I don’t miss my best friend



As some leaves begin to fall, the sycamore tree at the grotto remains laden with memories of my best friend. In fact, it is rather difficult to find anything on this campus that is not in some way associated with my dear friend Chris, who recently entered the Society of Jesus after graduating college a year early. While he is in the novitiate for these first two years of formation, he has limited access to communication; and he is horribly slow at replying to letters. So who knows when we will hear from him again?

Some of my friends, in passing comments, have expressed their wistfulness regarding Chris’s absence. For much of the spring semester, I, too, wrestled with grieving and enjoying our many “lasts.” Indeed, my favorite question that I have been asked this semester is, “How is campus sans Chris?”

Now, none of this recollection is sorrowful for me. It is only with affection and a distinct sense of removal from that time and place that I remember climbing the tree and going for long walks to talk and exploring the belltower of the basilica. This is no longer the time or place for Chris to be here, and I do not mourn that fact. I celebrate it. Eschatological hope and a sincere belief in vocation free me from sadness and fear.

Eschatological hope means that I know that when I say goodbye, it is not a permanent farewell. Not only do I hope and pray that we will gaze upon God together for eternity, but I know that at every celebration of the Eucharist, which is spiritually outside of time, we are together in our worship of the Lord. My friends have adopted the parting phrase, “See you in the Eucharist,” which I find to be a beautifully true and underrated reality.

In addition to my ultimate hope and its present partial fulfillment, I am strengthened by my conviction that vocation is real. God calls us each to a particular way of life, and his call is, in every way, an invitation to love. To live our vocation well is to become more ourselves, and to ever-purify and increase our love. I know that this call to religious life is Chris’s vocation, and I am thrilled that he is now free to pursue Jesus Christ so explicitly and wholeheartedly. I remember a time, two years ago, when Chris expressed his poignant longing for religious life. That night gave me a taste of how I feel this year; precisely because I love him so much, I do not want him next to me. He should be with the Jesuits, filling his days with prayer and zeal for the salvation of souls; and now that he is, I could not be happier.

Chris, the good Jesuit he now is, often reminded me of St. Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation, which includes the practice of holy indifference. We should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, a long life to a short life, etc. Our only preference should be for the glory of God. So, in keeping with that First Principle and Foundation, I have been working to foster a holy indifference toward my friendships. I love Chris, but I do not need him. As much as possible, I do not prefer his presence to his absence; I desire only the glory of God. And God is truly glorified by Chris’s entrance into the Society of Jesus.

If I open the door of my memory, I see years of laughter and tears shared with Chris across this campus and even this country. I feared such a deep bond would be bittersweet in this new context of separation; but instead, the truth sets me free. All is for the greater glory of God; and we continue to walk together toward holiness, albeit in new ways. Yes, I remember and pray for Chris often; but seldom do I miss him.