This last week in the Luxembourg Gardens, my favorite large park in town, I was sitting with a friend, "taking in the sun," as they say here, and was accusing myself of being a party to a tendency among Catholics. "I always hear about Jesus dining with prostitutes and tax collectors as a justification for why we should have secular friends." I said. "But what do people think Jesus was talking about to said people at dinner? The weather? Sports? His job? He was talking about the Faith - 100% of the time." Sure, have secular friends, but don't use that example as a justification. Unless you actually do consistently bring up your faith with them.
Part of my passion towards TradCircle and other projects like it is my desire to create more new actual Catholic friends in my life so that my balance of friendship starts to skew more and more. The high concentration of serious Catholic friends by necessity will shine a spotlight on my non-Catholic friendships. Am I advocating dumping all your long-term non-Catholic friends? Not at all.
But I am asking the difficult question of how concerned you truly are with the souls of your friends. Are you simply happy to laugh over memories or the latest happenings in their lives? Or have you given them a green scapular? Have you ever invited them to Mass or to a ceremony like a Confirmation or a Baptism? Have you invited them to a catechism class or lunch with a priest? True friendship sees with the eyes of Eternity and we need to do all we can to bring our friends to the true Faith that we have been blessed, gifted, and graced with.
We tend to fall into easy patterns of behavior and - especially as Americans - avoid no-go areas like religion or politics. And yet, this cannot be considered acceptable on any level. Civility, especially within the construct of "right place, right time" is one thing. But have you ever considered that you might be derelict in your duty as a friend? Why did God place you in this person's life if not to show him/her how marvelous Christianity is and can be?
Yesterday, as is my custom while living abroad, I Facetimed with my nieces and nephews and in the course of our weekly catchup I asked about Lenten sacrifices. My 8-year old nephew replied that he had given up making his bed! But, joking aside, as the Second Sunday of Lent has already come and passed, have we been making the most of this Lent? Could we use the coming weeks as an opportunity to evaluate the friendships in our lives? Should you have access to the unchanged Holy Week (instead of the 1962 Holy Week, which is quite literally the Novus Ordo Holy Week in Latin) what a great opportunity you have to invite a non-Catholic friend of good will!
Use this Lent to ask whether you have been using the "tax collectors and prostitutes" line to cover over the fact that you've simply been delinquent in your duties as a friend and, more importantly, as a Christian. I know I need to reach out to a couple of my friends over the next 30 days to go "deeper" into the discussion of God and Eternity. Deeper than whatever I have done in the past. I hope that you do as well.