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True friendship

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18.24

On the back of her farewell letter to Father Perrin, Simone Weil adds a much longer follow-up. It is labelled as a spiritual autobiography because it amounts to a statement of fact rather than correspondence inviting a reply. In order to console her priest over his failure to persuade her to be baptised and receive Communion, Weil insists that he has given her an even more precious gift: that of friendship. What follows is her response to that friendship through the baring of her soul.

Weil's upbringing was so thoroughly Christian that she confesses that she was always incapable of regarding anything from outside a Christian perspective, even when a rebellious teenager. No doubt on account of her intellectual gifts this did not smooth the path into a casual adoption of church membership as signified by baptism. Instead it led her into such radical commitment that she could not bring herself to do other than respond to God's prompting. Exercising her own will - even towards something good - felt like disobedience.

Not that it rendered Weil judgmental towards others. She writes of the importance of the church and of its sacraments. She rejoices in the unquestioning faith of her fellow-believers and cherishes the insights she has gained from others. Her personal encounter with the Risen Jesus means that her faith was not aloof or second hand. And the fact that she read at least one holy book from another religion - the Bhagavat-Gita - suggests that she had not closed her mind to other traditions.

Yet all this confirmed two things for Weil: her faith in God as revealed in Jesus Christ and her vocation to remain outside his Church, until God should invite her in. Hence the title of her classic: Waiting for God. That Father Perrin was prepared to tolerate such unconventional devotion was what inspired Weil's gratitude. Perhaps it is also what kept her sane!



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