Susanna Spencer has a masters in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer and the theological editor for Blessed is She, and writes on her own blog Living With Lady Philosophy. She is a homeschooling mother of four and lives with her family in St. Paul, Minnesota.
I have moved three times in my adult life. I have picked up and left one city, moved to another, and have had to make new friends. Making new friends was the hardest yet most important part of each move and has required great effort. I have had to step out of my comfort zone, go to events where I knew no one, extend hospitality to others, and take any opportunity I could of seeing my new friends. I found that with each and every new friendship the ones that were based in our Catholic faith where we prayed together and gave generously to each other of our time and energy were the friendships that were the strongest and most meaningful.
The Friendship Project (2017, Ave Maria Press) by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet reflects the experiences I have had in my life in making new friends of faith. They formed strong, prayer-based friendships in college and then found like-minded friends after graduation. They said that while they were touring promoting their first book, Divine Mercy for Moms, they were struck by the great need women had for real, in-person friendships. I have also heard from many Catholic women how they have had a very difficult time finding new friends and forming strong friendships.
Many of us have busy and often isolated lives. We may be working long hours or staying at home all day with children. Or perhaps we are running errands and driving our kids places all day or putting in long hours of homeschooling. Sometimes friendships are the last thing on our radars as we navigate our weeks. But without other women supporting us in our daily struggles, relating to our trials, and praying for us in our needs the tedium of life can become almost unbearable. Many of us have tried to fill the void with social media friendships and have found that the lack of face-to-face contact leaves us lonely and isolated.
Michele and Emily have created this beautiful book, which makes our need for true friendships impossible to ignore. This new book gives very practical advice on how to be a good Christian friend calling women to step up to a new level of friendship. Spiritual Friendship is much more than having people to have fun with or share your opinions. It involves sharing each other’s joys and sorrows, loving each other genuinely in Christ, and helping each other become holier so that these friendships can last into eternity.
Each chapter of The Friendship Project focuses on a different virtue, faith, hope, charity, prudence, gratitude, loyalty, generosity, and prayerfulness, which is paired with a set of saints who were friends and emulated the virtue in their friendship. Emily and Michele delve into their experience of forming this virtue in their own friendships, give examples of friends they have had with this virtue, explain each virtue, talk about vices that keep one from forming this virtue, and then give practical ways to practice each virtue in one’s friendships.
They have even created a study guide with free videos for each chapter so that one could form a small group study to focus with other women on forming stronger friendships. I know from my own experience that small groups centered on prayer are a wonderful way to form and develop strong friendships. Jesus tells us that wherever two or three gather together in his name that he is there (Matthew 18:20). Our small groups of prayer and community are a way we can experience his love as members of the Body of Christ—they image our future Heavenly union with each other!
Emily and Michele truly hope that the women who read The Friendship Project will find the people in their lives with whom God is calling them to form deeper, more genuine friendships. They suggest that we actually pray for God to send us these friends, and then be open to the people that are in our lives. It may be even as simple as introducing ourselves to someone after Mass on Sunday. They hope that women of faith will not have to be alone in their faith journey but have friends they can pray with and who genuinely support and love each other in virtue.
As I read through the book, I took in all of their advice on how to become a better friend and improve my own friendships. I saw that I have been blessed with so many good friendships not because I waited for them to come to me, but because I sought them out and have worked at them. I am still working at them as friendship takes time to develop and has the potential to grow ever deeper. I think that any woman who sits down with this book and takes its advice seriously and accepts the challenge to form the virtues highlighted in the book will be able to form beautiful, life long friendships. This idea of spiritual friendship is nothing new in Christianity, but it is important talk about it again in every day and age, so that we do not lose track of our need for each other in our lives.