A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter:
[she] that has found one has found a treasure.
There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend,
and no scales can measure [her] excellence.
A faithful friend is an elixir of life;
and those who fear the Lord will find [her]. — Sirach 6:14-16
“One can make a rather easy transition from human friendships to friendship with God himself” — Aelred of Rievaulx
I’d like to honor Ashley today. She is, of course, lead singer in the indy cover band, Ashley and Maria (or Mashley, as I call them), whose work I have featured here for the last 2 years. She’s a remarkable young woman. My daughter Maria became friends with Ashley soon after we arrived in New Orleans in 2012, and it was not long before they stitched together their unique melodies into a new and fresh harmony.
After my first son was born, an older gentleman gave me this advice on raising children well, “If you cultivate in your children a love for good books, good music, good friends, along with your good marriage, you’ll give them a rock solid foundation.” What’s become clear over the 21 years since then is this: while my wife and I have had a good amount of say over the books, music and our marriage, it’s friendships that contain the real uncertainty variable.
Friendship is immensely powerful, for good or for ill. Our greatest goal in this regard over the years has been to instill in our children standards of good judgment that would help them sift the wheat from the chaff and choose people of character for friends. And we prayed (and still pray) each of our children would find and maintain good, faithful and worthy friends. Without exception, we believe that our children have each chosen well.
Ashley is an especially exceptional example of such a friendship. She, like Maria, is filled with joie de vivre. She’s a normal teenager, but not ordinary. She stands out. She is kind and creative, hip, deeply faith-filled, willing to go the extra mile, sensitive to beauty and attentive to others’ suffering. She has moral integrity and — key! — her parents love her enough to hold her to high standards. Her parents rock.
And Ashley longs to know God. When I was in high school, I would not have had the foggiest idea what that meant. But she does, and it’s a way of life she shares with Maria; and with anyone who comes close to her. In fact, Ashley and Maria’s friendship reminds me of the friendship between Sts. Gregory Nazianzen and Basil the Great, which Gregory described in his homily at Basil’s funeral. I will substitute “music” for “philosophy”:
The same hope inspired us: the pursuit of [music]. This is an ambition especially subject to envy. Yet between us there was no envy. On the contrary, we made capital out of our rivalry. Our rivalry consisted not in seeking the first place for oneself but in yielding it to the other, for we each looked on the other’s success as [her] own. We followed the guidance of God’s law and spurred each other on to virtue. Different men have different names, which they owe to their parents or to themselves, that is, to their own pursuits and achievements. But our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians.
So that’s my take, but don’t just believe me. Let me allow 6 of her friends to weigh in:
Ashley keeps her cool in everything she does and is able to see things from a long term perspective.
Ashley never lets anything bother her, and she does everything with love.
Ashley has a good heart and selflessly puts others’ needs above her own.
Ashley is level headed in tough situations and always just wants what is best for her friends
Ashley has the amazing and unique ability to place all of her needs aside when she sees someone she cares about in pain.
Ashley would do absolutely anything to protect the people she loves, and that selflessness reminds me a lot of Jesus.
Ashley, you’re loved by Mrs. Patti and me. You have an awesome family, extraordinary gifts, great friends and a bright future in God’s plan. And you are a great friend. We look forward to watching you bloom with even greater beauty in the Garden of God. Remember, “a dark world waits for a splash of the sun.” For you to sing a new song with your life.
Let me leave you with two of my favorite Mashley music videos: