I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
Friendships can be a source, not only of spiritual growth, but also of great enjoyment and satisfaction — and thus, the ending of a friendship on bad terms can be the cause of considerable pain and sorrow. Arguments, disagreements, or misunderstandings can end relationships that had been life-giving and enriching.
If this has happened to you, take heart; some of the saints had this unhappy experience. The foremost example of friendship’s coming to an end involves Jesus Himself — for one of His own disciples betrayed Him.
When Judas Iscariot led the temple guard into the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest our Lord, Jesus addressed him as “friend” (Matt. 26:50) not ironically or sarcastically, but genuinely and lovingly. The Lord was willing to forgive Judas for what he was doing, but Judas refused; the relationship came to a tragic end — not because Jesus willed it so, but because Judas gave in to despair after his act of betrayal and hanged himself.
Saints & Strained Friendships
Several instances of strained friendships among the saints have been recorded. St. Paul and St. Barnabas were close friends. Indeed, it was Barnabas who introduced Paul to St. Peter and the other Apostles.
Barnabas’s acceptance of Paul helped the other early Christians overcome their suspicion of this former persecutor of the Church, and the two apostles were chosen by the Holy Spirit to go forth together as missionaries. Barnabas had his young cousin St. Mark accompany them; however, during the journey, Mark turned back for some unknown reason (Acts 13:13) which angered Paul. When the two apostles were preparing for another missionary journey, Barnabas again wanted to take Mark along, but Paul, remembering the youth’s earlier inconstancy, would not permit it, and this led to a temporary falling out between the two friends.
In the fourth century, St. Heliodorus met St. Jerome in Italy, and became a disciple and eventually a friend of the great scholar; he even helped finance Jerome’s translation of the Bible into Latin, the common language of the day. (This translation, requested by Pope St. Damasus, became known as the Vulgate.) When Jerome and his disciples went to the Holy Land, Heliodorus followed, although he refused to join them in a life of seclusion in the desert, because he felt that God wasn’t calling him to that lifestyle.
Jerome, who was known for his fierce temper, was very upset by this and rebuked Heliodorus in an impassioned letter. Heliodorus returned to Italy and was appointed bishop of the small town of Altino; from there he demonstrated a generous and forgiving nature by continuing to send financial support to Jerome.