When it seems the KEY that opens the door to friendship is socio-economic status, physical appearance, and an exuberant ego, it all begs the question: is real friendship dead? That is the true Catholic, Christian meaning of friendship. The kind exemplified by Our Lord at the Last Supper, in his most sacred and intimate communion with his disciples. Friendship where true friends would literally die for one another. Where it is based on a shared faith, wisdom, and virtue, and not as much on secular status. Do you ponder these things too, like me?
Friendship among Practicing, Believing Catholic Christians.
In the life of our society, Christianity is largely dead, and the materialist wasteland is also spread throughout every sector of the Church. Every sector. Its just a matter of degree.
In my 18 years actively supporting the Latin Mass Movement, I've made countless attempts at genuine, lasting friendship among my fellow Latin Mass Catholics. And I am still asking myself, even in church circles, is true, Christian friendship dead? Is "dead" the right word? Is it that bad?
The kind of friendship where the other person isn't some strange, foreigner with a blank slate, but a child of God, just like them, with their own rich history and talents they bring to the table, to be discovered and nurtured. A friendship where evaluation comes slowly based on direct, personal experience observing the person's habits over time, in particular the habits how they interact with and treat others, rather than suspicious, oblique, superficial views of a person's appearances, and even more superficial, gossipy, background chatter about the person.
Catholic friendships where you can still be friends despite differences of opinion, which Mass you attend, or lifestyles. Or any other variable under the Sun.
Consider this. Every person sitting next to you in the pew will be either somewhat more conservative or progressive than you, on the conservative-progressive spectrum. I will always be forced by the facts of this life to be patient when my fellow Catholic takes a more rigoristic or more lenient view than me, or is more pharisaical vs. wordly.
Patience is a Virtue.
We must tolerate eachother. Better put, we must put up with one another, to be patient with one another despite our differences in temperament, or character, or life progress.
So the other person isn't as fit, confident, or successful as me. They lack popularity. I'm sorry, but who gives a rat's ass?
And I feel I'm not just speaking for your socially challenged, struggling Average Joe's out there, but actually for most men and women, even those with clout and community influence, a six figure income, and an abundance of social support.
The culture says to size everyone up. And you know why? Because everyone else is sizing you up. It's one big dysfunctional, self-defensive, coping mechanism, Darwinian cluster you-know-what. A Circular Firing Squad.
I have many vices, and I don't pretend to be an outstanding friend, but friendship is something I highly value and continuously try and nurture with those souls that cross my path, or who I seek out. It may not appear that way, since I have the misfortune of too few friends, than I'd like, but appearance does not equal reality. No man is an island. Aristotle, in the first part of his Ethics wrote about friendship, how it is necessary for personal perfection and growth.
We all need True Friends
This problem even extending into trad and conservative Christian/Catholic circles, in my opinion, has always seemed to me a side effect of the necessary, relative retreat from the mainstream of pagan society and the modern church. That retreat is a necessary evil, but we have to treat the evil side effects too. Side effects untreated spell illness and lack of function. Which hurt!
The dynamic of traditionalists driving from all over Timbucktoo, each with their highly individualized experience with the current state of the Church, and formation in catechism, is at risk of introducing forms of anti-sociality into the mix. Of introducing anti-social undercurrents into the Latin Mass community. The Elephant in the Room.
The kind of anti-social nonsense that absurdly looks at every newcomer as a Question Mark. The kind that is not open, freely discussing, full of life. That builds an open, growing, dynamic church community, built on the living ecclesial tradition, with a strong long-term outlook. But instead is statuesque, fearful, and stoic, that begets doubt about the future, a recipe for future decay.
My Own Experience with Catholic Friends.
I kid you not, I've befriended about 8 fellow trad men over the last two decades, plus another 10 or so who were more acquaintances. Not to mention 5 or so more conservative and religious Catholic friends before I embraced Catholic tradition. I'm typically not bothered at all by minor differences, and I think I'm still accepting despite major differences. Not that I don't recognize and respond to the differences, but typically they are not deal breakers for me in the least.
If my fellow traditional Catholic male is a rabid sedevacantist rigorist, or an unmotivated, uncouth unskilled laborer, or dating a married/separated woman still waiting for her divorce/annulment, or an arrogant blowhard, or a money-obsessed libertarian capitalist, or a member of the traditionalist elite...truly for me, all that is still quite tolerable enough to hang out and have a beer, or go canoing, or whatever! We all fall short.
As long as they are a relatively descent individual, and more pointedly a committed, sincere friend, and we share common interests or goals, then its a go! Does that make sense?
You know. A friend who really takes the time to get to know you, directly, in your conversations. Who isn't fickle, fair-weathered, or a user.
But unfortunately none of these friendships or acquaintences have substantially lasted, though I hope they still would, in my estimation because of apparently intolerable differences, where going forward without friendship, at least with that person, is easier and less painful than the sacrifices sustained friendship brings with it.
I have to ask, is it me? Perhaps at times, yes Joe. I know my weaknesses and faults, and am ready to correct them, especially when reasonably pointed put. But, I know I'm not alone. I've heard many traditional Catholic men talk about their male friendships, or lack thereof, and a serious lack of sustained, long term, meaningful, helpful friendship, including in trad circles.
Is Friendship dead? Even among practicing Catholics? Including fellow Catholic men?
I have a few to suggest, which I do try and practice.
1. Seek out real, charitable, humble friendships, as close to the Catholic ideal as possible. Even if it ends up being your honest, descent, agnostic next-door neighbor. But also keep trying for full Catholic friendships. Never think you don't need friends. Or real Catholic friends.
2. Stop all the constant, superficial judgments already. Be patient with one another, by enduring through differences. Look at the Mexican immigrants to the US. Some are Catholics, some are Protestants. Some are born poor, others more middle class. But do you know how they have been able to survive and better their lives here? By sticking together, despite their differences. Traditional Catholics are like 0.000001% of the population. So we should drop all the judgment about differences between us in terms of money, popularity, appearances, personality, and come together. Hello. Help eachother get through life. To our eternal goal.
3. Trads need to drop the individualism because that's only going to make you more isolated and depressed. We must be sources of encouragement and support. I for one am committed to that.
4. Yet make friends with anyone who shows wisdom and virtue, who encourages you in life, even the secularists. They can be some of the best friends to have. My best friend in all my life was in high school, a non-practicing Baptist redneck, each of us getting to know each other very well. He was loyal, dedicated, and someone with whom I enjoyed many adventures, before our paths in life diverged.
5. Ask the potential friend standing in front of you direct questions about themselves. Hello. It is as if our highly technological society has destroyed the most basic social skills, and social etiquette. I find it strange to eat a meal with Catholics, or like-minded people, and have serious conversation about the Faith or say politics or culture, and the other person asks you almost nothing about yourself. Its as if conversations often devolve into taking turns intellectually masturbating.
6. Persevere. Forgive faults and tensions. Endure, keep trying. I know we can't force friendship, but we can keep trying to have friendship. Its as necessary as the air we breathe. Our life depends on it. How often we are fickle about friendship, wanting it to fit into a narrow box following a tight list of self-written rules. Think of true friendship as one long walk against a strong, wild wind. We have to lean forward into the wind, and keep walking. Not run away. But have the courage to weather all the little and bigger storms and crosswinds that friendship brings with it.
7. Keep promoting and seeking true Catholic, Christian friendship everywhere you go. Ask yourself, isn't friendship a key part of being a true Christian, a happy human being? Not just to be a mother or father, or provider, but a FRIEND.
Well I know this post is being frank, and I hope you do not take it personally, but this has always been a very important subject for me, which I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about. I suspect many of you share my thoughts and feelings about the current state of friendship in our society, including in the Church. If ever our paths will cross, despite any tensions of my own I would ever exhibit, despite any substantial differences, know that I want to get to know who you are. Your work, your family, your background. Your passions, strengths, hopes.
"That's all I have to say about that."