The Lord created us for companionship. No man is an island, we need to be surrounded by holy and virtuous people no matter where we are in our faith journey.
I’ve put a list together of 21 saints who were friends. I’ve decided not to include people who are married or siblings. That will be for another post. While those relationships are essential, I wanted to create a list of friendships that anyone can aspire to; married, single, or religious.
Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi
St. Clare was one of the first followers of St. Francis. She risked everything to run away from her family with her sister and join St. Francis and his brothers in their vow of poverty. With his encouragement, she founded a religious order of women and became the first woman to write a religious rule. There was a lot of speculation surrounding the nature of their relationship, but it was always 100% holy and platonic.
Arnaldo Fortini shares a story about the two in his book Vita Nuova di San Francesco d’Assisi. One winter, after seeing people Assisi giving them judgemental stares. St. Francis told Clare that they needed to spend time apart. Clare was very distraught and asked Francis when they can see each other again. Francis said not until the snow melted and the roses bloomed. Clare then prayed and surrounding them, bushes and hedges were covered in roses and the snow at their feet began to melt. Clare collected the roses and offered them to Francis, who accepted that their friendship was necessary to teach others how to live the Gospel.
Clare cared for Francis in his old age, cleaning his stigmata and helping him remain as comfortable as possible on his death bed.
Clare and Francis’ example gives us excellent proof that men and women can have holy virtuous friendships and be mutually supportive of each other.
Sts. Augustine and Ambrose
St. Ambrose was bishop of Milan when St. Augustine was teaching as a professor of rhetoric at the Imperial court in Milan. He was deeply influenced by Manichaeism and had a concubine.
Both men had prolific skill in rhetoric and public speaking, and Augustine was attracted to Ambrose because of his skill. He says in his Confessions, “I took no trouble to learn what he said, but only to hear how he said it.” However, as he heard Ambrose preach, he gained a new understanding of the Bible and began to feel the restlessness in his heart that led to his conversion. On the Easter Vigil in 387AD, Ambrose baptized Augustine in the presence of his mother St. Monica.
They were both named Doctors of the Church on September 20, 1295, by Pope Boniface XIII.
It’s through Ambrose’s unapologetic example and spiritual leadership that we can learn how to evangelize and love our non-Christian brothers and sisters.
Sts. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross
There is so much about these two and their interactions, it’s hard to summarize. They lived at the time of the reformation and had a profound impact in returning their communities to a life of prayer. These mystics were both Carmelites who co-founded the Discalced Carmelites. Through St. Teresa’s guidance, John realized his vocation to the Carmelite order. He, in turn, strengthened Teresa as her spiritual director. They saw each other as equals and
Their friendship allowed them to reach their fullest spiritual potential. They found support in their vocations and mysticism.
Sts. Peter, James, and John
The disciples spent three years together traveling as Jesus’ companions. Within the 12, Peter, James and John stand out as they witnessed the Transfiguration, the raising of Jarius’ Daughter, and the Agony of the Garden. Jesus reserved the most intimate moments of his ministry for these three.
I was hesitant to include all three on the list since James and John were brothers, but I didn’t feel right included two without the third. These men started as faithful Jewish men who were good brothers and sons but dropped everything to follow Jesus.
After witnessing Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, they went on to become leaders of the church, spreading the good news and even getting martyred for that truth. They are an example of friendships uniting under one banner and then taking what they’ve learned from each other and spreading it to better the world.
Sts. John Paul II and Teresa of Calcutta
Pope St. John Paul II and Teresa of Calcutta had a beautiful decade long friendship that was often seen in public through modern media. Watching videos of the two of them greet each other during papal audience is hear warming because the love the two share is palpable.
They met for the first time in 1973 at the 40th World Eucharistic Congress in Melbourne, Austrialia. JPII had not been made pope yet so she met him as Cardinal Bishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla. They met again in 1976 at another Eucharistinc Congress in Philadelphia.
When he was made pope, John Paul spent 10 days in India and visited the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta, where footage shows Mother Teresa leading the pope by the hand to bless and minsiter the patients. He was visably moved and Mother Teresa called that day the “happiest day of my life.”
They saw each other many other times until Mother Teresa’s death in 1997. Pope John Paul II waived the 5 year waiting period traditionally observed before opening an individuals cannonization cause.
They were both universal figures who transformed the church for the better.
Sts. Felicity and Perpetua
St. Perpetua was a noblewoman and St. Felicity was a slave. They were both mothers of young children and lived during the early persecutions of the Church in Africa. Both women were martyred together in 203 AD. St. Perpetua wrote detailed letters about their time in prison, giving us a rare firsthand account.
St. Perpetua was well educated and had an infant son, yet she became a Christian knowing the consequences. She was eventually arrested and sent to prison where she met St. Felicity, who was eight months pregnant and also a Christian. Both knew they were sentenced to death, and Felicity was worried that she wouldn’t give birth in time for their execution date so her companions would be martyred without her. Both refused to renounce their faith. Felicity gave birth to a daughter in time (Perpetua likely helped deliver her) and, with Perpetua and their other prison cellmates, Felicity was sent to the amphitheater’s public games to be killed.
Both Felicity and Perpetua survived the initial attacks by a rabid heifer and stood arm in arm as they were beheaded. Their children were adopted by Christians and knew the story of their mothers.
Despite their different and unique backgrounds, both of these women were devout Christians and pillars of support for each other through trials.
Sts. Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier
St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier were roommates at the University of Paris. St. Ignatius had recently found faith after sustaining a serious injury at war and St. Francis was an ambitious yet somewhat cocky young man. In fact, when they first met, Francis ridiculed Ignatius for his piety.
However, Ignatius recognized that Francis was a bright young scholar and won him over by helping him overcome financial difficulties and encouraging him in his studies. Francis eventually opened his heart to Christ and affectionately called Ignatius “the Father of my soul.”
Eventually, Francis Xavier eventually helped Ignatius found the Society of Jesus and began an ambitious mission to evangelize. Ignatius remained in Europe to run the order while Francis began traveling the world to spread the gospel. Once Francis left, they never saw each other again but kept in touch through letters. Francis would even cut out Ignatius’ signature and sew it into his cassock to keep his friend close as he evangelized.
Sts. Paul and Luke
Not much is known about the friendship of these two men. We know that they traveled together to spread the gospel. St. Paul references St. Luke three times in his letters (Col 4:14, 2 Tm 4:11, Philem 23-24).
St. Paul says in his final letter written as he was awaiting death that “Luke is alone with me,” suggesting a very intimate friendship. Meanwhile, St. Luke wrote about St. Paul and his journies, living many of these journies himself.
We don’t have have any documentation about their friendship beyond that, but I like to think that St. Luke was a pillar of support for St. Paul while he was under house arrest and St. Paul was one of St. Luke’s greatest supporters as he researched and wrote his gospel.
Sts. Patrick and Brigid
There are a lot of legends surrounding the lives of Sts. Patrick and Brigid. But we do know that these two knew each other and were friends. The Book of Argmagh, a 9th-century manuscript also known as the Cannon of St. Patrick and the Liber Ardmachanus, says about these two: “Between St. Patrick and Brigid, the pillars of the Irish people, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her, Christ performed many great works.”
It is speculated that Patrick baptized Brigid and that Brigid founded a monastery after being inspired by the monastery that Patrick founded. Another theory says that Patrick died decades before Brigid was born, so their friendship was a spiritual one of intercessor from heaven, and intercess-e from earth.
Regardless of circumstance, both of them were devoted to spreading the message of the gospel to pagan Ireland and relied on each other’s support and intercession to carry out their missions.
Sts. Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure
Both men met while they were studying in Paris (where Sts Ignatius and St Francis Xavier met). Though Bonaventure was a Franciscan and Thomas a Dominican, these two developed a very deep and lasting friendship. They frequently met to discuss their studies and issues of the time. Some of St. Thomas’ biographers have claimed that St. Thomas’ devotion to St. Augustine and his understanding Plato can be attributed to his friendship with St. Bonaventure. One day, Thomas asked Bonaventure which books he especially studies. St. Bonaventure replied pointing to the crucifix, “I only study Christ crucified…This is the source of all my knowledge.”
They were the top of their class and both insisted the other deserved the first place rank.
In 1246, Pope Urban IV commissioned both men to compose music for the newly instituted Feast of Corpus Christi. The legend goes that St. Thomas presented his work first, and it was so beautiful, St. Bonaventure quietly turned and tore his composition as St. Thomas was presenting. He explained that he considered St. Thomas’ work alone worthy to be used for the new feast. And because of this, the “Tantum Ergo” is a familiar and common prayer.
The two friends died the same year and were named doctors of the church and their statues face each other on opposite sides of St. Peter’s Square.