St. Dominic and friendship....

by Sr M. Jadwiga

 I call you friends not servants because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my father. 

This, of course, is a passage from John, but in the passage which Sr M. Joanna read to us the other evening, Simon Tugwell says that Dominic did not found the Order, rather he friended it: he was the friend of those who joined him in preaching, and gave them an Order to found.  The note of friendship is, indeed, one that sounds throughout Dominic’s life.  We are told that he was a friend of Simon de Montfort – an unlikely person, one would have thought, for Dominic to be friend to; even more famous, perhaps, and the subject of a number of pictures  is his friendship with Francis; - a prayer attributed to Bl. Jordan (Dominic’s successor as Master of the Order) talks of Dominic’s friendship with Christ.

Presumably, Dominic and his Bp. Diego became friends, as also seems to be likely of his relationship with Fulke, the Bp. of Toulouse.  It has also been  said that in Toulouse he became a friend of Alexander of Stavensby, an English theologian who taught in the University there, and who later became a Bishop of Lichfield.  More surprisingly, looking at the internet the other day I found a blogger who prayed to be given the gifts of friendship and courage which St. Dominic showed in his life; and the website of a Church dedicated to St. Dominic also mentions friendship in the resume of his life.  So Dominic seems to have been a man who made friends.But what does friendship involve?  As the quotation from John with which I began suggests, friendship implies a sharing of knowledge and that is embodied in the Dominican motto which was the impulse behind Dominic’s life: to contemplate and pass on to others the fruits of contemplation.  But I would like to concentrate on two other aspects of friendship: Trust and equality.  

There is no doubt that Dominic was a trusting person: were he not, he would not have sent Hyacinth and Ceslaus – among others – to trek halfway across Europe six months or so after receiving the Dominican habit.  And the democratic nature of the Order also attests to this: giving people a voice in important decisions implies a good deal of trust – ultimately, of course, in God.  

It is St. Thomas who says that equality is an essential component of friendship, and again, St. Dominic’s whole way of preaching shows that he thought of others as his equals. For you do not enter into serious discussion with those whom you think of as your inferiors or with those whom you think of as better than yourself.  In neither case will you be interested, as Dominic was, in what they think and have to say. Nor are you likely to change the mind of those whom you approach as fools. But the story of the conversion of the innkeeper of Toulouse, which is surely a kind of paradigm of many such incidents, shows us that Dominic did enter into serious dialogue with all and sundry: that he took them seriously enough to talk far into the night, and that he was able to get them to see his point of view, and the truth of his position.  

And friendliness, and the ability to make friends, seems to me to be a legacy that St. Dominic has left us.  Throughout the history of the Order there are records of friendships: between Jordan of Saxony and Diana; between St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Louis IX, King of France; between St. Catherine and Raymund of Capua; and closer to home between Mother Margaret Hallahan (who ‘founded’ the first Apostolic Dominican Sisters in England after the Reformation, from whom we take our heritage)  and Bp. Ullathorne, the first Bishop of Birmingham.  The group of men and women who were attached to the 14th. century  Rhineland mystics: Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, were known as the friends of God. 

In his book on the Four Loves, C. S. Lewis says that in his day and age friendship seemed to be a forgotten subject, and though the book was written half a century ago, I think perhaps it still holds good. For he notes that while there is a plethora of fiction – poetry and prose – which deals with Love in its aspects of Eros, and even of Agape, he could think of none, other than Tennyson’s In Memoriam (written in the mid-nineteenth century) which deals with friendship: a contrast to classical and medieval times which abound in stories and treatises on friendships such as Cicero’s treatise, De Amicitia and St. Aelred’s book on the same subject, or the medieval of Roland and Oliver.  

If, then, as is likely, C.S. Lewis is right, and friendship is a neglected  aspect of contemporary life, we should cherish all the more the example of friendship which St. Dominic has left us. It is a lovely legacy to have been given: let us rejoice in it.

 

Exhibit 1: Aristotle on friendship

Friendship... is a kind of virtue, or implies virtue, and it is also most necessary for living. Nobody would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other good things.... There are, however, not a few divergent views about friendship. Some hold that it is a matter of similarity: that our friends are those who are like ourselves... Others take the contrary view.... 

There are three kinds of friendship....

Friendship based on utility. Utility is an impermanent things: it changes according to circumstances. So with the disappearance of the ground for friendship, the friendship also breaks up, because that was what kept it alive. Friendships of this kind seem to occur most frequently between the elderly (because at their age what they want is not pleasure but utility) and those in middle or early life who are pursuing their own advantage. Such persons do not spend much time together, because sometimes they do not even like one another, and therefore feel no need of such an association unless they are mutually useful. For they take pleasure in each other’s company only in so far as they have hopes of advantage from it. Friendships with foreigners are generally included in this class.

Friendship based on pleasure. Friendship between the young is thought to be grounded on pleasure, because the lives of the young are regulated by their feelings, and their chief interest is in their own pleasure and the opportunity of the moment. With advancing years, however, their tastes change too, so that they are quick to make and to break friendships; because their affection changes just as the things that please them do and this sort of pleasure changes rapidly. Also the young are apt to fall in love, for erotic friendship is for the most part swayed by the feelings and based on pleasure. That is why they fall in and out of friendship quickly, changing their attitude often within the same day. But the young do like to spend the day and live together, because that is how they realize the object of their friendship.

Perfect friendship is based on goodness. Only the friendship of those who are good, and similar in their goodness, is perfect. For these people each alike wish good for the other qua good, and they are good in themselves. And it is those who desire the good of their friends for the friends’ sake that are most truly friends, because each loves the other for what he is, and not for any incidental quality. Accordingly the friendship of such men lasts so long as they remain good; and goodness is an enduring quality. Also each party is good both absolutely and for his friend, since the good are both good absolutely and useful to each other. Similarly they please one another too; for the good are pleasing both absolutely and to each other; because everyone is pleased with his own conduct and conduct that resembles it, and the conduct of good men is the same or similar. Friendship of this kind is permanent, reasonably enough; because in it are united all the attributes that friends ought to possess. For all friendship has as its object something good or pleasant — either absolutely or relatively to the person who feels the affection — and is based on some similarity between the parties. But in this friendship all the qualities that we have mentioned belong to the friends themselves; because in it there is similarity, etc.; and what is absolutely good is also absolutely pleasant; and these are the most lovable qualities. Therefore it is between good men that both love and friendship are chiefly found and in the highest form.

That such friendships are rare is natural, because men of this kind are few. And in addition they need time and intimacy; for as the saying goes, you cannot get to know each other until you have eaten the proverbial quantity of salt together. Nor can one man accept another, or the two become friends, until each has proved to the other that he is worthy of love, and so won his trust. Those who are quick to make friendly advances to each other have the desire to be friends, but they are not unless they are worthy of love and know it. The wish for friendship develops rapidly, but friendship does not.

Aristotle The Nichomachean Ethics, 1155a3, 1156a16-1156b23 

Exhibit 2: Cicero on friendship

Let this, then, be laid down as the first law of friendship, that we should ask from friends, and do for friends', only what is good. But do not let us wait to be asked either: let there be ever an eager readiness, and an absence of hesitation. Let us have the courage to give advice with candour. In friendship, let the influence of friends who give good advice be paramount; and let this influence be used to enforce advice not only in plain-spoken terms, but sometimes, if the case demands it, with sharpness; and when so used, let it be obeyed. (section 13)

[I]n friendship and relationship, just as those who possess any superiority must put themselves on an equal footing with those who are less fortunate, so these latter must not be annoyed at being surpassed in genius, fortune, or rank. (section 20) 

Now, by "worthy of friendship" I mean those who have in themselves the qualities which attract affection. This sort of man is rare; and indeed all excellent things are rare; and nothing in the world is so hard to find as a thing entirely and completely perfect of its kind. But most people not only recognize nothing as good in our life unless it is profitable, but look upon friends as so much stock, caring most for those by whom they hope to make most profit. Accordingly they never possess that most beautiful and most spontaneous friendship which must be sought solely for itself without any ulterior object. They fail also to learn from their own feelings the nature and the strength of friendship. For every one loves himself, not for any reward which such love may bring, but because he is dear to himself independently of anything else. But unless this feeling is transferred to another, what a real friend is will never be revealed; for he is, as it were, a second self. But if we find these two instincts showing themselves in animals, - whether of the air or the sea or the land, whether wild or tame, - first, a love of self, which in fact is born in everything that lives alike; and, secondly, an eagerness to find and attach themselves to other creatures of their own kind; and if this natural action is accompanied by desire and by something resembling human love, how much more must this be the case in man by the law of his nature? For man not only loves himself, but seeks another whose spirit he may so blend with his own as almost to make one being of two. (section 21)

It is virtue, virtue, which both creates and preserves friendship. On it depends harmony of interest, permanence, fidelity. When Virtue has reared her head and shewn the light of her countenance, and seen and recognised the same light in another, she gravitates towards it, and in her turn welcomes that which the other has to shew; and from it springs up a flame which you may call love or friendship as you please. Both words are from the same root in Latin; and love is just the cleaving to him whom you love without the prompting of need or any view to advantage-though this latter blossoms spontaneously on friendship, little as you may have looked for it... And since the law of our nature and of our life is that a new generation is for ever springing up, the most desirable thing is that along with your contemporaries, with whom you started in the race, you may also teach what is to us the goal. But in view of the in-stability and perishableness of mortal things, we should be continually on the look-out for some to love and by whom to be loved; for if we lose affection and kindliness from our life, we lose all that gives it charm... (section 27)

This is all I had to say on friendship. One piece of advice on parting. Make up your minds to this. Virtue (without which friendship is impossible) is first; but next to it, and to it alone, the greatest of all things is Friendship. (section 27)

Cicero, M. T. On Friendship

Exhibit 4: C. S. Lewis on friendship

Companionship is, however, only the matrix of Friendship. It is often called Friendship, and many people when they speak of their 'friends' mean only their

 

 

To Praise, To Bless, To Preach.