May 15, 2024

I recently was introduced to and read an impactful book, The Friendship of Christ, by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, one of the favorite authors of both our current Holy Father Pope Francis and of the late Pope Benedict XVI. According to Monsignor Benson, “the emotion of friendship is among the most mighty and the most mysterious of human instincts.” 

Jesus himself demonstrated the importance of friendship in his lifetime as a chief means by which he evangelized and formed the apostles. During Holy Week we read in the Gospel how six days before Passover, Jesus made a stop in Bethany. He stopped to visit his friends — Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. 

It would be the last time the four of them are together, and Mary marked the moment by anointing the feet of Jesus with a liter of costly perfumed oil. We often read this passage and note Mary’s devotion to Jesus. What we can undervalue is just how real the friendship was between Jesus and Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, and how devoted he was to them. 

Monsignor Benson calls friendship with Christ “the one friendship in which final disappointment is impossible,” and he calls Christ the “one friend who cannot fail.” 

While no friendship will surpass one’s friendship with Christ, St. Thomas Aquinas says “there is nothing on this earth more to be prized” than true friendship with one’s neighbor. It’s a lesson our students learn well. 

A really good friend believes in us and comforts us. Friends come out of themselves to give to us without counting the cost. We were created for self-giving love, as St. John Paul II reminded us, and that is what friends do. So not only is receiving the warm, heartfelt friendship of another good for us, but it is especially good for us to be the giver of that friendship. 

When students come to Catholic University, they form strong and deep ties with those who will become their best friends for the rest of their lives. As you will see in this issue, friendships forged between our University students stand the test of time. 

You will read about a group of alumnae who have been meeting every month since the 1980s. For more than 40 years, they have shared together many of life’s joys and sorrows. You’ll also read about a graduate from the 1970s who held his friend group together until he died of ALS in 2023. And you’ll read about an alumnus who knows five decades of people on campus, and praises the small town feel of our campus. What connects all these stories is that they met their best friends here at this University. 

We live in a perilous time of loneliness and social isolation. Friendships give us the support we need to thrive and flourish. We should cherish the friendships we have, be grateful for the ones that last, and do what it takes to keep our friendships strong. We should also identify those around us in need of friendship. What greater act of love is there than to offer your friendship to someone in need of one? 

While there is “one supreme friendship to which all human friendship points," as Monsignor Benson writes, there are also many other friends in our lives who give us joy, help us bear adversity, and simply make life more fun. And for the readers of this magazine, they met many of those friends right here at The Catholic University of America.