Been feeling sick today. Headache. Uncomfortable stomach..and so I gave myself time out. To sleep. To pray. To read.
Read David Malouf’s Ransom
Malouf is sometimes described as an author for males, in that many of the themes of his writing are themes of male identity, searching for identity , undertaking male soul searching; giving words to this search to some (males) who may not otherwise have words with which to explain (understand) their life.
Yet, Malouf’s writing is also much more. Once I looked past the maleness (the corded forearm) , I was forced to think about bonds, bonds of connection between men..between women..between father and son..and between friends.
For what is it that makes a friend?
We bond with another. As Achilles, in Malouf’s Ransom discovers with his friendship and shared adoptive brotherhood with Patroclus, we more than bond..we find that, when we have formed this friendship, this bond, our ..true spirit leapt forth and declared itself. It was as if he had all along needed this other before he could become fully himself. From this moment on he could conceive of nothing in this life he must live that Patroclus would not share in and approve.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when such a bond occurs. This bond needs time, yes. It sometimes occurs between people with different backgrounds, different lives. There comes a time of laughter, sadness, anger, shared experience when you know, without a doubt, that you are friends. This bond has developed without thinking, without trying. Almost.
Because we do have to care for our friends. We cannot tuck them away, to be brought out upon need. They must be thought of and cared for, with prayers for the other.
But, then , if this bond of which Achilles talks is strong, our thought and concern and prayer just happen.
Even in difficult times. For no relationship is without difficulty.
But things did not always go smoothly between them. There were times when Patroclus was difficult to approach, too touchily aware that, for all Achilles’ brotherly affection, he hinself was a courtier…he would draw back, all pride and a hurt that could not easily be assauged. What Achilles saw then on the clouded brow was what he had been so struck by in the first glance that had passed between them….and he would hear again, as if the memory were his own..the knock of bone on bone as two lives collided and were irrevocably changed.
Can a husband and wife be friends in this manner? Or parents and children ?
Yes and no. Spouses are called to be more than friends; they are called to represent Christ’s love for his Church. (CCC 1601 )The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.
Parents are also called to be more than friends wth their children; (CCC 1657) It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.
Friends and more than friends..members of the Domestic Church.
We form bonds of connection and friendship with family members, with spouses. And also with others.
As I said, time and experience helps here. He knew every movement of Patroclus’ soul – how could he not after so long? Distance does not necessarily have an effect on these bonds, once made.
Quarrels can make the friendship, the marriage, the relationship, the bonds stronger..if we work through these. If we give them time and prayers. Sometimes, the bond forged after disagreement and the subsequent hurt and working through, is a deeper, binding bond.
They had stood, then, appalled, both, by what had been said. Achilles was trembling, too proud to admit, even to this man who was half himself, that he might be in the wrong, but heartsick, stricken. ..When had he last seen Patroclus weep? The tears, he knew, were for him, he felt the hotness of them in his own throat. Even more for the unhppy rift between them.
Those of us who love know this sickness of the heart, this gut wrenching feeling, these sobs. So hard to experience, to go through. And I never want anyone I love to be unhappy. I never want to hurt those I love. But I do.
Yet, if we can work through our quarrels, our hurt, then our relationships show to the world the bond of Christian love. No tawdry revenge, I-am-not-speaking-to-you. Not thinking of self. But about the other.
In our joy and laughter. Love.
In our tears. Also showing Love.
He had wept for Patroclus. Wept without restraint. Sitting cross-legged on the ground rocking back and forth in his anguish, pouring fitfuls of dirt over his head.
My afternoon off, feeling sick and reading, of sleeping and praying, has also been a time of emotions. That is okay. A good author should make us pause, ponder, pray.
With Malouf, I can reflect upon the bonds between men.
(CCC 2347) The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship….Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.
Spiritual communion might be the best way to define friendship.