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Running after friendship

First slide

It was a crisp morning in February and I was nearing the end of a run with some fellow seminarians. My legs were tired, I was breathing heavily, but the one thing that kept me going was the fact that the end was close at hand. Out of the blue, Daniel Rice, one of the seminarians I was running with, piped up and changed our course. Instead of taking the easy path back to the seminary, he led us around a corner —and waiting for us was a monster of a hill. Any consolation I had was dashed as we began the trudge up the hill. In between gasps for breath, and in an attempt to quell my growing frustration, I said to Daniel: “It’s a good thing I love you, bro.” His response was instantaneous, with a huge smile spread across his face, seemingly unfazed by the five miles we had just run: “Dude, I’m doing this because I love you.”


It was a moment that captured one of the best and most rewarding aspects of my first year in seminary: the friendships I have formed. The very nature of formation as seminarians gives us ample opportunity to grow in friendship with one another as we spend nearly every part of our day with our classmates. These relationships developed and were strengthened by swapping stories and laughs, sharing meals, meeting up on fields and courts for friendly competition, and taking trips together over long weekends. What makes the friendships I have made in seminary uniquely valuable is the common pursuit of holiness as each of us discerns a call to the priesthood.


I have found that these friendships are much more than just a side effect of the formation process, however. It is precisely in the context of relationships that we are called to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. Our knowledge of the Scriptures and theology is not wholly complete until we start living the truths that are contained within. Friendships thus give us the chance to integrate what we learn in the classroom into the way we live our lives. Our primary vocation, as St. Thérèse pointed out, is to love, and we cannot learn to love simply sitting in a classroom. We can only grow in our capacity to love by loving those around us. These friendships thus become a necessary part of our formation, the immediate means in which we grow in love.


The way of love is rarely the easiest, as Daniel showed me that morning, which is why it is impossible to run it alone. We all need friends who are willing to go the extra mile with us, who are there to challenge and encourage us when things get tough, and who celebrate our victories as we are formed into the person God has called us to be. After all, the ultimate race we run is not a morning jog back to the seminary, but a marathon to eternal life in heaven.


Evans, who is from St. John the Evangelist Church in Warrenton, is in his second year of pre-theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020