instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, July 27, 2007

Just the perfect blendship

Catholic and Enjoying It! and Intentional Disciples are discussing the role of friendship in the Church -- here, here, here, here, and of course here. The proximate cause (at least on Mark's part) was a commentary on friendship by papal preacher Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa.

This has led to a combox discussion on how unfriendly typical American Catholic parishes are toward newcomers, as compared with the welcoming nature of Evangelical congregations.

I think it would be useful, though, to maintain the distinction between friendship and community. Friendship, in the full-bore "one soul in two bodies" sense, is necessarily personal and relatively intimate (which may be why Fr. Cantalamessa insisted that "it does not have a sexual component").

Friendship doesn't scale up the way charity does; one soul in two thousand, or even two hundred, bodies would be too much to ask for. Even if they wanted to, people can't expect to be friends with -- which entails having "the same tastes, ideals, interests" as -- more than a handful of others, much less a whole congregation.*

What they want, I gather, is a genuine community, an enduring union of persons in which the members may each and all flourish. Unity between persons is a common feature of both friendship and community -- Acts gives us, "The community of believers was of one heart and mind," and St. Paul hopes to hear that the Philippians "are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the Gospel" -- but the unity of community is more general and diffuse than that of friendship.

The ideal is a genuine community within which friends can be found. What I don't think will work any better than the "plastic bonhomie" community building efforts Mark derides is an effort to make a parish a place where everyone is everyone's friend.