Fr.PatHeppeA classic musical hit from my younger years (1968) is “Old Friends” written by Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel.

The song is about two older men sitting on a park bench reminiscing about their lives now that they are 70. I’ve come to love and appreciate this piece of music.

I’m a great fan of Simon and Garfunkel, but there’s something profound about this particular work. Given summer opportunities to sit and talk with friends and family, it seems appropriate to reflect on this recording in light of these gatherings.

Friendship is one of God’s great gifts. Like a committed marriage relationship, friendship brings out the best in those that experience it. Friends come and go and all of them leave a mark, hopefully for the better.

Some of these relationships last a lifetime. Some are short lived. Some friends enter and leave and I suspect some friendships end because they are not life-giving or healthy.

I had a number of opportunities this summer to get together with friends to talk, to catch up, to reminisce. A few of us who went to high school together recently met and we spent some time talking about the good times and challenges of our alma mater, De Sales Seminary High School.

I went on to ordination. They went on to careers, wives and families. As the Simon and Garfunkel song states, despite different paths, we share similar hopes and dreams and concerns for the future.

We shared family concerns, career concerns and health concerns as we approach those years when you never know what to expect. God may have some surprises for us! Be open, be prepared and stay in touch.

One of my parish members, Florence, invited me to join her family as they gathered to celebrate her birthday. I was honored to be part of that group of friends and family. She prepared the entire meal and we had some excellent conversation as we celebrated her 91st birthday.

We talked about family and the past as well as the challenge to embrace the future with all its possibilities. There’s no stopping a healthy 91-year-old with a clear drive and a focus firmly rooted in faith.

Her circle of friends and family is strong. They are close; they are present to each other; they share ideas openly.

My friends also include a priest support/prayer group. They are honest, challenging, supportive and prayerful. It’s a spiritually oriented group of priests that I highly admire and appreciate. We’ve been with each other through thick and thin and their guidance is appreciated. We’ve been meeting almost monthly for 35+ years. They are family in a very real way.

I’ve come to cherish not simply the “old friends,” but the “young friends” as well — maybe even more. They too, are open, honest, supportive and challenging. They offer hope and encouragement in a special and unique way.

They oftentimes think differently. They present new and innovative ideas. We need a variety of ages, temperaments and ideologies in our life to keep balanced and growing. I’ve always appreciated that.

Saying that my friends are “covenanted” is not an overextension. We are committed to each other and to each other’s growth and well-being. We want to see one another share their gifts and talents in building God’s kingdom. There is a strong spiritual bond in all of these relationships.

Summer may be a good time to evaluate your “old friends.” How healthy are your friendships?

Have we simply nurtured friendships of convenience? Friendships should be diverse and bring out the best in us. The commitment, support, spiritual connection and covenant in relationships are crucial. Might you need to make some changes or additions to those people you call friends?