Not only is friendship between opposite sexes possible, it’s actually a very good thing! Friendship not only helps us grow in community and holiness, but it also helps us to see each other as people, not as potential partners.
“Indeed, when two pure souls on fire with the same love for God meet, they find in their friendship with each other a powerful incentive to advance on the path of perfection. Friendship is one of the noblest and loftiest human sentiments which divine Grace purifies and transfigures,” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in his General Audience on September 15, 2010.
Many saints were friends. For instance, Saint Francis and Saint Dominic strove for holiness together. Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Francis Xavier were on mission together. But many opposite sex saints were friends, too! Their friendships prove that men and woman can be friends and grow profoundly in holiness together.
Looking for some holy inspiration when it comes to friendship with people of the opposite sex? Here are some pairs of opposite sex saints who were friends. Ask them to intercede for you in your friendships!
1. Pope Saint John Paul II and Saint Teresa of Calcutta
John Paul II visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta and they became close friends. They were united by their love of God and neighbor and dedication to the poor. After that, she would frequently appear beside him at the Vatican or they would meet in other places around the world.
In her, John Paul II saw what he called “the mystery of woman.” Monsignor Francesco Follo was the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to UNESCO. He worked closely with the Missionaries of Charity in Italy and France. In his book on John Paul II, he wrote that the two saints’ bond was so profound that Mother Teresa represented “the feminine dimension of John Paul II.”
John Paul II knew so well the work of God in his dear friend that he beatified her in 2003.
2. Saint Francis and Saint Clare
Francis founded the Franciscans. Clare heard him preach and was moved to join him. He supported her in her fight to do so against her family’s wishes and against advisement from Rome. Clare was adamant about founding an order of women religious based on Francis’s Rule. Eventually she did so, and Francis supported her every step of the way. Her rule was approved by Rome just days before her death.
But Clare was as much of a help and support to Francis as he was to her. “[Clare’s] testimony shows us how indebted the Church is to courageous women, full of faith like her, who can give a crucial impetus to the Church’s renewal,” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said of her.
Francis absolutely knew this. She encouraged him to grow in holiness as he encouraged her.
3. Blessed Jordan of Saxony and Blessed Diana
John was a Dominican priest. Diana was a Dominican nun who wrote de facto love letters to one another. Yet they remained chaste! What they found in each other were mirrors of the love of God and the purity of Christ. It is through that Divine Love that their love was bound.
Here’s a section of a letter Jordan wrote to Diana: “You are so deeply engraven on my heart that the more I realize how truly you love me from the depths of your soul, the more incapable I am of forgetting you and the more constantly you are in my thoughts; for your love of me moves me profoundly, and makes my love for you burn more strongly.”
Their friendship was intense, intimate, and pure. May we all develop such pure friendships as theirs!
4. The Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph
This is the only married couple included in the list because Mary and Joseph weren’t an ordinary married couple. They remained chaste their entire marriage. But to raise the Son of God together and do God’s work, they were most definitely best friends. There’s no way they could’ve accomplished the work they did if they weren’t first and foremost friends with Christ (literally!) at the center of their relationship.
Mary and Joseph prove that all things are possible through Christ.
5. Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross
These reformers of the Carmelite Order were quite the pair of friends. Both were mystics. Teresa once said of friendship, “What a wonderful thing it is for two souls to understand each other, for they neither lack something to say, nor grow tired.” She and John shared that.
John saw in Teresa the reform of life he was looking for. Her leadership to be able to guide him (and others!) in that reform. Teresa saw in John such a deep contemplative spirit that it called her on in her life and work. She even chose him as her spiritual director and later, her confessor.
They trusted the spiritual wisdom and love of each other so much that they were able to maintain this deep, abiding, and life-giving friendship through many struggles.
6. Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane Frances de Chantal
These two found deep friendship through spiritual direction. They both attended the parish where Saint Vincent de Paul presided. Jane Frances had a vision of a man who was to be her spiritual director. Wen she heard Francis preach, she knew the man in her vision was him.
Together, they founded the Congregation of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales wrote of the merits of friendship: “It is a blessed thing to love on earth as we hope to love in Heaven, and to begin that friendship here which is to endure for ever there. I am not now speaking of simple charity, a love due to all mankind, but of that spiritual friendship which binds souls together, leading them to share devotions and spiritual interests, so as to have but one mind between them”.
This understanding was most definitely formed, in part, through his friendship with Jane.
May these six pairs of saints inspire us in our spiritual lives and our friendships and encourage us to be unafraid of opposite-sex friendships. Through grace, all friendships rooted in holiness will magnificently bloom.