Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship by Mary DeTurris Poust (Ave Maria Press, 2010)
Our world does not seem to allow for deep friendships today. Family and friends are often separated by physical distance. Our lives are so busy that even keeping up with people via electronic means can be a challenge. One is lucky to have one or two close friends. A spiritual friend is an even rarer gift. In Walking Toegther: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship, Mary DeTurris Poust emphasizes the value of such friendships while acknowledging the difficulty in forming them.
What makes a spiritual friend different from a “regular” friend? They are “two people bound together by a love of God,” she writes. They walk side by side, with God always in between.
Poust further explains: “Spiritual friends magnify our virtuous qualities. More casual friends might bring out the worst in us through competitiveness, idle gossip, jealousy. Spiritual friends, however, bring out the best – in inspiring us to live in humility, honesty, charity. Spiritual friends inspire us to move beyond pettiness to a place where our hearts and minds are focused on doing what is right.” The goal that both parties are reaching for is life with God in heaven.
Poust profiles some famous spiritual friendships, holding them up as a model for our own lives. The bonds between St. Frances de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, and St. Francis and St. Clare are all discussed. Poust, who seems to have been extraordinarily blessed in this area, also shares her own experiences of spiritual friendship.
Poust offers some practical advice on how to find and nurture spiritual friends. She also examines spiritual direction, which can sometimes develop into a spiritual friendship.
Some time is devoted to spiritual friendships between men and women, both within marriage and outside of it. She acknowledges that there can be challenges in celibate opposite-sex friendships and cautions that the temptations toward infatuation and romantic interest must be overcome in order for a healthy, loving friendship to develop and flourish. If one or both of the parties are married, great care must be taken to make sure that the friendship does not threaten the marriage in any way. Despite these concerns, Poust does feel that male-female spiritual friendships can be a great blessing and she has benefited from them in her own life.
Spiritual friendship is a rare and good gift. It is to be greatly treasured. Hopefully, Walking Together will encourage many to pursue them in their own lives.