Not every saint or monk or nun lived a solitary life. Many saint’s did in fact know each others in close and meaningful ways. Some were best friends, others enjoyed a relationship of spiritual mentorship. Here’s a few of those very saints:
St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal
After St. Jane’s husband died in a hunting accident, she had a vision of a priest who was to become her spiritual director. In 1604, she went to Dijon for Lenten services and found that Francis de Sales was preaching. He was the one from her vision! After this, Francis also had a vision of St. Jane and sought her out. He became her spiritual director and they became close friends. After their first meeting, St. John wrote her a small note of encouragement saying: “I think that God gave me to you; every hour makes me more sure of it; that is all I can say. Commend me to your guardian angel.” Together they founded the Order of the Visitation.
St. John Bosco and St. Joseph Cafasso
St. Joseph was less than four years older than St. John but St. John looked to him as his mentor nonetheless. In fact, they found such camaraderie in each other that it was St. Joseph who asked St. John to help him with the neglected boys of Turin and then helped St. John found his home for boys and sat on its board. They were such close friends that St. John Bosco later wrote the biography of St. Joseph Cafasso.
St. Felicity and St. Perpetua
St. Perpetua was a young mother and convert to Christianity when she was imprisoned for her faith and separated from her baby. St. Felicity was a slave and soon-to-be mother at eight months pregnant also imprisoned with Perpetua. Two days before their execution, Felicity gave birth to a little girl who was adopted by another Christian family. They then walked to martyrdom together and, side by side, they were killed for their faith at Carthage. They are mentioned in the liturgy frequently, especially at Easter.
St. Gaspar del Bufal and St. Vincent Pallotti
St. Vincent and St. Gaspar met while Vincent was studying for the priesthood. They shared a deep devotion to the Precious Blood and St. Vincent joined St. Gaspar’s fraternity of The Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and became an ardent supporter of it in Rome.
St. Gaspar, “the spiritual earthquake,” had an immense influence on St. Vincent and Gaspar was likewise influenced by Vincent. The two became very close friends and helped each other in their apostolic endeavors. St. Vincent assisted at St. Gaspar’s deathbed.
St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp
“The times call for you, as pilots do for the winds, and as are tossed with tempest seeks for the haven, so that both you and those under your care may attain to God,” Ignatius wrote in a letter to his friend Polycarp.
Both Ignatius and Polycarp were disciples of the disciple St. John the Beloved Apostle and both became bishops in the early Church. Likewise, both were martyred for the faith. They wrote to each other often and wrote of each other in their epistles, letters, and books.
Bl. Jordan of Saxony and Bl. Diana d’Andalo
Bl. Jordan and Bl. Diana were both Dominicans who shared a very intense spiritual friendship. Jordan, who took over as Master of the Dominican Order from St. Dominic himself, wrote many letters to his friends, the majority of which were to Bl. Diana.
In the foreword to the second edition of a collection of Bl. Jordan’s letters, current Master of the Order, Fr. Carlos Azpiroz Costa, OP wrote: “These letters . . . are a pearl of Dominican spirituality [which] show how it is possible for divine charity to transform human hearts with warm and fraternal love. If religious life were not to change hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, what would be its value? We have taken up the adventure of the Lord’s call so as to love more and not less. . . It is the love of Jesus that brought them together, and it is echoes of that divine love, resplendent in their hearts that granted their love its depth, purity and stability.” That says a lot about their friendship!
St. Gemma Galgani and St. Gabriel Possenti
The friendship of St. Gemma and St. Gabriel is a little different than these other stories in that Gabriel was already in heaven and declared venerable while Gemma was still on earth. Gemma first asked for Gabriel’s intercession when she was undergoing intense spiritual attack, asking him to “save [her] soul first and then [her] body.” Having been delivered from the attacks, she grew in devotion to him and he began appearing to her in dreams.
Gabriel often called Gemma “sister” and led her to a Passionist vocation, the order to which he belonged. He began appearing to her in visions daily and helped her pray a novena to the Sacred Heart when she was too weak to do it alone. These two show that our friends in heaven are our true friends and that neither time nor space nor even death can overcome the bonds of friendship forged in Christ.