April 11, 2024

Last Sunday we explored the role of friendship in our spiritual lives. And I introduced you all to one of my spiritual heroes: Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167), Cistercian abbot and the author of the small treatise Spiritual Friendship. In his book, Aelred says this: “Friendship is mutual harmony in affairs human and divine coupled with benevolence and charity.”

Though he was writing in the 12th century, Aelred’s observations about friendship are both relevant and basic to human experience. Friendship is a relevant topic because (as I pointed out on Sunday) we are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic around the world. The invasiveness of social media and smart phones, while promising to make us more connected, have done the exact opposite and have drawn us farther and farther apart. And we were already in the midst of a loneliness epidemic BEFORE the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, it’s an urgent issue. Loneliness is tied to a score of health issues. In fact, some recent studies have found some startling connections between friendship and our physical health. Here’s how evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar puts it in his book called Friends:

It will no doubt get me into trouble with the medical profession, but it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that you can eat as much as you like, drink as much alcohol as you want, slob about as much as you fancy, fail to do your exercises and live in as polluted an atmosphere as you can find, and you will barely notice the difference. But having no friends or not being involved in community activities will dramatically affect how long you live.

Dunbar has devoted the latter half of his career to studying the importance of friendships in human flourishing. Using brain size analysis, primate social behavior, medical benefits, and a slew of other variables, he has developed a concept known as Dunbar’s Number. Basically, a human being can have about 150 “friends” but we also need a smaller and smaller amount of intimate friends with whom we can share who we truly and completely are. The innermost circle of friends is 5. These are our spouses, family members, and friends with whom we can reveal our deepest secrets and yet we receive grace from them.

Finding friends can be hard. Admitting that we need friends places us in a place of vulnerability and need. We don’t want to be awkward or forward by stating our need. However, there is no getting around that we are made, by God, with a need for friendships.

Do you have those five friends in your innermost circle? Make a list of them and then send them a card, a text, a phone call, or tell them face to face that you are grateful God has placed them in your life.

At its best, the Church should be a place of friendship. A place where we love one another despite knowing one another and we approach one another with benevolence and charity.

Contact / Location

Contact info

123, New Lenox, Chicago IL 60606

Gathering Times


8:00am, 9:15am, 11:00am