Saints Who Were Friends 

We need good friends. Contrary to popular belief, a true friend won’t agree with everything we say or approve of everything we do. A faithful friend won’t stand on the sidelines as we sin because they see in us the saints we’re supposed to be.  

“True friendship and virtue are inseparable; you cannot have one without the other,” writes Dr. John Cuddeback, author of “True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness.” The most authentic friends lovingly challenge us to reach new heights, they rejoice in our successes and encourage us after failures. They help us keep true to a moral life and inspire us do better when we act in ways less than noble.

“A faithful friend is an elixir of life,” according to Sirach 6:16 (RSV).

Earlier this month, the nation celebrated Friendship Day by posting photos with friends on social media.  The following three pairs of saints may not have posted their stories to Facebook — however, due to the incredible heights of friendship they obtained, their stories have been memorialized in history.

St. Francis and St. Clare

Dr. Cuddeback writes, “It is with friends that you form habits and develop your character.” Apparently this was so for St. Clare, who was often called Alter Franciscus, or “Other Francis.” Her friendship with St. Francis started during Lent, when St. Francis was preaching a homily. St. Clare was so moved by the love of God that she sought St. Francis’ guidance on how to live a holy life. He encouraged her to join a Benedictine order, where she and a group of women vowed to live simply, wearing no shoes and eating no meat. This order became known as the Poor Ladies of San Damiano. 

Throughout their vocations, St. Francis and St. Clare encouraged each other to maintain this poor way of life and counseled each other on matters of faith. St. Clare cared for St. Francis in his old age. The fruits of their friendship, rooted in love of Christ, live on in the vows taken by men and women religious who have devoted their lives to the Franciscan rule.

St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas

The legacy of the Franciscans left quite an impact on St. Bonaventure, who is said to have been blessed by St. Francis as a baby and eventually became a Franciscan and friend with St. Thomas Aquinas. The two met at the University of Paris while studying for their doctorates. St. Thomas Aquinas was so impressed with St. Bonaventure’s understanding of philosophy and theology that he went to Bonaventure and asked him from which books he learned. St. Bonaventure replied, “I only study Christ crucified.” Pointing to a crucifix, he added, “This is the source of all my knowledge.”

St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas had marks that tied them at the top of their class, but each insisted the other deserved the rank of first place. Not only did the two die the same year, their statues face each other on opposite sides of St. Peter’s Square. In the words of Pope Benedict the XVI, together they “renewed the entire Church of the 13th century.”

St. King Louis IX and St. Isabelle of France

Among those who also promoted the renewal of the Church in the 13th century were siblings St. Louis IX and St. Isabelle of France. While both shared a deep love for the Church, they were called to vastly different vocations. Under the direction of his mother, St. Louis IX was made king at the age of 13 after his father died. Seven years later, he married a woman of faith and had 11 children. St. Isabelle, determined to live the simple life of the Franciscans, broke off her engagement to a count and also refused marriage to the son of a German emperor. They both delighted in the friendship of St. Bonaventure, who wrote devotional pieces for St. King Louis IX and assisted St. Isabelle in writing the Rule for an order she started. With the help of her brother, St. Isabelle was able to build the Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin. Fixed on the love of Christ, these siblings were able to employ their nobility for the growth of the Church in France.

Do your friendships resemble those of the saints? How do we find friends like this in today’s world frivolousness? The rest of Sirach 6:16 gives us the simple answer: “Those who fear the Lord will find [a faithful friend].” Living a life of virtue rooted in reverence and wonder for God’s ways is sure to attract others striving to live the same way. Together, with good friends, we can enrich the Church and hopefully become saints along the way. 

To read about more ways to live out fruitful friendships, check out the FOCUS blog!