Thursday, January 10, 2013

Consolation in friendship

Welcome to the late (really late!) Thursday edition of Monday Musings. Forgive me for not posting earlier this week, but I was traveling, without my computer over the weekend, and didn't get home until late Monday night. And from there, the week just got away from me!

As some of you (several of whom I've now had the pleasure of finally meeting in person) know, I live in Florida. But I was up in D.C. for a long weekend recently to attend (and proclaim one of the readings at ) the wedding of Good Girls Founder Jessica Balile (formerly Lanza) and her husband, Sean. I was honored to read the second reading and privileged to share in their joy. It was a wonderful celebration, and a great party. The weekend also offered me an opportunity for a little bit of spiritual renewal and the chance to catch up with my cousin, who I hadn't seen in more than two years.

You might find it odd to think that a four-day weekend not spent on retreat could provide any sort of spiritual renewal, but let me try to explain it this way: I have a faith community, they're just not where I live.

When you're blessed enough to spend time in a thriving faith community, be it a great high school youth group, an active Catholic campus ministry in college or a parish where there are activities geared toward parishioners of all ages, you often don't consider what it's like to not have that community available.

In college, I had that community at the Catholic Student Union at Florida State University. It was my second home, and where I made many long-term friends. But when college ended, many of us went to work, scattered across the country in places where parishes were geared toward families, or retirees (there are lots of those in Florida!), and active community became harder to come by or practically non-existent. And it can sometimes be a stark wake-up call when you try to make it on your own without that familial presence immediately at hand; when none of the friends you have are people of faith and therefore don't understand why anyone would say a month-long novena or want to voluntarily read books written by (or about) saints, much less attend church regularly.

Of course, having friends at the other end of the phone (or keyboard!) is an immense help, but no substitute for sitting at a table over a meal with friends -- some you'd never met before, but can instantly connect with, because you have that faith base -- seamlessly weaving through conversation topics as varied as possible (or utterly ridiculous) saints names for children, current movie selections and Natural Family Planning.  Something as simple as trading dating stories and discussing prayer lives on a long walk, or spending time hanging out at church all Sunday morning, post Mass, to learn more deeply about your faith, can be a huge blessing when it is something you don't experience very often any more.

This trip offered me that: a small taste of the community that I remember, as well as a renewal of God's presence in groups gathered in His name that I don't often get when I'm at home. And as my long weekend drew to a close, the two words that kept running through my head were refreshment and, somewhat surprisingly, consolation.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines consolation as an "alleviation of sorrow or mental distress; the act of being consoled" or as "a fact (or) event that serves to console." Console itself is a verb which means "to comfort in disappointment or distress."

Now, I would hardly call myself sorrowful, or even mentally distressed (except in moments of hormonally-induced fits of self-pity), but I do feel comforted, and somehow more content in myself, now that I'm home again. In my journal, while I somewhat lamented the fact that I had to go back to my everyday life, I also praised God for the strengthening and encouragement I received, merely by being present with other Catholics.

In "An Introduction to the Devout Life," St. Francis de Sales says of true friendship: "If your bond ... be charity, devotion and Christian perfection, then indeed will your friendship be precious; precious because it has its origins in God, because it is maintained in God, and because it will endure forever in Him. ... It is needful for those who are in the world, and (who) seek after virtue, to bind themselves together in a holy and sacred friendship, by means of which they encourage, stimulate, and forward one another in doing good. ... Those who are in the world need them, to aid and succor one another in the many evils and dangers in which they encounter."

So I thank you, ladies, for your friendship and prayers, and for those of you I laughed and prayed with this past weekend. May we all continue to cherish, support and encourage one another in faith as we journey through this life!

And I promise my musing will be back on track again this coming Monday. :)

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