ENTERING INTO THE HOSPITALITY AND HEART OF GOD
Friending isn’t always so simple and keeping good company in our superficial virtual world of adding and counting friends can be challenging and deceiving. And what’s in a friend anyway? I’m not talking about famous Friends Rachel, Monica and Phoebe either. You know tons of people, thrive in a busy world and your smartphone lights up with texts, whatsapps, Skype and FB messages but who are the real deals?
If you’ve moved a lot, you’ve experienced starting over and being the new kid in town. I’ve lived in six cities to date and with each new beginning, it feels like a cross between the first day of kindergarten and college all rolled into one. Boston to Washington D.C. to New York to Palm Beach to Atlanta to LA, it gets easier each time. The reason why LA is easier is because I suspect it’s the final stop.
On my first day of kindergarten my mother told me I’d be fine as she let the principal drag my 4 ½ year old limp protesting body down the hall to join the rest of the kids. During college orientation, I whispered to my parents “I’m not staying here – they are all women and I’m just a girl.” I continued to eye the upper class women as my mother told me to spend the night and see how I felt in the morning. In both instances, I was more than fine after a day.
When I arrived in Palm Beach to work for the Church, I was in my early thirties and its youngest employee working with priests, religious sisters, leaders in ministry and of course for the bishop as his spokesperson. Interface with press corps amid scandal and knee deep in confidential material, it became one of the more lonely periods of my life sprinkled with occasional moments in time where I grieved losing the previous camaraderie of a busy television newsroom and a city of familiar faces where I worked for over a decade.
The intensity of work and the lack of consistent female sister friends outside of the job became an ache. Without my family and familiar partners in crime on the daily hunt for news and fun after work became a consideration that maybe I should move home. On one of my calls home, my mother said that we needed to pray for holy women to show up. Eye roll. I was so irritated with that comment “There are NO holy women here.” And what are they going to do anyway?
I was helping a parish with a retreat weekend and was invited to be on the prayer team. Two sisters arrived on the scene for the same purpose and their inner and outer beauty was striking. I was immediately attracted to them and their uniqueness. They were serious about this weekend “assignment” to pray intentionally for everyone serving and attending this retreat. They were armed with their Bibles when they walked in and that caught my attention. Biz-ness. They were fashionable, joyful, and obviously knew and loved God. The next morning, one of the women approached me and said the Lord showed them that He wanted them to pray with me and would that be ok? Bring it on.
They prayed with me for a significant amount of time and when we were done, they said the Lord showed them that I needed a spiritual family for as long as God had assigned me to Palm Beach and invited me to their home each Friday to pray and be a part of their family devotion – that they would back me up, hold me up and pray in agreement with me for the renewal of the Church and for whatever God’s will was for my life. Well, enter the holy women.
I spent five full years in their home on a weekly basis, sometimes more and became immersed in a school of prayer and friendship that took me to another level of faith and devotion. At the center of everything was prayer: praise and worship, the Rosary, Divine Mercy, catechesis and talking until sometimes 4 in the morning. Priests were always on the scene and people flew in from other parts of the world to be here for special Masses and whenever they could get here. The components of these Fridays gave me a home away from home in the manner in which I was used to praying with my family but hadn’t found anywhere outside of Boston.
The hardest job assignment in my life provided me the greatest gift of friendship with a Haitian American family whose three generations made me one of their own in every single way. They lived out the real meaning of the domestic Church and imparted a supernatural hospitality.
Particular phases of life and particular moments in time make us the most vulnerable in the giving and receiving of friendship and prove to have the potential to be the most lonely without the substance of good friends. Holy friends have your back, tell you the truth, stand with you in good times and in hard times, they invite you in, show up, fight in prayer for you, laugh with you and grow with you. Some friends are a bit ahead of you in the journey of life and others are a little bit behind you. Holy friends pray with you and for you, and don’t hold you back or resent you when God moves your feet away from them and to new territories. Above all, holy friends want to help you toward the goal of being the best version of yourself all the way to heaven.
After praying a 54-day Rosary novena for my future, I was abruptly moved on into film work and to a new city. Leaving broke my heart wide open with thanksgiving for how God provides. My heart was breaking to leave my bishop and these women who stood with me in this phase of my life’s work. Just when things were more than comfortable, it was time to move.
Our deepest longings make way for God to fill the vacant spaces with good things sent from His resources. Florida became a time of service and giving to the Church, but at the same time, and in a deeper way, a place of receiving the gift of holy friendship – a friendship that gives without cost and loves sacrificially.
This weekend pit stopping yet again in Palm Beach in between two work trips, I’m eternally grateful for my soul sisters who radically changed my life. This time, I was one of those flying in from another part of the country to spend a marathon day in prayer for all that concerns us and our loved ones. We celebrated life, love and each other until the wee hours of morning. I can’t imagine my life without these strong, savvy, beautiful, faithful women. This friendship has given me a glimpse into the heart and hospitality of God and it’s even sweeter years later and miles apart. If you are lacking in friendship, ask Him to send you true companions for the journey.
To my soul sisters here and everywhere, I love you.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter:
he that has found one has found a treasure.
There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend,
and no scales can measure his excellence.
A faithful friend is an elixir of life;
and those who fear the Lord will find him. Sirach 6: 14-16
Praying for you+