Book Review – The Friendship Project
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While skimming through an eblast from a Catholic newsletter site, I happened to read a short description for The Friendship Project. As a mothers group leader, I am always on the lookout for something that I think the mothers in my group would enjoy. After all, we are faith-filled women looking to forge stronger relationships with other women who share the same values. Initially, I thought that this book would be a how-to guide on making and keeping friends. It is that and so much more.
Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet were friends before they became authors and speakers. Both women have poured a lot of themselves in this book. The quest for valuing relationships and wanting to be a true and good friend to others is the foundation upon which this book was born. Faehnle and Jaminet explore encountering friendships and why we need friends.
There are eight chapters in the book. Each chapter focuses on the virtues: faith, hope, charity, prudence, gratitude, loyalty, generosity, and prayerfulness. The chapters explore how these virtues help us become better friends, and how these friendships can grow into deeper, more spiritual relationships. Faehnle and Jaminet take turns writing the chapters, and we see how these virtues have worked in their lives and helped them to form better friendships and to be better friends.
Each chapter introduces the reader to a “saint pair” – these are saints who were contemporaries of each other and how they lived the virtue in their own lives and how this virtue helped in their friendship. The chapters conclude with a “Friendship in Progress” segment, a tip sheet that offers practical advice on how we can grow in these virtues and how they can be implemented into our daily lives. The chapter then ends with a prayer invoking the Holy Spirit to help us deepen that virtue in us as we work to becoming a better friend.
The book also includes two appendices. Appendix 1 consists of different prayers you can use to strengthen and to grow your friendships. Appendix 2 is a study guide for how The Friendship Project can be used in a group study situation. It breaks down the lessons by week and offers references to scripture, videos, and discussion questions.
The Friendship Project succeeds in guiding us to finding and becoming a better friend. This book was an enlightening read for me. I found myself drawn into the lives of the saint pairs. Reading about these relationships gave me pause to think about how the virtues are working or not working in my life. Can I be a better friend? Of course I can!
The book is rich in wonderful quotes and is reflective of how we do not understand what friendship is today since we live in a world where “empathy is on the decline and narcissism is on the rise.” In Chapter 3 Cultivating Charity, Faehnle writes, “Due to growth in social isolation, we are becoming less loving, less generous, less willing to walk a mile in the other’s shoes. I am sometimes shocked at what I read between ‘friends’ on social media these days. Instead of love, we give criticism, gossip, and sometimes, even hatred.”
Faehnle and Jaminet have done an excellent job in exploring the virtues and giving us a true testimony through their own experiences on how to live them. This book is so rich in references to scripture, to the lives of the saint pairs, and to the examples in the authors’ lives. For those of us who are struggling with relationships and friendship specifically, I would recommend this book. The Friendship Project does not disappoint.
Rema Celio is a happily married mom of two young boys and lives in Toronto. She is an active member of St. Benedict Parish.