As a revert to Catholicism, maintaining friendships which began during my lapse in faith, has been a battle ever since my return to the Truth of the Church.
A few fell away quickly—those who didn’t believe in anything supernatural and thought I’d gone crazy.
Others maintained decent contact, until they got annoyed that my faith was not a personal, secluded, private affair… that I actually believed in the oneness and Truth of our faith, which meant the denial of other’s beliefs… and that seemed exclusive and mean.
And more recently, some once-very-close friendships have been put to the test, thanks to my loud mouth, or rather, my flighty fingers, blogging about things like traditional marriage, protection of unborn babies and the like—things that would have never been controversial, or even questionable to Christians until the 20th century. But now they’re points of contention and a soldier for the Church now appears as an enemy to a society which desires peaceful, uncontroversial niceness.
This niceness has unfortunately proven to be the foundation on which I built most of my adulthood friendships, and now they are crumbling.
In a book I recently read called “Lord of the World” by Fr. Robert Hugh Benson, a Catholic priest named Fr. Percy speaks to another priest, Fr. John who has chosen to leave the faith. As the former priest defends his reasons to leave the Church, Fr. Percy is conscious of nothing but “the dreary hopelessness of this human brother of his who had eyes but did not see, ears and was deaf.” There final conversation ended like this:
“I suppose you will cast me off,” said the other.
“It is you who are leaving me,” said Percy. “I cannot follow, if you mean that.”
“But—but cannot we be friends?”…
“Friends?” he said. “Is sentimentality all you mean by friendship? What kind of friends can we be?”
The other’s face became suddenly heavy. “I thought so.”
“John!” cried Percy. “You see that, do you not? How can we pretend anything when you do not believe in God?”…
“Well—” he snapped. “I could not have believed—I am going.”
“John!” said Percy again. “Are you going like this? Can you not shake hands?”
The other wheeled again, with heavy anger in his face. “Why, you said you could not be friends with me!”
Percy’s mouth opened. Then he understood, and smiled. “Oh! That is all you mean by friendship is it? I beg your pardon. Oh, we can be polite to one another, if you like.”
He still stood holding out his hand. [John] looked at it a moment, his lips shook, then once more he turned, and went without a word.
This is the real battle we face in friendship: authenticity vs. shallow politeness. Any relationship that is not centered on God (and the fullness of His Truth) is bound to be less authentic than one that puts Christ first… Fr. Percy knew this, but John could not understand.
God doesn’t ask us to banish anyone from our lives or to stop loving every single person He created. But His Word repeats the message: what fellowship can light have with darkness?
Just as a passionate PETA activist couldn’t buddy up with an avid hunter; as the invisible children could never befriend Joseph Kony; as Rosa Parks would never find companionship with a white supremacist; I cannot sustain an authentic friendship with anyone who rejects the fullness of Truth, that is, anyone who refuses God’s command to take up the sword of the spirit, or worse, takes up fighting for the cause of the enemy.
I was asked in a recent conversation whether I was upset that I was bound to eventually have no friends if I kept this up. In the simple and lovely words of St. Philip Neri, I prefer Heaven.