Monday, January 31, 2011

You are Precisely My Cup of Tea

Last night, I helped out at Cast Your Nets, a high school event put on by the Vocations Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. I was put on PowerPoint duty. My finger performed exceptionally well tapping the arrow keys. I think I might have found my true calling in life!

Fr. Kyle asked if I went to Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Catholic college in Ohio and I replied, Nope, I went to Hillsdale College in Michigan. Not as exciting in Catholic spheres, but that hasn’t been the first time someone has thought I went to a Catholic college. Nope. I didn’t even look at Catholic colleges, unless they had a lacrosse program.

My alma mater's religious ratio is (about) 60 percent Protestant, 40 percent Catholic (with about 1300 students in toto). I was blessed to graduate with many friends on campus, but, of my top ten closest friends, seven are Protestants and three are Catholics. (I know, the numbers are so Biblical!)

Whaaaaat? readers are thinking. Julie doesn’t uber-surround herself only with Catholics? I know, imagine that!

I attended Catholic school for 13 years, but it was absolutely invigorating in college to see the scale of Christian witness in all types of circumstances-- from DC bars to the classroom to parties to Greek life to the daily library study grind. It was a unique environment, to be sure, and definitely formational in my own personal, academic and spiritual life.

There were, of course, the examples of counter-witness, mostly in the forms of other people telling me about Catholicism, or Catholics who think they know better than the Pope, but I don’t like to get tied up in the bad. If anything, they have only helped strengthen my faith and develop my interest in apologetics.

I recently finished reading Mary DeTurris Poust’s Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendships. I really loved it. It is a wonderful and easy read. Her general thesis is that friends can be found anywhere, and, if developed properly and focus on more than a common denominator of having a good time, there is the possibility to yield the type of fruit to sustain and grow in deep understanding, respect and love. Poust uses examples from the saints, people alive today, and her own life. The end part of each chapter had different questions and a meditation as well, but I tended to skip over those so I could read the next chapter faster.

Just like in a family, there is a certain amount of accountability among friends. In fellowship, because they want the best for you, friends assist in character development. This is not the primary reason for friendship, but a by-product. It seems natural to say then, when Christ is clearly at the center, relationships are enhanced and enlivened, not encumbered. Friends do not judge, but they can make judgements. Friends often say what needs to be said, and do what needs to be done, as well as respect boundaries and give space when needed.

I feel particularly blessed with my seven dear Protestant friends. They are truly spiritual friendships, because, despite our theological differences, through Christ, we are all united. They helped me get out of a bad relationship, and I’ve seen two get married. We’ve shared beers, listened patiently and respectfully dialogued, prayed together, laughed until weepy, studied and edited papers until exhausted, and written haikus on post-it notes. Our friendships were carefully cultivated, and are now so fervently enjoyable, that I often feel that we are practically skipping together in this journey towards God.

My close Catholic friends are on that same bar, but hold a different spot in my heart. I love participating in the Mass together, praying the rosary, invoking the saints, feeling glee at the sight of young seminarians and other religious, and throwing Fat Tuesday parties, et al. My Catholic friends are a different kind of kindred spirit, since our core beings are in true communion.

I think it is too easy in this world to get sidetracked by differences of opinion, caught up in semantics and lacking in want of understanding of the other person. It is not necessary to be good friends with everyone—but friendly, of course, cordial, and open to whatever kind of relationship the Lord intends.

But getting caught up in trivial distractions, I've found, can distract a person from the gifts that God gives us daily-- friends! Their support, their jokes, their random text messages telling me they're having a Guinness in my honor, e-mailing me articles I might find interesting, their encouragment, their laughing at and with me, etc. I try to return in kind, and I am sure you can think of the many ways your friends show that they care.

It is also common to not want other people to know about one's "dark side" (i.e. my petulance in the early morning hours, my love for singing Irish drinking songs out loud and in public, my fierce pride) but it is disarming to have a friend who sees that, and doesn't blink. Just as God can write straight on the crooked lines of history, seeing the flaws in a person makes them more real, and it's the bad times, more than the good, which shows a person's heart. It is very humbling have friends like that, and I know I am grateful. Fortunately, too, there different kinds of friendships, many of which can be just as meaningful, even if they are more temporary in nature. One never knows why God has placed a certain people in your life at particular moments.

Isn’t friendship beautiful?

The post's title comes from the delightful song "Getting to Know You," from the musical The King and I:

A few notes:

Happy Birthday to Thomas Merton today, who rightly said, "The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little."

Please pray for my friend’s father, who died this morning, my friend, and his family. Also, for a friend who is joining the Catholic Church and for his parents, who are not as happy.

A few reads:

“The Grammar of Faith: Credere Deum, Credere Deo, Credere in Deum” at Ite ad Thomam

“New USCCB Document Highlights Biblical Quotations in the Mass” at The Sacred Page

“Out of the Mud” at Tea at Trianon

“EXCLUSIVE: Interview With An Anti-Catholic Aggie Turned Catholic Theologian” at Aggie Catholics

Happy Monday, friends! I enjoy having you along for the ride.


  1. Juls, this is a stunning post--beautifully written, words carefully selected, and truly written from the heart-- you are going to go far. I can't wait to see where He leads you, and I can't wait to walk with you along the way. Many blessings, dear friend.

  2. Great post!

    I really want to read that book on Spiritual Friendships as well. I bought it but haven't got to it yet except for a few passages.

    I think a great friendship is one where you can totally be yourself and expose the dark side. A great friend is someone you can tell anything to and know they'll still love you. I think it's important for us to be able to do that as humans. As well, they should be able to tell you the hard things too and you won't get angry at them because you know they just want to best for you.

    Thanks for the thought, Julie!

  3. Thank you so much for this beautiful post on friendship and for mentioning my book! You made my day.

  4. This is so beautiful, Julie. You made me weepy, so I'm sure these friends bawling!!