Chaput to FOCUS leadership conference: We need Christian friends 

Phoenix, Ariz., Jan 2, 2020 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- Christian friendships are necessary for living a life of faith, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia told college students in a homily Thursday.

Chaput was preaching Jan. 2 during a morning Mass for SLS20, the biennial Student Leadership Summit hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). The conference, the theme of which is “You Were Made For Mission,” is being held Dec. 30-Jan. 4 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Arizona.

The archbishop opened his homily by sharing a story about three peers and schoolmates in Athens, Greece in the 4th century: Basil, Gregory, and John. “They wanted an education, and they wanted to be prepared for the future, much like most of you here today,” Chaput said.

“All of them came from good Christian families,” he added. “One of them was son of a bishop, one was the grandson of Emperor Constantine, the third had a grandfather who was a Christian martyr – all had interesting and important backgrounds.” Two of those three men went on to become great saints, Chaput noted: St. Basil the Great, and St. Gregory the Theologian. John, however, became the emperor of Rome and became known to the world as Julian the Apostate, due to his rejection of Christianity. “What is the difference between the two who remained faithful to Jesus, and the one who betrayed and walked away?” Chaput asked.

In answering this question, Chaput turned to the writings of St. Basil and St. Gregory. “I knew his irreproachable conduct, and the maturity and wisdom of his conversation. Such was the prelude to our friendship, the kindling of that flame that was to bind us together,” St. Gregory wrote of his friend St. Basil.
“When in the course of our friendship we acknowledged that relationship and recognized that our mission was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other,” St. Gregory noted. “We shared the same lodging, the same desires, the same goal.”

St. Gregory wrote that the only rivalry that existed between the two friends was “in yielding to the other, for we each looked at the others’ success as our own, our single object and ambition was virtue. We followed the guidance of God’s law, and spurred each other on to virtue.” He said that the greatest title that he and Basil strove for was to “to be called Christians.”

St. Gregory and St. Basil, therefore, differed from Julian the Apostate in their Christian friendship, Chaput noted.

Chaput urged the college students at Mass to be like St. Gregory and St. Basil in rejecting the lies of the world and embracing true Christian friendship as a necessary key to living a Christian life.

St. Basil wrote of his own youth prior to his conversion, saying: “I had wasted much time on follies and spent nearly all of my youth in vain labors, (attending) to the teachings of a wisdom that God had made foolish. Suddenly I awoke, as out of a deep sleep, and I beheld the wonderful light of the Gospel and recognized the nothingness of the wisdom of the princes of this world.”

“So the world tells us lies, and we’re going to have to decide today on whether we believe those lies,” Chaput said.

Chaput noted that among the purposes of the ministry of FOCUS is to proclaim that Jesus is Lord, and to foster Christian friendship among Catholic college students, like the friendship St. Gregory and St. Basil enjoyed together. “Together in FOCUS, students discover the Lord in both intellectual pursuits, in friendship, in bible studies, and in discipleship,” he said.

“And without that interaction, without that sense of brotherhood and sisterhood that’s such an essential part of the FOCUS ministry, the grace that the Lord offers us through FOCUS doesn’t really take place.”

Chaput’s remarks came on the fourth day of the FOCUS leadership conference. More than 4,000 people are in attendance at the conference, among them FOCUS missionaries, and students from the campuses at which FOCUS ministers. Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers was in attendance at the conference, and greeted attendees Jan. 1.

“The only goal worth seeking is the Lord Jesus Christ,” Chaput told the conference.

“May the Lord bring an awareness of his love for you, and help you, with the assistance of one another, to commit yourself more deeply to the Lord.”

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