Book Thoughts,  Churchy Things,  Faith,  Life

Friendship Friday: The Friendship Project and Spiritual Friendships

Courtesy of Ave Maria Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

I’m all kinds of excited here to share about a new book just released: The Friendship Project. In fact, if you were to go through my ‘corrected words’ history while I’ve been typing, you’d see that I’ve misspelled it to freidhsip, friendhsip, and freidhips because I’ve been typing too fast.

A minute to calm.

And go.

The Friendship Project Book

Authors Emily Jaminet and Michele Faehnel have come together again to give us another great resource for our faith – a reflection on what it looks like to have spiritual friendships. I’m not sure what your background in friendships is, but mine have been all over the place. This book comes at a much-needed time in my life, and has highlighted some areas of improvement while sharing the hope of what spiritual friendships can offer through examples of the saints.

The Struggle is Real

I have often had friendships that have been maintained best in the here-and-now. Michele brings to light the common problem that I have in my own friendships at the end of chapter 2 in the reflection question:

Identify women in your life you want to grow and deepen friendships of faith with and ask them to meet up with you. Many times our friendships do not grow because we do not invest the time we need to get to know the person more deeply. We may feel the initial attraction of friendship, but unless we deliberately spend time working on strengthening our friendships and getting to know the person more intimately, we end up with many “strong acquaintances” versus true friends. Emily and I mark off each Friday as “Friendship Friday” and spend part of that day with one friend we desire to grow in our relationship with or have lost our connection. When you are open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, He will show you whom to build and rebuild friendships with.

Uh. Hmm. This right here, in the opening chapters of the book, already a challenge glares at me. I am that person who has many ‘strong acquaintances.’ I am not good at maintaining friendships after a move (and there have been several). In my current circumstance, I have hit a wall I’ve never experienced before: people who have a preference for strong acquaintance over true friendship.

At this point in my life, I can see two reasons for this: a) other people I seek out as friends are already ‘satisfied’ in their friendships and do not want more b) having a family, especially a young family.

Is this true for you too?

Friendship Can Be Tough

When my family and I moved from Ottawa to Saskatoon, we came into a community where we really knew no one. There is some intimidation in this, especially as an introvert. Yet I sought out other Catholic moms (especially) to fill up my life again with the joy of friendship. The problem was, few wanted to entertain the idea. Many are comfortable being strong acquaintances because their friendship bucket is already being filled by other friendships. Apart from this stinging, it creates great loneliness too.

As I’ve accepted that these women are not in a place for accepting new friendships, I’ve also been moved closer to the peripheries of Catholic circles. And what I’ve found here is that there are more women in this zone than just me. There are more of us wandering the edge of the fire. It’s hard to see how many when you’re close and facing the flame.

Finding Others

At the end of an event I was at once, I got talking with another mom who was waiting too. She had moved to this city around the same time as I and also has had a hard time making Catholic friends. It was here that my eyes were opened – that moment when you think, ‘What? You too?!’ and we became instant friends through a mutual desire for friendship and similar experiences in seeking it.

As I continue looking around, I notice more women who also stand on these peripheries. We’re the ones seeking those close-knit mom groups, but don’t know where to start or whom to go to. We don’t have saint peg dolls, having never been invited to make them, we aren’t a part of the Little Flowers girls club, we don’t have a women’s faith group. I have absolutely nothing against these things, but I also know there are many of us looking in the window.

As I continue looking around, I notice more women who also stand on these peripheries. Click To Tweet
Courtesy of Ave Maria Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Perseverance and Hope

Friendship does take work. I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity to see how many of us women there are who are unconnected. There is also the tug of family life. Especially with little kids, I (and other women I know) have often felt left out, or secluded. This is due to the need to stick to nap times, or feeding times, or whatever other needs these little ones procure from us.

Emily shares the story of friendship between Saints Perpetua and Felicity in chapter 3. A signature mark of their friendship is hope. Emily shares,

As Christians, we must be resolute in hope and not toss this virtue out the window and start to fret and fear the world when the going gets rough. We must never focus on the darkness that surrounds us and forget that Christ is there to constantly guide us and lead us!

This is such great advice, especially when faced with the darkness of loneliness. Later in the chapter Emily goes on to name two main sins against hope: despair and presumption. Being able to name the darkness when we see it or when we feel it washing over us helps us to put it in its place. Sometimes that darkness threatens us oh so hard – when we’re driving alone. Or when we witness the joy of others in strong friendships. Also those late nights when the weight of it all relieves itself through tears. Or when we have a hard day and no one to call in whom we could be uplifted. This is the darkness of loneliness. And it is in the face of this that we are called to hope.

This is the darkness of loneliness. And it is in the face of this that we are called to hope. Click To Tweet

Jesus the Source

Called to hope and to be brave. To carry the virtue of hope into our lived experience of darkness. Emily reminds us in the chapter on Saints Perpetua and Felicity that hope inspires and makes God’s presence more visible. Their hope, like ours, is based on one person: Jesus, the Christ.

Jesus has redeemed us – our hope stems from him, and our reliance on our livelihood comes from him alone. Jesus does not want us to suffer loneliness, but wants us to be brave and perhaps enter those peripheries. We will always find Jesus there. We can always find Jesus in and with the vulnerable.

And sometimes we identify most strongly with being the vulnerable.

My last excerpt I’ll share for those of us who struggle with the hope:

Come Holy Spirit, deepen my hope in you.
Come Holy Spirit, show me how to be a friend of hope.
Come Holy Spirit, bring me friends of hope.
Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, pray for us.

Each chapter comes with a very real prayer that can help us on this journey. This book is such a great gift and such a great tool to study with others. I invite you to read this book, and if you can, find another woman to read it with and study together. I’m certain you will not regret it!

Interested in reading more? Read what other women are saying about the book on the blog tour!

Interested in starting your own book study? I’m giving a few tips on on Monday, October 2nd, so look for my article then!

You can also purchase this book on Amazon in Canada:

I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Loving God through my family, friends, and interactions in my world.

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