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Why it’s worth thinking about friendship this Catholic Schools Week

File photo of student Yoselyn Arroyo at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School in Henderson, Ky., works on a classroom project March 29, 2018. The theme for National Catholic Schools Week 2024 (Jan. 28- Feb. 3) is “Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community.” (OSV News photo/Tyler Orsburn, CNS)

By Peter K. Kilpatrick

It is fitting that as Catholic Schools Week begins and we mark the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of Catholic education, that we consider the importance and significance of friendship.

I recently read a beautiful book titled “The Friendship of Christ,” by Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson. Msgr. Benson is one of the favorite authors of both our current Holy Father Pope Francis, and of our recent Pope Benedict XVI. In his book on friendship, Msgr. Benson reminds us, first of all, of how desperately Jesus wants to be our closest friend, and, unfortunately, how often we tend to ignore him and not offer him the love and friendship that he so deeply craves. In doing so, Msgr. Benson reminds us of how we are called to be friends for one another and how exactly we can do that.

Why is this such an important topic on the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas?

St. Thomas himself wrote a great deal about friendship. In 1267, St. Thomas wrote a short piece called “De regno ad regem Cypri” or “On Kingship to the King of Cyprus.” In that piece he wrote:

“First of all, among all worldly things there is nothing which seems worthy to be preferred to friendship. Friendship unites all good men and women and preserves and promotes virtue. Friendship is needed by all people in whatsoever occupations they engage. In prosperity it does not thrust itself unwanted upon us, nor does it desert us in adversity. It is what brings with it the greatest delight, to such an extent that all that pleases is changed to weariness when friends are absent, and all difficult things are made easy and as nothing by love.”

A really good friend believes in us and comforts us. Friends come out of themselves to give to us without counting the cost. We were created for self-giving love, as St. John Paul II reminded us, and that is what friends do. So not only is receiving the warm, heartfelt friendship of another good for us, but it is especially good for us to be the giver of that friendship.

My wife, Nancy, reminded me that the primary role of a husband and a wife is to help each other save their souls and be received for eternity into heaven. Isn’t this also the role of a friend? So call your friends today and this semester. Let them know how grateful you are for their friendship. Help them in their pursuit of sanctification.

I also encourage you to identify those persons around you in need of your friendship. We live in a perilous time of loneliness and social isolation, and there are many who want and need your friendship. Let us live well the admonition of St. Thomas to “unite us in friendship so as to preserve and promote virtue.”

Peter K. Kilpatrick is president of The Catholic University of America.

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