Authors Reflect on Spiritual Friendship
Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 17:03
In the age of social media, friendship can often consist of little more than a wall post or click of a “like” button. Authors Amy Andrews and Jessica Mesman Griffith attempted to bring friendship back to its spiritual roots in their memoir “Love and Salt,” which they discussed at an event sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs March 15.
“This sharing of stories is at the heart of friendships and the heart of belief,” Andrews said. “Storytelling is the way, but communion is what we hope to find.”
Andrews added that the two authors had focused on the common theme of mortality.
“We came together around a common question … of mortality,” she added. “It gave us solace to see that question being played out in another person’s life.”
The authors first met in a creative writing class at the University of Pittsburgh’s Master of Fine Arts in writing program. When Andrews decided to convert to Catholicism, she asked Mesman Griffith to be her sponsor. The friends committed to writing each other daily letters throughout Andrews’ first season of Lent. This letter writing continued for years, though never with the same frequency of the initial period.
Through collecting the letters, the friends realized they were connected by a common thread.
“We felt that there was a universal story there that could be shared with other people,” Andrews said.
Both authors stressed that they initially had no intention of publishing the letters.
“We knew we were telling stories, but we didn’t realize we were living a story,” Mesman Griffith said.
During the discussion, Andrews and Mesman Griffith shared excerpts from the book. Mesman Griffith began with a letter about her mother’s death at a young age and her rediscovery of Catholicism despite the rest of her family’s abandonment of the faith.
“I sometimes worry that my faith is nothing more than reminiscing about my childhood or rebelling against my father,” Mesman Griffith read from the letter.
Mesman Griffith wrote about her fear of being unable to hope for happiness and the need to remain strong throughout difficult times.
“Death has no sting, but suffering still hurts,” Mesman Griffith read.
Andrews read a passage about the two authors’ observation of relics at St. Anthony’s Chapel in Pittsburgh. Andrews discussed why she pictures angels to be dark and sometimes recoils from sunshine.
“The darkness of angels signifies a kind of beauty to me,” Andrews read.
Following the reading, Andrews and Mesman Griffith took questions from attendees, which included topics such as letter writing, motherhood and the intersection of their discussions in these letters with their everyday friendship.
Both authors emphasized their belief that friendship has become shallow.
“When something falls out of public discourse, people don’t have a model to raise their lives up to,” Andrews said. “Writing letters can allow your intimacy to deepen.”
Those in attendance said that they were fascinated by the book’s portrayal of friendship and spirituality.
“Storytelling is such an important way to use our own faith and experiences to deepen relationships with others in the pursuit of friendship, love and peace,” Berkley Center Assistant Director for Programs and Operations Melody Fox Ahmed said. “‘Love and Salt' beautifully captures this experience, and the Berkley Center was proud to host an uplifting conversation on the power of faith and friendship.”
Colin Sukie (COL ’10) was inspired by the lecture to search for spiritual friendship.
“I like writing letters, and I yearned for this same sort of spiritual friendship that is hard to derive in any other media,” Sukie said.