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How Having “Soul Sessions” With My Friends Transformed My Faith

Published:
March 19, 2024
March 18, 2024
Read this reflective narrative about sharing spiritual conversations with friends and how the process can strengthen your relationships.

A reflective narrative by Alexandra Bendixen.

Alexandra had been a practicing Catholic all her life, but did it go deeper than the surface? When she got to college, she started to realize just how many questions she had about her faith. And after a few years, she decided to finally start voicing them. What she found when she did transformed her faith — and her life — for the better.

I have always been faith-aware. I was baptized in the Catholic Church, went to Catholic schools growing up, attended weekly Mass, participated in the sacraments, etc. Religion has been woven into my life from the time I was a child. But did I have a personal relationship with God? Somewhat. Did I have friendships centered around my faith? Not many. Could I explain why I believed what I believed? Not at all.

What I did have were questions — a lot of them. What is the purpose of the sacraments? Why do we pray to saints? Why choose the Catholic faith over other ones? What’s the deal with the Catholic teaching on x, y, or z? For years, I skirted around these questions, until it got to a point I couldn’t ignore them anymore. They demanded answers — or at the very least, my attention.

So my senior year of college, I started voicing some of my questions to a group of friends. I quickly realized they had many of the same — and more. We opened up to one another, sharing our doubts and uncertainty about our faith. These conversations led to weekly get-togethers and soon expanded beyond our circle. We called our meetings “Soul Sessions,” and would often invite a Master of Divinity student (perks of attending a Catholic university) to help answer our questions. Poor guy, we pounded him with thousands. In other meetings, we brought in “guest speakers”: a mystic monk, a professor of Islamic studies, and others with powerful life experiences. Each session was enriching. We dove into a range of topics: the purpose of the sacraments, mysticism, the Communion of Saints, Islam, sex before marriage, and prayer, amongst others. We found that as more questions were answered, more came up. It was fulfilling to be able to fuel and grow this intellectual curiosity together.

“God’s presence was and continues to be tangible, real, and alive through my beloved friends.”

But what I found to be most beautiful is what happened after our meetings. Following our more formal discussions, my three friends and I would migrate to my living room, light a candle on the table, and sit around it to talk for hours. The intellectual conversations transformed into more personal, spiritual ones. What is God’s purpose for my life? Where does he want me next year? How can I hear him speak? We would share what we had learned, what touched our hearts, how we felt the Lord acting in our lives, and what we were struggling with. They were soul-to-soul conversations. It must have been the first time in my life I had friendships so deeply rooted in Christ, and probably also the first I had ever experienced so much vulnerability in ones as well. I couldn’t help but feel there was a connection there.

“God’s presence was and continues to be tangible, real, and alive through my beloved friends.”

It felt as if we all had our hearts on that living room table each Friday evening, and the freedom and fulfillment that came from it was so incredibly beautiful. Those three friends know my worst flaws, darkest thoughts, and deepest brokenness — yet love me more fully than I could have imagined. What a gift to be able to experience this glimpse of God’s unconditional, eternal love for me.

Throughout that year, we accompanied one another and grew — spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. Their friendship nourished my soul in a way I didn’t know it could, in a way I didn’t know it needed. I began to pray daily, was more aware of God’s presence in my life, and more deeply rooted in my identity as a child of God. In times of struggle and anxiety and self-doubt, they grounded me in love and reminded me of God’s promises for my life. In times of great joy and celebration, they shared in it and praised with me. In times when I was off-course and lost, they lovingly set me back on and corrected me. God’s presence was and continues to be tangible, real, and alive through my beloved friends.

For the record, not all of our conversations were deeply philosophical and theological. We were still just college students who also talked about boys, complained about classes, went out, and watched “The Bachelor” together. But our friendship was rooted in something more — something bigger than common interests and surface-level conversations. 

While we are now graduated and scattered around the world, “Soul Sessions” lives on. When we connect through Facetime or text on the group chat, we get transported back to our small, candle-lit living room table. We continue to accompany each other through life’s challenges and changes, supporting and praying for each other through the good and the not-so-good. These profound “Soul Sessions” cultivated a companionship on this journey of life. While our time together began as a source of intellectual nourishment, it brought about a deep, spiritual one. They have truly been one of the greatest gifts of my life. So I offer a word of advice: For those who have found Soul Session friends, hold on to them dearly. And for those who haven’t, ask God to place them in your life and perhaps venture to ask the bigger questions. You never know who might share them.

Creators:
Alexandra Bendixen
Published:
March 19, 2024
March 18, 2024
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