Katie Faley: Becoming friends with the saints and becoming saints with friends
Cause of Our Joy / By Katie Faley
Growing up Catholic, I was aware of many saints by the time I reached second grade. My favorite saints have changed over the years. When I was little, I liked the saints with the most interesting life stories. As I’ve gotten older, I connect more with the saints that lived lives of simple holiness and charity. It’s hard not to be captivated by the lives of the saints.
Even though my favorite saints have changed over the years, one thing hasn’t: the saints are my friends. This is something that other people — parents and religion teachers — fostered in me growing up.
When it came time to foster this in children, saintly friendships took on a new meaning.
TOTUS TUUS MISSIONARY EXPERIENCE
In the summer of 2016, I served as a Totus Tuus missionary along with about 20 other college students and young adults from around the diocese (and even a couple from Pennsylvania and Minnesota!). For two weeks, we went for an intensive (but super fun) training with Totus Tuus teams from other dioceses. After training, we were grouped in teams of four — two ladies, two gents — and went for one-week stints to set up shop at a parish around the diocese where our team of four led the parish children and teens in a theological week of fun and faith.
We got to teach the virtues, lead prayers, play a crazy amount of games, and spend time with the families of the parish sharing meals and laughs. I’d like to think that the people of the parish enjoyed our company, because I can confidently say that our team greatly enjoyed each week we spent with the people of our parishes.
My teammates and I would often stay up late discussing theological ideas, the incomprehensible reality of the existence of God, the endless mercy of God, the significance of Mary’s motherhood of all of humanity, the mystery of the Eucharist, and so much more. After the last comment had been made, there would inevitably be a moment of silence while we soaked in everything that had just been discussed. But after a moment, somebody would break the silence and say, “Holy friendships, man. There’s nothing like them,” and we’d all laugh at how simple and silly that comment felt after such a deep conversation.
THE GIFT OF HOLY FRIENDSHIPS
Friendship is such a gift, but finding holy friendships is like finding the rarest, most beautiful gem in the world. My teammates and I realized that we were blessed with a friendship like many saints had. Saints like St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and Blessed Claude Colombiere, and St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross who were all friends in real life. These saints became holy with their friends.
Friendship is such a gift, but finding holy friendships is like finding the rarest, most beautiful gem in the world.
We were spending the summer becoming friends with the saints and becoming saints with our friends, just like we were hoping to teach the kids and teens of the parishes.
We ended each week telling the people of the parish, “See you in Heaven.” We knew that, realistically, we wouldn’t be seeing many of these people again. We were just missionaries — tourists in other people’s lives — observing for one week and then making our exit. But we also wanted to emphasize the fact that we were all united in the Eucharist. No matter where we ended up in the world, we would always be brought together in the Eucharist.
It was harder when the end of the summer rolled around and my teammates and I had to say goodbye to each other. We laughed as we said, “See you in Heaven!” It was hard to think about our holy friendships once again scattering around the country knowing we wouldn’t be seeing each other in-person for a long time. But we knew then and know now that we are united in our common goal of eternity in full union with Christ.
We still keep up contact via text and the occasional video chat, and there is nothing better than reminiscing on the good times and catching up on how much life has changed since that summer of 2016. We still exchange theological thoughts as easily as inside jokes.
Holy friendships, man. There’s nothing like them.
KATIE FALEY is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria and a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She has a master’s degree in theology and theological studies from the University of Notre Dame. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.