Regular readers of this site will have noted that friendship is a theme that has been considered in these pages from different angles. Aside from Dr. Robert Hickson’s Evil Friendships in History and Brian Kelly’s brief, The Devil Has No Friends, I have written at least five pieces of various length on the subject:
- Saint Augustine on Friendship
- Is Jesus Really Our Friend?
- The Love of Masculinity
- Holy Matrimony: Choosing a Partner
- To Heaven with You!
But the subject of friendship is not one we ought to tire of easily. It’s worth coming back to over and over again. I was pleased, therefore, to come across a lovely, wise, and … well, prudent … two paragraphs in Dr. Josef Pieper’s fine volume, The Four Cardinal Virtues. Here is a noble and Christian concept of friendship, truly worthy of the great Catholic tradition and so much loftier than the modern concept. Please read and savor this sapient reflection on the cardinal virtue of prudence and the true love that real friends can have for one another (bold emphasis mine):
There is no way of grasping the concreteness of a man’s ethical decisions from outside. But no, there is a certain way, a single way; that is through the love of friendship. A friend, and a prudent friend, can help to shape a friend’s decision. He does so by virtue of that love which makes the fiend’s problem his own, the friend’s ego his own (so that after all it is not entirely ‘from outside’). For by virtue of that oneness which love can establish he is able to visualize the concrete situation calling for decision, visualize it, from, as it were, the actual center of responsibility, Therefore it is possible for a friend — only for a friend and only for a prudent friend — to help with counsel and direction to shape a friend’s decision or, somewhat in the manner of a judge, help to reshape it.
Such genuine and prudent loving friendship (amor amicitiae) — which has nothing in common with sentimental intimacy, and indeed is rather imperiled by such intimacy — is the sine qua non for genuine spiritual guidance. For only this empowers another to offer the kind of direction which — almost! — conforms to the concrete situation in which the decision must be made.