The Inexpressible Comfort of Friendship –


We are reminded in today’s gospel that Jesus calls us his friends. “i cannot call you servants any longer… but I have called you friends because  I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”

Our friendship with Jesus requires the same level of trust, generosity, and honesty as any other friendship in our lives. The gift of friendship takes time to develop. A friend passed on a George Eliot quote about friendship many years ago. However, Wikipedia now makes me realize that the words aren’t really from George Eliot, but, rather, from Dinah Maria Craik’s novel, A Life for a Life. Oh well! They are still helpful words. I think that this would make a good quote for a t-shirt. There’s plenty of truth in there.

“Oh, the comfort –
The inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person,
Having neither to weigh thoughts,
Nor measure words – but pouring them
All right out – just as they are –
Chaff and grain together –
Certain that a faithful hand will
Take and sift them –
Keep what is worth keeping –
And with the breath of kindness
Blow the rest away.”

Many people have written books in their effort to sum up the power of friendship and the way in which it can shape our world. It is quite likely that most of the people who perpetuate violence against others are loners who have no friends, close or otherwise.

Today we speak of bromances developing between male leaders. The Urban Dictionary defines a bromance as “the complicated love and affection shared by two straight males.”

Wikipedia speaks of “a close but non-sexual relationship between two or more men.” It is an exceptionally tight male bonding relationship exceeding that of usual friendship. It is distinguished by a high level of emotional intimacy. Think Obama – Trudeau.

Or, more recently, Macron – Trump. I apologize for the masculine emphasis. I’m sure that there is a feminine counterpart for this level of friendship. Perhaps someone could write a piece for igNation.


I think that in the world of spirituality and prayer, we speak of spiritual friendships rather than bromances. The spiritual friendship between people has often offered powerful things for our world.

A saint who writes with beauty about friendship is Saint Aelred of Revaulx, a Cistercian monk who died in 1167. He is sometimes referred to as a gay saint, though no one can be certain. His writings on friendship can only have been helped by his powerful friendships, whether with men or women.

One spiritual friendship that I’m aware of is that between Saints Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier. Here’s Francis in a letter to Ignatius:

“If the Lord our God has separated us by these vast distances, we are still united by our awareness of these strong bonds that unite us in a single spirit and a common love, since, if I have judged aright, neither physical separation, nor estrangement, nor forgetfulness can have any meaning for those who love one another in the Lord. For it seems to me that we shall always sustain each other as we were ever wont to do before.”

Simone Weil said it more succinctly: “When friends are far apart there is no separation.”

Back to Jesus … what was his kind of friendship with his male and female disciples? It’s good for us to ponder that, especially as we come to know Jesus more intimately in the Gospels. How have our friendships with others helped with our relationship with Jesus?

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

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