Epsiode 12 – What is a Christian Friend?

Spiritual friends wanna help you grow towards God and grow in your relationship with God.

What is a Spiritual Friend?

What is a Spiritual Friend?

Michele Faehnle holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Franciscan University of Steubenville. After twelve years as a labor and delivery nurse, she left nursing to be home with her growing family and answer the call to the New Evangelization.  She is the mother of four.

Michele & Emily

Michele & Emily

Emily Jaminet holds a B.A. from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Mental Health and Human Services and a Minor in Human Life Studies. After a brief stint as an administrative assistant at the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, a Christian non-profit, she gave up an out of the home job in favor of staying home to raise her growing family and be a worker in the vineyard of the Lord.  She is the mother of seven.

Michele and Emily both serve on the leadership team of  one of the largest Catholic Women’s Conferences in the country, the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference.

In this episode, I talk to Michele and Emily about Christian friendship. The women talk about their own friendship and answer questions like:
-Why are Christian friendships so important? And what is a Christian friendship anyway?
-What sets Christian friends apart from the rest?
-How does one go looking for or making these friends?
-What is my responsibility as a Christian friend?

For our listeners who’d prefer to read, here’s the transcript:

Michele: Well, hi. I’m Michele Faehnle. And along here I’m with my dear friend Emily Jaminet and we are both authors and speakers and also work in women’s ministry. Really our goal with our writing is to really help women and others in their vocation and in their duties as wives and mothers to really embrace their faith and to move forward in living out an authentic relationship with Christ in their lives.

Emily: Hi, I’m Emily Jaminet. As Michele mentioned, we’re both mothers. I have seven children and Michele has four. And one thing we found is that Jesus sent his disciples out two by two. So we really like that imagery that in this culture you can be a little bit overwhelmed by all the duties and things you want to do and changing and bringing Christ to other people. So we really feel strongly and we work together in that two by two understanding of the gospel that He, Christ, can do so many great things.

So I’m involved in a mother’s local ministry on our Catholic radio, “A Mother’s Moment,” which plays every day, a word of encouragement. Michele and I work on the ministry team and we volunteered on a lot of different ministries over the course of 15 years. So one thing we found is just the importance of sharing the importance of Catholic friendship and God’s mercy for everyone.

Pamela: Now, I’ve read your book “The Friendship Project” and I think it’s great that you talk about all these relationships and this friendship in particular. And I believe you guys have been friends for a very long time, right?

Michele: Yes, we’ve been blessed to be friends for almost 20 years. Emily and I actually met in college. We joined what is kind of similar to, like a sorority, but it’s Christian-based, faith-based and we grew together, our friendship grew even after college. I moved here to Columbus, Ohio because I actually met my husband Matt at Emily’s wedding. It was kind of funny. He had been helping Emily prepare the program for her wedding and she jokingly told him she was gonna find him a good wife. And sure enough, at the wedding at the after-party, I met him and her parents sat down at the after-party and we continued to have this beautiful friendship and like Emily said, we’ve been working together in ministries for our whole adult life.

So it’s been such a blessing to work together and one of our favorite things I was gonna share about was when we had babies together. We actually had a baby on the same day. We both had babies on June 8th in 2011 and that is National Best Friend Day here in America, and all around. So the idea, so the Lord to us, was like, “Wow, we’re even having these babies, which were due three weeks apart, on the same day.” The next day after they were born we were in the hospital and the Eucharistic minister and came and brought us the Eucharist and we realized that God had a special, you know, he was showing us how special our friendship was and when you come together as spiritual friends, you can do so much for the kingdom of God.

So we wanted to share that in the “Friendship Project” book with other people, about how these types of friendships are special and they can really help you grow in your love for God.

Pamela: What exactly is a Christian friendship anyway or a spiritual friend? Why is this so much more important than having secular friends or non-Christian friends?

Emily: Well, the importance and the reality of a spiritual friendship is that it points towards God. You can have lots of different levels of friendship. You can kind of start with these friendships of utility where you’re getting a better service for someone. And then you can have these friends of pleasure where those are friends that you enjoy their company and you have a good time with them. And then you have friends of virtue, and those are friends that are helping you to be a better person.

But spiritual friends wanna help you grow towards God and grow in your relationship with God. So we know this is very, very important in our walk as Christians because being a Christian in this world is not easy. We live in an era that it is not an easy walk. It’s a dangerous and difficult path so it is really imperative that you have someone who is going to help you along on that journey. And we read in scripture how it is easier…in Ecclesiastes it says, “Hold one another up as we walk on this journey.” So two are better than one.

And with that, we can hold each other’s hand and pull each other up towards God. And we can be that mentor and that light and that hope for our friends who are growing in their faith. We stumble and fall many times in our journey in our faith life, so by having somebody who is going along that journey alongside with you, they can help you in this walk and help you really, the goal of these beautiful, spiritual friendships is that we get to be in heaven together with our friends.

Pamela: How would you identify a good Christian friend because there are lots of people who are Christians, so how would you identify a good Christian friend?

Michele: Well, that’s a great question because it is confusing and I think about in Matthew 7:13, it says, “By the fruits, you will know them.” So the first thing you’re gonna do is you’re gonna look at your friends and not judge them based on their imperfections, but look at the good in them, look at the fruits of their life. And, you know, ask the Lord to bring you these types of friendships. So you’re gonna bring these friendships to prayer. You’re gonna kinda look at their life and if they were even capable of friendship.

And one of the things we talk about in our book, “The Friendship Project,” are virtues. And when we grow in virtue and you grow in these beautiful habits and dispositions and allow yourself to be changed and allow these virtues to transform you such as loyalty, and generosity, and charity, and faith, and hope. And allow those virtues to help you and then encourage your friends to grow in these virtues, you will begin to experience the blessing of spiritual friendship. So in our book, we talk about these eight particular virtues that we think are important for a Christian spiritual friendship. And that’s faith, and hope, and love, prudence, gratitude, loyalty, generosity, and prayerfulness.
So these are specific virtues that when you embody these and live these out with inspiration to want to every day improve, God can really help transform friendships and make them a spiritual friendship.

Pamela: There are lots of people who end up being friends and then you realize that they’re steering you away from God. Do you take it up as a project that, “Okay, I’m gonna have this person change,” or do you just let go of these friends?

Emily: Yeah, I think that’s a great question because we do all have friends that maybe aren’t necessarily bringing us closer to God. But one thing we definitely encourage in our book is a lot of deepening and developing these friendships. So first, prayer. I believe and I know the Holy Spirit will speak to our hearts and help us to see what is healthy for us and what is good for us. And it’s always healthy and okay to pray for our friends but it’s not necessarily always healthy to interact with people that aren’t bringing us closer to God. And the patron saint of friendship is St. John the Apostle, he’s a great person to specifically pray to for friendship.

Michele: Emily said ask the Holy Spirit. You know, who do you want me to be friends with and have them to help that. Part of the thing we talk about is prudence and making a discerning decision about who you’re spending your time with. So maybe if your friends are wanting to take you out to the bars and party and you know this is taking you away from your faith, then maybe those aren’t the type of people that you need to be spending a lot of time with. That maybe you can go to coffee with a friend like that and talk about things that have a relationship but you need to develop and spend more of your time on these friendships that are going to help you to grow closer to God and those are the ones you should really focus on and have those be of more importance in your life.

But we all have friends that aren’t Christian or don’t even believe in God. They can be…but we also have to remember we have to love everyone, right? Jesus calls us to love everyone but only form friendships with those who share virtuous things with you. And that’s a quote from St. Francis de Sales because he says, “The higher the virtues you share and exchange with others, the more perfect your friendship will be.”

Pamela: So how does one go about looking for or meeting these friends? Because I know in your first chapter you’ve got, like, eight points and where do you start looking for them? So tell people how do you go about looking for these friends or meeting them?

Emily: We talk about in the book, idea of Friendship Friday. So I’m sure your listeners feel the same way. We live in a very fast-paced culture where we’re inundated with media, and social media, and technology. But it’s really important to actually cultivate friendship and spend time with our friends.

So the first thing we recommend is Friendship Friday. One day a week specifically you not only pray for your friends but you interact with your friends. So sending, you know, messages to them and encouraging them, call on your friends, having coffee with your friends, meeting for mass with your friends, that’s really a great way to start forming these spiritual friendships is when you come together and go to mass or adoration, or form a bible study or a faith sharing group with a group of women that can really encourage you. So some very practical things.

But when you come together and spend time together, such as thinking about your relationships on Friendship Friday, you’ll really see that God can use that one-on-one face time and that encouragement to develop friendship.

Michele: Another thing we recommend, as Emily mentioned, doing these small, faith sharing groups, so getting into these small close-knit groups of men or women, you can do, or you can even have combined groups, doing scripture studies together is a great way. Emily and I have been in bible study groups for over 10 years together. So we take a different study and we read the scriptures together and answer questions and have some fellowship together. And that is one thing we made “The Friendship Project” book actually a group study because we know how important these are.

So right inside our book, we included a study guide so all you have to do when you wanna have a group is you get the book for everyone and the study guide is included. We read the book together. You come together. We also created great free videos online at our website, thefriendshipprojectbook.com. So the group can watch a little video about each…a little bit about the virtue. And then we have a guest each time who was the featured friend of the chapter. So you get to hear a little bit about their story, and their life, and their experience with friendship. And then they can go to the back of the book and read the study guide questions together. So this is really great in fostering friendships. People are getting to know each other in these small groups.

And then we encourage the groups to pray together because this is really where that deepening of faith goes. Going around and sharing your prayer intentions is a great way when you’re with this small group. And you really get to learn what’s on each other’s hearts. And then we have them go through a scripture verse together and just pray over that scripture verse and see what the Lord is saying to them, and to share that together. So those are just some very simple ways of developing new friendships.

Then we have to talk about volunteering and doing good works together with your friends. This is something…our first book was called “Divine Mercy for Moms,” and we talk about works of mercy. And that’s going out and working in the soup kitchens, and feeding the sick, and clothing the naked, and all those things we talk about in the book of Matthew. And when you do those type of things with your friends, those are also really strengthening things, and what our friendships should be doing is pointing us towards doing good deeds for others.

Pamela: I mean, there are lots of people who today invest in online friendships and they would probably tell you that they have 1,000 or more friends online. Would this be a good thing or would you suggest interacting in person or meeting in person would be much better in terms of developing a personal friendship?

Emily: I’m so glad you brought up the wave of technology because in the last 20 years our relationships have changed dramatically. Like you said, we can access friends from our very beginning of our childhood to coworkers all at the same time in the hit of a button, right, with social media. So these 1,000 friends, I hate to tell your listeners, are not your true, best friends. Maybe [inaudible 00:12:11] they do like you, but they don’t really know you. And you don’t really know them because a lot of the things they’re presenting or we’re presenting is one-dimensional. You don’t really get to see what’s on the other side. You don’t really know the rest of the story. Everything looks so perfect in these posts and how people present their lives.

So when we get together in faith sharing groups, and there’s a lot of good, let me just finish by saying, yes, there’s a lot of good that can come through your social media and you can use it to evangelize such as sharing about some of the beautiful experiences in your city. We use a lot of social media to promote our women’s conference. And a lot of people come because they say, “I saw that picture last year and it looked inviting and I wanted to see what it’s about.” But everything should point to Jesus and authentic relationships. So with that in mind, maybe out of those 1,000 friends, you might have 20 potential really good faith sharing friends that can really support you. So yes, you might have a lot of people praying for you, around the world if you ask for prayers but when you come together in person and really develop that relationship, you receive such a richer experience of faith-filled friendships and this spiritual friendship.

Michele: And one thing I would give as an example to people is, sometimes I might sit in the evening for an hour and waste it on Facebook, right? And I probably read 200 or 300 people, what they had for breakfast that day or what they wore to work or that type of thing. But I didn’t get anything deep and meaningful out of that hour. But instead, if I had picked up the phone and called a friend or met a friend for coffee or said, “Hey, let’s meet after church, let’s go pray together,” there is so much more that I would gather from that relationship and from that time spent with a real person than just trolling around on social media.

So as Emily said, there are good things out of social media. I have friends that I sometimes have just met over social media and I’ve developed a real, true relationship and they’re good people and helping me grow in my spiritual journey. But they can’t compare with, like, my relationship with Emily, who I’m working every day with and spending time with every day in real person. And that’s a deeper level of friendship. But it can be a good tool, our social media, but we always want to go to that real, real, relationship and authentic relationship and meeting with a real person.

Pamela: So basically when I read your book, there was a line that I liked really. It was, “Good friends teaches what it means to be fully alive.” And I really like that statement because it jars you out of your humdrum existence into understanding what a good friendship can do to you. So what is my responsibility if I’m a spiritual friend, what is my responsibility as a friend? Instead of expecting from the other, what should be my role then?

Michele: First and foremost, the reason why we called the book “The Friendship Project” is because it is just as much about you growing in virtue and in holiness as it is looking for that towards your friend, right? It’s not just about me looking for these perfect people that really don’t exist. No one is perfect, right, we’re all full of imperfections. But we wanna be around people that inspire us for the great. And Michele and I believe that God speaks through our friendships if they, especially, are holy and that person is connected to our Lord through the sacraments and they’re really striving to grow in their faith, like you. So they might encourage you to join a local ministry or they might encourage you to say, “Did you say your daily rosary today?” I mean, those are kind of things that as a spiritual friend, you can say and if the answer is, “No, I was really busy with the kids,” or “I was really busy with work,” it’s meant to inspire, not to create guilt and, you know, anxiety.

Our friends are meant to help us be truly alive and realize that our hope is in Jesus Christ and that we are journeying together as friends to heaven. And as the saints continue to say, and the thing that was maybe my favorite part about this book was realizing how many amazing saints had best friends that were there encouraging them to grow in their faith. And it gave me a new understanding of sainthood because a lot of times when we hold up these saints, these icons or these people all alone, you know, making this amazing experience, and setting up convents and changing the world. But a lot of times they had a community of friendship that really fed them and helped them. So that was the reason why we chose friendships and saints that were friends.

Pamela: How would you ask people or suggest people to pray for their spiritual friends, especially when they’re going through a hard time or, you know, things are difficult and times are tough?

Michele: Absolutely, and as you mentioned in the book, we share about our friend Stacy who had stage 3 brain cancer. So, you as a physician are aware, this is not a good prognosis. She was 30 years old, she had two young children at the time. Lived down in Atlanta, Georgia, and Emily and I are up in Columbus, Ohio. We wanted to be able to do something for our friend and be there. But just with time and space and the distance between us, we couldn’t be there physically.

So what a friend of ours did is we made prayer bracelets. So we wore prayer bracelets as a reminder, as every time we saw that prayer bracelet, to pray for our friend. And every time we bumped it up against a kitchen counter or it caught out of the corner of our eye, we were reminded to say a prayer for our friend. And it’s important when we tell our friends we’re gonna pray for them, that we really do. Because how many times do we say, “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,” and, “I’m gonna pray for you.” But by two days later we’ve already forgotten.

So one thing Emily and I do, we actually create our prayer bracelets and sometimes we’ll put letter charms on our bracelets so we remember the names of our friends. I also use a great app, it’s called Echo Prayer Manager. And it’s a free app. You can download it on your phone and every time someone asks me to pray for them, I plug it in this app so then when I’m at church and I have quiet time to pray, I’ll pull out this list and pray for everyone by name. And I also use it to set automatic prayer reminders. So what’s really neat about this is every day at noon I get an automatic prayer reminder to pray for someone, it’s just one name.

So every day at noon I’m reminded to pray for my friend Lisa, was my prayer reminder today. And I know this was also a little prompting from the Holy Spirit because my friend Lisa is actually doing this huge pilgrimage where she’s walking, it’s called Notre Dame Trail, and walking for miles and miles and miles, praying on this journey. It’s a difficult experience but a prayerful one. So I know this is another gift to be able to pray for her as she’s going through this and these little reminders to pray for our friends. And one thing we also talk about in the book is praying with our friends.

Emily: As Michele mentioned, it’s so important to pray for our friends, but it’s also important to pray with our friends. And one thing we’ve learned about spiritual friendship is that is how you deepen a friendship is allowing the Lord to come into that friendship through prayer. So one thing we recommend is that when a friend is talking about maybe their trials and their struggles if it’s in their personal life, or their finances, or their health, say to them, “Would you like me to pray for you?” Which is a wonderful thing to say. Or, “May we pray together now?” And ask them if they wanna pray. “Can I say a little prayer for you now?”

And when you pause in that very moment and bow your head and pray, you know, that friend knows that you care and maybe they might not be in the same place that you are spiritually, but it creates a door that the Lord can really work into her life. And use you as possibly a way to bring the gospel in a brand new way into her life.

So we really encourage people praying together and that’s why with “The Friendship Project Study Guide” that goes with our book, that’s free in the back of the book, we always tell people to pray your prayer intentions together. Because you wanna know what people are praying for, and that’s really where my conversion took place was beginning to think about other people and their struggles and growing in gratitude and realizing that I’m an important person as I pray for the people in my life.

Pamela: Tell our readers about “The Friendship Project,” for those people who don’t know about it.

Emily: Sure, “The Friendship Project” was conceived over the last couple of years. So as Emily and I would go sharing about our first book “Divine Mercy for Moms,” people’s biggest comment, and they always want to talk about our friendship. And so many people said to us, “I wish I had a friend like that,” or “I don’t have anybody I can share my faith with.” And that really struck a chord with us because we want people, we know how important this friendship, our friendship, is with each other, how it has helped us grow in our faith. And our friendship with our other friends in our lives have really been important in helping us grow in our faith. So that is why we started writing “The Friendship Project.”

So this book covers, as we said, eight virtues. And we really talk about how you can grow personally in these virtues. And this is good not just in your friendship but any relationship you have to grow in these virtues because virtues help us to be holy and happy people if we live a life of virtue. And then we talk about some obstacles to these virtues. You know, what makes you not grateful? What makes you not a prudent person? What are some things that block you from doing this? So we kind of cover some things to shed some light on. What might be preventing you from growing in this virtue?

Then we also talk about a personal friendship. Each story we talk about one of our friends that has exemplified this virtue in their life and how it has impacted us greatly in our life. By living this virtue, our friend has shown us how we too need to live out this virtue and how it’s helped us grow in our Catholic faith.

Michele: And then as Emily mentioned, we talk about friendships of these saints, so these are holy men and women who lived on earth and we know a lot about, you know, there’s lots of different saints. And a lot of times we look at them as this solitary individual and what they’ve done in their personal accomplishments. But really, what we see in these saints is many of them had friends who also became canonized saints when they died too. So they had these saints, and we like to say that saints beget other saints.

So one person living a holy life is helping others to live a holy life. So we can join in and join forces with these other people and that will help us grow in great holiness. So as we mentioned, our book is not just a book. We have a group study at the back so you can do this with your small group. So get together. You only have to read one little chapter each week and then you can watch this little video and then answer some questions together, pray together. And these have really been a great way to develop friendship.

Emily: And Michele and I, we’re very blessed. We gathered with over 30 women before the book was released. And we went through the study as if we were participating in it, you know, just like any other group of women. And what we found was, one of the fruits of the friendship was a deepening of our love for Jesus Christ and the development of friendship. So it really is designed to help women encounter spiritual friendship and giving people ideas on how to deepen and develop friendship and not feel bad about the friends maybe you’ve had in the past, or if you’ve never had Christian friends.

But really be inspired to want to cultivate these types of friendships. And finally, the saints have all, some of the saints have shared on spiritual friendship, as Michele mentioned earlier. St. Francis de Sales has written some beautiful things on spiritual friendship. St. Augustine said, “In this world, two things are essential. Life and friendship. Both should be highly prized and we must not undervalue them.” So even a famous saint like St. Augustine was speaking about the importance of friendship.

And essentially, too, a final thing I wanna say is that our foreword is written by Father Larry Richards, a wonderful preacher here in the United States. And, you know, he really challenges us in the beginning of the book to make sure that we’re cultivating a friendship with Jesus Christ because he wants to be our friend first and when we are friends with Jesus, he’s the one that will open so many wonderful doors and give us so many blessings and give us the confidence to live our Catholic faith, no matter where we are in this world.

Pamela: Tell people where they can find your book.

Michele: Yes, our book is available on amazon.com we’re also at Ava Maria Press. And the great thing about ordering through Ava Maria Press is that if you’d like to do a group order, they’re offering a very special discount for book orders of 10 or more, they’re offering 40% off. And if you order before the book is released September 22nd, it is free shipping. But after that, you still can get the 40% off. So it’s a great deal if you want to do this as a group because then the cost is very, very inexpensive. But it also will be in Barnes and Noble bookstores and any local Catholic bookstore.

Emily: And we also, if you reach out to us at thefriendshipprojectbook.com, that’s where you’ll access the video series that will go with each chapter. And we have a lot of really neat resources, Michele and I have been working hard at putting together, you know, invitations so you can invite your friends, recipes that you might make for great food as you gather together. You know, lots of practical handouts and really, what we’re most excited about is, there’s, right on the website will be a way to print out the free journal so all the questions and everything will be there. So with technology that piece of it, you can just print it right off and it would be there for anyone no matter where they are located.

Pamela: Tell us also about your social media links.

Emily: So @thefriendshipprojectbook is where we’re found on Facebook. On Twitter and Instagram, we are Mercy for Moms, based on our first book. But if you go to our website either thefriendshipprojectbook.com we have links to all our social media there and join our mailing list so then you can get all the updates on anything going on with us, any new things. And feel free to reach out to us on Facebook.

We say we’re just two regular women and we’re happy to connect with our readers and happy to talk to you. So send us a message, we’re happy to discuss things. And if you’ve got questions about starting a group or anything, we’re here to help. We love to meet new people. We’ve met so many amazing people, like you Pamela, over the past two years, working in ministry. And praise God for all the gifts, all the wonderful people working in ministry in today’s world.

Pamela: Well, thank you for taking the time from your busy schedules to come on this podcast.

Emily: Well, thank you for taking the initiative and having this beautiful podcast and for calling us from 12 hours away.

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