Strong Families, Strong Daughters Blog

Putting People First: The Art of Friendship

Mary T. Ortiz, Ph.D., Head of Oakcrest School

Our personal happiness does not depend on the successes we achieve, but rather on the love we receive and the love we give.”1

“Friendship multiplies our joys and offers comfort in our sorrows.”

I would like to share with you some thoughts on an outlook that the leadership of our school considers an important goal:
placing greater emphasis on people before tasks so that everything we do is imbued with possibilities to develop relationships and authentic friendship. 

In order to achieve that goal, we decided that we would help each other think about ways to be more attentive to moments of personal encounter with others, looking for opportunities to accompany people, to get to know someone better. Practically speaking, we discussed the importance of trying to simplify logistics, delegate some tasks if needed, and minimize activities that can pull us away from being with people such as excessive meetings, cell phone use, or adjusting the schedule of a particular activity to allow some down time.  

Since its founding in 1976, Oakcrest has always operated on this basis, with personal mentoring, teachers who are available, and a chaplain on campus every day.  We are very good at taking care of the person, but there really is no limit to growth in this, especially if you see it through the eyes of faith and with Christ as the model. This is a lifelong pursuit and upon it rests so very much—the personal happiness of many other people, and when we raise friendship to a supernatural level, sharing our life of faith with others, then we are talking about eternal happiness. The more we see the continuity and connection between every ordinary action of our life and eternal life, the more unity, purpose and deep meaning everything in our life has. 

The Prelate of Opus Dei’s pastoral letter on friendship is a deep challenge to raise one’s sights. It presents friendship as a great human good and also as a key part of a Christian life. It is the ordinary way we love people and the ordinary way we share the love of Christ that is in our hearts and minds. The challenge is to grow personally so we can have better and more friendships and we can extend the hand of friendship to all. In a sense it asks us to
re-define success in terms of the love we receive and the love we give. This is radically opposed to the individualism which is eating away at our culture—individualism does not ask anything from anyone or give anything to anyone. It is toxic.  

I have pulled out three points from this pastoral letter for our consideration. I hope they can be useful for you as well as in your conversations with your daughter.

What is true friendship?

Who do you consider a friend? Why? What makes for a good friendship?

Friendship is a very rich human reality—a form of reciprocal love between two persons that is built on mutual knowledge and communication. It is a form of love that is directed
“in two directions and that seeks the true good of the other person, a love that produces union and happiness.”3

Some qualities include: firm, loyal and sincere, self-sacrificing, loves the true good, requires courage. 

A friend is strong and sincere in the measure in which….he thinks generously about other people at the cost of personal sacrifice.”4

Where do I need to grow so that I can be a better friend and/or make new friends?

Do I make a heartfelt effort to understand people? 
Do I judge too quickly? Focus on the negative?

Where can I change my focus so that I can prioritize friendship in my life? 

Do I understand that Christian friendship is open to all, universal? Do I seek to grow beyond my comfort zone?

One major point is that this effort to love well and to love many cannot be done without
resources. A human life is enriched by the light of the Christian faith, with Christ as our source and model. The more we want to achieve, the deeper the resources we need. The best resources we have are prayer and the Sacraments. This was the biggest lesson I have learned from working at Oakcrest.Our personal happiness does not depend on the successes we achieve, but rather on the love we receive and the love we give.”5  Our goal is to lead a fruitful life characterized by love for others, both given and received.

We cannot be a good friend without growing personally in virtue, and we cannot grow in virtue without the help and light of God and without the help of…a friend. 

Mary T. Ortiz holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from New York University, and B.A. in English and German from Bowdoin College. She has been dedicated to the education of young women for over 25 years and has been the Head of Oakcrest School since 2012.


1 Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz, Prelate of Opus Dei, Pastoral Letter, November 1, 2019, n. 17
2 Ibid, n.23
3 Ibid, n. 4
4 Ibid, n. 11

Photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez