What is Christian Friendship?

From time to time, we invite guest bloggers to share their wisdom with us, and today I would like to present Dr. Katherine Yohe who earned her PhD in Historical Theology from the Catholic University of America. On July 19th 2009, she gave a lecture for the Office of Young Adult Ministry’s Relationship Speaker and Discussion Series. The following is an excerpt from that presentation.

Christian friendships are relationships of mutual affection and service, with in-depth conversations, enlivened by the Holy Spirit.

While other forms of love can be one sided, friendships are not friendships unless they are seen as such by both parties. We cannot be someone’s friend if he or she do not consider us a friend in turn. Jesus called friends those who, in turn, were friendly toward him such as Lazarus, John, and the disciples at the last supper. However, we can desire a friendship, reach out in friendship, and offer friendship before there is a return of friendship. Jesus offered friendship, it seems, to everyone. For example, who is he talking about when he says: “Greater love has no one than he lay down his life for his friends”? (John 15:13) Who was he laying down his life for? Everyone!

Affection does not referring to signs of affection per se – such as big hugs – but rather to a movement of the heart that radiates through the eyes and says “I am glad to be with you” or “I enjoy being in your presence.” Can you imagine what the gaze of Jesus must have looked like? Or think of times in your own life: What has Jesus’ love felt like during those graced moments when we have encountered Him? Christ’s love is affectionate; it isn’t mechanical. It isn’t “I’ll be nice to this person because I have to.” Rather it has a warmth, a joy, a delight in being with the other – taking time to walk, eat, and even spend eternity with that person.

Friendship goes beyond the emotional component to service. Good friends do not want to just be together, they want to do things for each other. Jesus served his friends in both little and big ways. He washed their feet, he cooked breakfast for them by the Sea of Galilee, and he died for them.

In-depth Conversations
These are conversations which reveal one’s interior life. Jesus spent a lot of time talking with his friends about who he is, how he prays and understands the Scriptures, what his plans are for the world, and how they can participate in this work. At the last supper he says, “I shall not call you servants any longer, because I servant does not know his master’s business,  I call you friends because I have made know to you everything I have learned from my Father.” (John 15:15)

Enlivened by the Holy Spirit
As Saint Augustine states, addressing God, “For friendship cannot be true unless You solder it together among those who cleave to one another by love ‘poured forth into our hearts by the Holy Spirit’” (Confessions 4.7, quoting Romans 5:5) Thus the love that Christian friends have for each other is inspired, moved, empowered, by the very love of God flowing through each of them. Just as the Father and Son are united in the love that is the Holy Spirit, so to do Christian friends love one another with the Spirit’s love.

What can you do today to strengthen your Christian friendships?

Last One Out Turn Out the Lights! – The serious consequences of low Mass attendance, low birthrates, and, my own politically incorrect solution.

I’ve been catching up with news from other nearby dioceses. The Diocese of Allentown Pennsylvania recently decided to close 44 of its  140 parishes. The Diocese of Scranton closed 90 parishes last year. Similar things are happening all over the country. Luckily here in Washington, nothing yet in terms of parishes, although schools have closed.

What is happening? The Catholic Population has almost doubled in 60 years. Yet Churches and schools close. How is this? Well, consider that in 1950 more than 80% of Catholics attended Mass every Sunday. That number has dropped to below 30%. The number is probably lower in urban areas of the Northeast and higher in the Midwest. This is a grave loss of faith and the fact is we cannot sustain what previous generations gave us on 30% attendance.The younger generation coming of age has much lower attendance numbers generally below 20% . Stated soberly we are in serious trouble.

Regarding our schools, birthrates among Catholics have plummeted. When I was a kid back in the 1960s it was common for families to have 5 or 6 kids. Today one or two is the norm. We seem to be contracepting and aborting ourselves right out of existence. If it wasn’t for our vigorous Latino immigration, the Catholic Church in America would be in far more serious trouble. More on birthrates in a minute.

The decision that the majority of Catholics have made to no longer attend Church has consequences. Many once filled Church buildings have grown empty in recent years. At a certain point a parish is no longer sustainable financially. Neither are schools, hospitals, and seminaries.

Usual Solutions: Some will argue that the Church needs to “update” to attract more members and lighten up on her moral teachings. But look at the main-lne Protestant Churches who have done that. They are in worse shape than we. Departing from Biblical truth is not the answer. We DO need to work on our liturgies, priests need to be better preachers, and we need to reinvigorate an evangelical spirit among Catholics.  But in the end we simply have to state it plain, we have experienced a wide spread loss of faith and that is why there is such a drop. Preaching and liturgy weren’t great in the past either but we still packed em in. This is ultimately about a loss of faith. 80% to 30% is a huge drop. We cannot sustain what we had with this kind of a drop. There are consequences. Closed churches were once filled to standing room only and are sad evidence of the non-sustainability due to the current attitude among Catholics who think Church attendance and support is not a necessary component of being Catholic. We need to reinvigorate the notion that it is a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday. The New Catechism teaches this clearly (cf CCC #2181). We also need to reconnect people with the necessity of the sacraments for their salvation. For example Jesus says “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and Drink His Blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53). Thus, to be away from Holy Communion is a kind of spiritual suicide.

Politically Incorrect Solution – We also need to have bigger families. Sorry to be politically incorrect but Catholics and Christians in general are simply being replaced. The Muslims have big families we have tiny ones. You do the math. It is almost as if God is saying to us, if you do not love life, then you will be replaced by others who do.  Contraception in the end is a form of cultural suicide. Abortion that tags along with it has also devastated our numbers.

In the end, it is about faith and being faithful to God’s House. Either we all are faithful and we thrive or we are not and we start shutting down. Further it is about loving life. Either we marry, are fruitful and multiply, and thus thrive or we turn away from life, decrease and die. If we fail to choose life, then last one out turn out the lights.

OK, So here it is fellow Catholics: Be faithful, be fruitful. Sow abundantly and reap abundantly. Get to Mass every Sunday. Get married (first), then have lots of baies and raise them Catholic!  🙂   It’s not brain surgery is it?  God has a plan and it’s not that hard to decipher.

Here’s a graph of mass attendance by age and another of why people say they miss Mass. You can double click on the graphs below to enlarge them.      SOURCE: CARA



A Portrait of Catholic Schools

Catholic Schools today are very special places where the faith is handed on and children are summoned to discover their talents and gifts. There is a kind of rhythm of life that marks the Catholic School year, centered around the Liturgical year and also the many routines that are essential to school days. It’s not just the books and learning, it’s the visit of the priests, it’s trips. It is the tag days (uniform free), it’s recess, it’s going to mass, stations of the cross and the rosary. It’s school plays and dressing up as saints. Ultimately it’s about the formation of the young person in the ways of faith, parish and family.

Pray for Catholic schools, they are special places that are threatened today by market forces of rising costs and declining affordability. If you’re an alumnus support your Catholic School Alma Mater, if you’re a parishioner pray and work for you local Catholic School. They are worth supporting and preserving and our help is needed as never before.

This video is entitled “Mr R’s Class” and depicts Catholic School life well.