I am well past forty, and I have always had close friends. But I gather that today many adults, men and women, suffer from loneliness and a sense of isolation. In our culture, we tend to privilege careers and our nuclear families over friendships, with the result that few of us have the time or emotional energy to cultivate intimate friends. That has not always been true. In the last few weeks, I read books by two theologians—one from the nineteenth century and the other from the fourth. Both emphasized how important friendship is, and both devoted considerable time to their relationships with their own friends.
What gets me thinking about this now is a recent pair of visits. I had supper with a friend of about twenty years and his wife last Thursday. On Friday, three friends from a different period in my life arrived for a weekend visit. We have known each other for more than thirty-five years. It was really wonderful to see them all.
As it happened, my wife was out of town last weekend. My sons were at home and spent a gratifying amount of time with their old man and his old friends. But mostly my friends and I just hung out and talked. It reminded me how valuable old friendships are. To emphasize the point, my eldest son, who is himself quite the social butterfly, told me—sweetly and a little patronizingly—that he was proud of me for spending time with friends. Clearly he hasn’t seen me doing that very often!
I get enormous satisfaction from serving as a priest and from my family. But like so many people, I don’t spend enough time with friends. And friendships take time. I am grateful for the old friendships that have endured. But many of my other friendships have withered from neglect.
Realistically, I don’t know that I will do any better in the near future. But I thank God for my friends and for the reminder of how wonderful friendship can be.