Augustine stated that there are two things necessary for "life in this world: health and a friend" (Sermon 229, D, 1).
Friendships were for him of supreme importance.
He always lived with an attitude of openness to others.
Among other things, his Confessions
is a history of his friendships, some bad (Confessions
, 2, 4, 7-9, 17) and others good although simply human (Confessions
, 6, 7, 11-16, 26).
cut one of these friendships short, leading him to make some of the most acute and subtle observations that have ever been written about the loss of a friend (Confessions,
4, 4, 7-9, 14).
Some of his friendships - like that with Alypius
- matured and acquired a different character; they acquired an eternal quality that was founded in his Christian faith.
In as far as Augustine came closer to God, his concept and practice of friendship became deeper and deeper.
This was especially so even at the point of his converting to the Christian faith, when he thought that the ideal Christian living would be to dwell with his friends in community, having everything in common, and in calm leisure to the study the Bible. (Confessions, 6, 14, 24).
When newly baptised, Augustine came to regard friendship as an intimate and necessary part of his Christian formation and growth. (Even in preparing for baptism, he had done so in the company of his family and friends.)
He thought of friendship as a fraternal sharing of life, and now having the goals of seeking God and searching for the knowledge of God and of the innermost soul
of an individual. (Monologues
, 1, 2, 7; 1, 12, 20)
Later in his life, Augustine continued living this vision of friendship with those who shared community life in the monasteries he founded
, and with those who, like himself, were called to be church leaders in North Africa: Alypius
He maintained to the end of his life his natural clanishness as an African. As a number of his close frriends at Hippo were called by the Church to become bishops of other dioceses, his circle of face-to-face friends grew smaller, and this was one of the great trials of his life.
In Letter 84, he reflected, "But when you yourself begin to have to surrender some of the very dearest and sweetest of those whom you have reared to the needs of churches located far away from you, then you will understand the pangs of longing that stab me on losing the physical presence of friends united to me in the most close and sweet friendship."
Writing at the age of seventy, Augustine echoed the words that the Roman orator, Cicero
, had said four centuries earlier about the great happiness and support associated with human friendship: "There is no greater consolation than the sincere loyalty and mutual love of ... true friends" (City of God
God was at the core of friendship for Augustine. This is evident in many of his letters
, in which he openly discussed issues of faith and life with so many people - men and women, young and old - with sincere affection (Confessions
, 4, 4, 7; Letters 10, 73; Rule
(Continued on the next page.)