Saint Francis de Sales
Introduction to the Devout Life, III, 19
"Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus" (Jn 11,5)
Love everyone with a great, charitable love, but have no friendship except for those that communicate with you in the things of virtue... If this communication be in the sciences, the friendship is certainly very commendable; but still more so if it be in virtues, in prudence, discretion, fortitude, and justice. Should your mutual and reciprocal communications relate to charity, devotion, and Christian perfection, O God, how precious will this friendship be! It will be excellent, because it comes from God; excellent, because it tends to God; excellent because its very bond is God; excellent, because it shall last eternally in God. Oh, how good it is to love on earth as they love in heaven; and to learn to cherish one another in this world as we shall do eternally in the next!
I speak not here of that simple love of charity which we must have for all, but of that spiritual friendship, by which two, three or more souls communicate one to another their devotion and spiritual affections, and make themselves have but one spirit. (Cf Acts 4,32) Such happy souls may justly sing: "Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Ps 132,1)… I consider all other friendships as but so many shadows in comparison with this one… For Christians who live in the world and desire to embrace true virtue, it is necessary to unite themselves together by a holy and sacred friendship. By this means they encourage, assist and conduct one another to good deeds… Surely no one can deny that our Lord loved Saint John, Lazarus, Martha and Magdalen with a more sweet and most special friendship, for the Scripture tells us so.