I had just joined the community and I was filled with joy and enthusiasm, learning my way through the daily schedule of prayer, community time, chores, studies, and apostolate. The call from Jesus had touched and transformed my heart, making it burn with the desire to give myself to him, and to go out and bring him to many others.
I wasn’t really looking for anything more, since I felt I had everything, but our God is a God of abundance.
One Sunday afternoon, taking advantage of some free time, I and another young woman in formation decided to go out for a walk and to play at one of the parks in Rome. We didn’t really know each other that well, but we found ourselves spending those hours talking, sharing, and enjoying each other’s company as if we had been friends for a long time. It was an unexpected gift. We both realized that the seed of friendship had been planted.
More than twenty years have gone by, and this friendship, which has seen also hard times, has continued to grow and to be a support on the journey of consecrated life and of holiness.
Far from closing us to the rest of the world, it has always brought out the best of each of us, encouraging us to search for Jesus more deeply.
Over the years the Lord has granted me other beautiful friendships, both inside the community and outside. Each one of them has taught me more about Jesus because through them he has reached out to me in a very real and powerful way. I have learned that a true friendship leads me deeper into the heart of my Beloved. At the same time, as I grow closer to Jesus, I live out the relationships with my friends in a better way. It is like a beautiful circle of love.
Even if we are very different (and some of my friends are!), we share the same desire for love, holiness, goodness.
Friendship is a “place” where I have received healing as I experienced that I am loved and accepted as I am, especially when I don’t feel too good about myself. My very self is what my friends desire to see and to love, not some perfect model that I try to make up. I learned how to receive love. It is a precious gift especially because my role and mission call me often to be the one who mothers others, which is a blessing but that cannot exclude the dimension of being daughter and sister.
Friendship is also a place where I have become aware of the gifts and charisms that my Heavenly Father has given me, that I may use them for the benefit of all. My friends have been the safe place where I could experience that.
Sharing with them what I was receiving in prayer, interceding for them, encouraging them in times of difficulty, loving them with this unique heart of mine, these have all been welcome gifts to them, and I have been thus encouraged to do it for many others. I became daring in reaching out to those entrusted to me by God.
Along this path, my heart has been expanded and more and more people have been brought into it. The fruit of friendship is a heart more capable of love. The gratitude that fills me is so great that my words feel incapable of expressing it all.
Friendship is also the tough school of mercy and forgiveness. Because of our fallen nature and brokenness, we hurt each other even if we wouldn’t want to do so.
Freedom is a difficult lesson to learn. I am free to reach out to my friends and love them as I am, and they are free to respond as they desire. They do not have to be there for me at every moment. They may be going through a difficult season, or simply be committed to their duties in that moment. Respecting a healthy distance brings freedom and allows us to depend primarily on the Friend par excellence, Jesus.
Even if it is painful, the Lord uses each other’s wounds to bring to the surface something in us that he desires to reveal and heal. My reaction to the hurt depends also on me, on something in me that needs to be touched and healed. We are instruments of love and healing to our friends in more ways than one.
Through those tough experiences of hurting and being hurt, I have concretely seen the power of mercy and forgiveness. Each decision to choose love as a response has had a great power of transformation in our hearts. They become more vulnerable, which, as the word suggests, means more open to be wounded (vulnera in Latin means wounds).
It sounds scary, but in practice it means having a natural heart rather than a stony heart, having a heart like that of Jesus. He was pierced but love flowed out from his pierced heart. Safe in his embrace, no wound can cause us real harm; rather it has the potential to make us grow in love.
Through the years I have seen that the experience and appreciation of friendship have grown not only in me but also in my community. We cherish it, we desire it, and we rejoice in seeing it as part of our spirituality, shared now also by many people in our lay movement. It is really a trait of the AVI charism. Personal relationship is at the heart of it, first of all with our Lord, and as a consequence also with others.
When we gather in groups or meet one-on-one we recognize the same desire to cultivate good relationships, to know each other and to walk together towards the House of the Father.
It is a very concrete reminder of the fact that we cannot make it on our own. We are the Mystical Body of Christ, united as the branches with and in the vine.
Come, Holy Spirit, Spirit of Friendship and fill and unite our hearts, making them open to the abundant gifts of the Father through Jesus. Grant us good friendships, Lord, and hold in your heart the ones we already have, that they may be according to your will.
Concrete Resolution: I will give thanks to the Lord for the friendships he has given me, trying to live them out from his heart. If there have been wounds, I will ask for the grace of mercy and forgiveness. If I feel the desire for true friendships I will ask for the gift of receiving them from the hands of God and of having a vulnerable heart to welcome them.