-sex friendship has become an object of suspicion.  You can't get too close and you have to be careful who you hang out with lest you are pegged as a homosexual.  Actually, I think people tend to be overly analytical about these things, don't you?
.
Anyway - Jack Valero of the Guardian U.K. wrote a related piece on the situation as it applies to the friendship of Ven. Cardinal Newman and his dearest friend, Fr. Ambrose St. John.  The two friends were buried in the same grave, sparking modern sensualists to insist the two men were gay.  Perhaps the upcoming beatification of Newman may help men and women understand and esteem the notion of celibate love in same-sex as well as opposite sex friendship.  Don't hold your breath.
.
The sad demise of celibate love...
.
In our times controversy has swirled around Newman's close friendship with St. John, especially since religious activists in the gay rights movement have searched Martyrologies looking for saints who showed signs of homosexuality.  Trouble is - in just about every epoch homosexual behavior has always been considered a very perverted, disgraceful act - and in Newman's time it was a vice never even to be mentioned.  Therefore it is very difficult for contemporary notions of same-sex, homoerotic, romantic love to be imposed upon earlier 'couple saints' - try as they might.  (Jonathan and David, Sergius and Bacchus, and so on.)  Nevertheless, such distortions have gained a foothold in contemporary culture.

The current controversy surrounding Newman and St. John 'in the same bed' so to speak,
"turned on the curious fact that Newman was not alone in his tomb, having asked to be buried in the same plot as another priest he was very close to. "He loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable," Newman wrote after the death of Father Ambrose St John, 15 years before his own.
.
Yet there is no evidence that Newman's attractions were homoerotic, and they were certainly not detached. He had an extraordinary capacity for deep friendship with many people, both men and women, as his 20,000 letters collected in 32 volumes attest. He often wrote to his friends as carissimi – "dearest ones" – but his was a more innocent age, far less suspicious of strong expressions of love between persons of the same sex.
.
And he was not afraid to be very close indeed to a few people. "The best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely," he wrote in a letter, "is to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection for those who are immediately about." Hence his deep friendships with those "immediately about" him: John Bowden as a student, Richard Hurrell Froude and Frederic Rogers while a don at Oxford, and Ambrose St John as a Catholic priest.
.
St John had been in Oxford with Newman; they became Catholics together, and were ordained priests in Rome at the same time. When Newman founded the Oratory in 1848, St John was one of the first members. Being 15 years Newman's junior, when he died suddenly aged 60, Newman was devastated. "I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's," he wrote, "but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one's sorrow greater, than mine." Some 15 centuries earlier, St Augustine in his Confessions wrote in the same way about the death not of his mistress, but of his best friend. "My eyes sought him everywhere, but they did not see him; and I hated all places because he was not in them, because they could not say to me, 'Look, he is coming,' as they did when he was alive and absent." Jack Valero
.
Perhaps the beatification of Cardinal Newman may correct such modern distortions of friendship, and that he may become a model for authentic chaste, celibate love and friendship.  Today we must recognize more than ever the Word of God, "It is not  good for man to be alone."  Regardless of sexual orientation, a man needs his male friend(s).

.
Photo:  Top: St. John and Newman tomb-partners.
            Bottom:  Joey and Ross nap-partners, "Friends".
.
Link:
Fr. Blake on the Valero article.

10 comments:

  1. I know that in this area we have a lot about which we disagree, but you're spot on with this. Thank you so much.

    If the "Church Ladies" worried a little more about their own lives than the lives of others, debates like this and "appearances" would be non-issues. I think that's why Jesus mentioned the specks and beams bit.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The paradigm, if you will, is St. John resting upon the breast of our Lord at the Last Supper.
    Although that is not to be literally imitated, the essence of the love/friendship in the Lord between two men or two women has a clear Scriptural basis.
    And, the love between Jonathan and David in the Old Testament is a definite indication that two men can be bonded in chaste love; Ruth and Naomi, for women, as well.
    We were made for love.
    Not all of us are called to express it genitally; that is for consecrated marriage.
    But when the Lord gives a "soul mate" of the same sex, it is to be treasured, honored and respected.
    Thanks, Terry!

    ReplyDelete
  3. "If the "Church Ladies" worried a little more about their own lives than the lives of others, debates like this and "appearances" would be non-issues. I think that's why Jesus mentioned the specks and beams bit."

    That's why I prefer male mates. You never know what women are really thinking, whereas men generally aren't. Thinking that is, they're just doing and saying what they're saying and doing. Much easier to comprehend.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well, I wasn't quite being that genderist. "Church ladies" isn't necessarily female specific. ;-) I know lots of male Church Ladies.

    ReplyDelete
  5. On reflection, maybe my comment was a teensy weensy bit sexist.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Terry: FYI, your link to Fr. Blake goes to the Jack Valero article.
    Just wanted you to know.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks Father. I'll fix it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. A silly for the day..


    On my way in to work this morning I observed the following bumper sticker on the vehile just ahead of me....

    Honk if your Bishop is a woman....
    (and the symbol of the Episcopal Church)

    P.S. that is such a sweet photo of Joey and Ross.. :) Friends is one of my favorite shows :)

    Sara

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sara:
    Your bumper sticker story reminded me of one I just heard from a Franciscan mission priest. He was a sweet, very jovial older gentlemen. He saw a bumper sticker in front of him that read "Honk if you love Jesus!" He thought, "Oh! I love Jesus!" and giddily honked his horn. The man with the bumper sticker turned around and gave him the finger.

    ReplyDelete


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.