All of us have had many friends in our lives: childhood friends, work friends, teammates, Army buddies, fishing buddies, maybe you even have a “BFF.” Still, when we hear the word “friend” one or maybe a few come to mind first.
Often, we become much closer to people when we have a shared experience. From the examples above, the friends you sweated with on the practice field become much closer friends. Talking, or writing, to each other draws us closer. We share little pieces of ourselves – we give to each other.
So why do some friends stand out? Is it the friend who really bailed you out of jam? The one who stood by you when nobody else did?
Christ, after all, tells us that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for your friends – the very gift he gave to us! “Can we have a better friend than God!” said St. Vincent, and consequently, “Must we not love all that He loves and, for love of Him, consider our neighbor as our friend!” [CCD XI:39]
Friends help us, friends give to us, but (short of giving their lives) what are the greatest gifts they can give? We might remember that friend who got out of bed in the middle of a rainy night to come drive us home when we got stranded, but have you stopped to consider that the reason he did so was not that you were stranded. After all, how would he have known?
The reason your friend helped you is that you asked. The reason you asked, is that you knew only a friend would help. Bl. Rosalie once responded to a request for a favor by saying “I cannot tell you how you please me in giving me the opportunity to do something for your interests. Always act this way with me, without any hesitation. It is the proof of friendship that I hope for.” [Sullivan, 237]
The greatest favor we offer our friends is to ask for their help. In his will, written on his 40th birthday, Blessed Frédéric asked of the Society for the greatest of help: their prayers. “If I am assured of these prayers, I quit this earth with less fear. I hope firmly that we are not being separated, and that I may remain with you until you will come to me.” [Baunard, 386]
“The entire Society,” the Rule tells us, “is a true and unique worldwide Community of Vincentian friends.” [Rule, Part I, 3.3] And this community extends to the neighbors we serve; the ones who offer us proof of friendship: they ask for our help.
How can I be a better friend?