Having a big family (or being a mother in general) means there is very little time for leisure... Finding the time to read, in my case, has become an arduous quest... The pile of books on my bedside cabinet is becoming an increasingly frustrating reminder of how much I'd like to do and how little time I actually have.
Though I lack time (I am sure this is a common problem) and my retirement reading list becomes bigger and bigger, God doesn't stop surprising me... I was given the possibility to read an advance copy of the 'The Friendship Project', the latest book by the authors of 'Divine Mercy for Moms',
'The Friendship Project', just like 'Divine Mercy for Moms' is a book that comes from the heart. Emily and Michele have truly experienced and embraced 'perfect friendship' and together have walked the extra mile to spread the Good News.
As Pope Saint John Paul II said 'In God's plan, nothing happens by chance', and both books landed at my feet at just the right time... the first when I was looking for Christ's Mercy the most and the latter to confirm the importance and the need of pure friendship in Christ.
Christ himself called us friends "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." and told us that giving our life for our friends is where true love lies!
The authors explore friendship through the life of some famous Saints who were friends with each other, proving that sanctity is contagious and that in this journey of faith we need each other, we need to support, encourage and love one another as He has loved us.
Easy to read, the book is pleasant and genuine. Written with a spirit of service Emily and Michele effortlessly manage to create a very intimate friendship with the reader herself, touching their heart and moving them toward the achievement of that friendship that only comes from Christ.
Just like their previous book, this one asks you to act, it moves you and encourages you to put into practice what you read... and offers you the great opportunity to fully enter friendship thanks to the study group format which is easy to follow and pleasant to deliver.
The experience of 'Divine Mercy for Mums' study group was a wonderful one and the gift of another study group ready to access is a real blessing. I look forward to starting it soon and walking towards Heaven alongside the wonderful people I have met on this journey of faith and the ones I will meet thanks to 'The Friendship Project'.
"Friendship is complete agreement about all things human and divine with benevolence and affection" (Cicero)
Time to meet Michele and Emily, the authors of the book ... Enjoy!
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
(Michele) I am a wife and mother of four, ages thirteen to three. I work full time as a school nurse, but my greatest passion is evangelization. I am the co-director of the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference, an author and speaker.
(Emily) I am a wife, mother of seven, ages 18 years to 18 months. I’ve been involved with women’s ministry for over 10 years with my radio apostolate, A Mother’s Moment and I am also part of the leadership team for the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference. I enjoy sharing the message of the gospel as an author and speaker.
Michele,What qualities were you looking for In your most important friendships e.g in Emily?
(Michele) In The Friendship Project, we wrote about eight virtues: faith, hope, charity, prudence, gratitude, loyalty, generosity and prayerfulness.
If we had to boil it down to just a few, we’d say we would want all of our friends to be faithful and faith-filled. As we wrote in The Friendship Project, “a loyal friend is faithful to her word….looking through the eyes of our loyalties reveals a lot about our hearts.” True friends are there in good times and bad, showing support in difficultly and also celebrating the good times. However on top of loyal and faithful, having a friend whose eyes are fixed on Christ and helping you grow closer in your relationship to God is the most important quality.
At which point did you decide that your friendship was of value and one worth investing in?
(Emily) We both realized in college as we had our own awakening and deep conversions of heart that spiritual friendships were important to invest in. As we continued to grow in our faith in our adult lives and work in ministry in our adult lives together, we also realized we were spending our time focusing on doing good things and spreading the Gospel instead of gossiping or making idle talk. We quickly came to realize how God was using our friendship to sanctify us and push us along in our faith journeys.
What do you think Christianity added to Aristotle's concept of friendship?
(Michele) Christianity added the art of spiritual friendship, or inviting God into the friendship. These friendships, according to St. Aelred of Rievaulx must “begin in Christ, continue with Christ, and be perfected by Christ” and are true friendships. It is through these friendships that lead us closer to God that our friendships can last into eternity!
How do you stop friendship from becoming cliquey ?
(Emily) It’s hard when you are satisfied with the dynamics of a group of friends to invite others in, but it’s important to be open to new friendships and deepening friendships with friends who you may only be an acquaintance with. One thing we both really strive to do is be inviting to our bible study groups or women’s groups to invite everyone. One thing my mom ingrained in my upbringing was to be hospitable and that “all are welcome – the more the merrier!” She has been a great example to me to open up my home and my heart to others and I have been so blessed by that in my life.
When did you realise friendship is an important part of our journey of faith?
I think both of us realized early in our adult lives the difference it made having good friends who encouraged us in our walk as Catholics. As we read what the saints wrote about friendship, we came to understand it more fully. St. Francis deSales shares that we live in a world that is indifferent, even hostile at times to our faith, so it is not only helpful to have spiritual friendships, but necessary!
Why did feel it was important to write a book about friendship?
(Michele) As we travel around the country speaking about our first book, Divine Mercy for Moms, women often approach us and share that their favorite part of the book is when we talk about our friendship. Emily and I have been blessed to know each other for over 20 years, since college. I met my husband at Emily’s wedding and we have worked in Women’s ministry together over the past 15 years. Many women shared with us that they too desired to have a close friendship in faith, so we knew that this was a topic women wanted to read more about. As we researched friendship, we were overjoyed to see the amount of writing that the saints have done on the topic of friendship and its importance. Friendship isn’t optional, but necessary! St. Augustine writes “In this world two things are essential: life and friendship. Both should be highly prized and we must not undervalue them. Life and friendship are natures gifts.” We also began to read about many of saints who had other saint friends while here on earth. It was really eye opening to see that many of the great saints had close friendships on earth, and because of their mutual desire to serve God, they were able to help each other grow in holiness.
What did writing this book teach you?
(Emily) We booth took a serious look at how we were living the virtues in all our relationships and made a conscious effort to grow in each of the eight virtues we wrote about. We also realized how many relationships that we have let grow cold or die because of lack of attention. While we can’t have deep and close relationships with everyone, we have learned that a little time and attention to relationships can bring new life into them. We’ve both had the joy of reconnecting with old friends in the past few years while working on this project. Writing about the saint friends was also very inspirational, and we both hope that we can be the type of friend that helps others get to heaven!
What advice would you give to ladies who are considering starting a Study group?
We promise you will be blessed! We lead a group of over 30 women from across our diocese in the pilot study of The Friendship Project this past fall. Most of the women in the group didn’t know each other, but many wonderful and beautiful new friendships were made. We’ve made it easy for you with free invitations, ice breakers, recipe ideas, a downloadable journal and videos you can stream right online at www.thefriendshipprojectbook.com! Not only is it easy, but also, all you need to purchase is the book – no extra charges for journals, videos or leader materials. We feel so strongly about helping you develop these friendships, we want you to be able to lead a group without an extra financial burden. Check out our “quick start guide” for simple instructions on getting started.