Radio Show

Pursuing Holy Friendships and Relationships with Dr. Andrew and Sarah Swafford

We all seek community in our lives, and Father Dave welcomes married couple and Catholic ministry leaders Dr. Andrew and Sarah Swafford to discuss their new book, “Gift and Grit: How Heroic Virtue Can Change Your Life and Relationships.

They discuss friendships, romantic relationships, and our connection to God. Andrew explains, “It’s a book about meaning and purpose. For a lot of people today, life is a story with no plot. You give your life meaning, and real meaning is received as a gift. It’s all about making a gift of our lives in return…That changes all your relationships: friendships, dating, and your walk with the Lord.”

Andrew and Sarah live near a college campus where Andrew also teaches, and they explain how their work with young adults serves as inspiration for the book, especially throughout the pandemic. “We have a lot of guys that will come up and [say], ‘Teach us how to flirt again, I don’t even know how to talk to people anymore,’” Sarah says. “So we wrote this book from our hearts, answering a lot of the questions that we see young adults have. But then we had a bunch of people read it before it came out; we had [people of] all different ages read it. It was amazing how many adults [said], ‘Oh, that spoke to me’…just seeing that this is human stuff. Like ‘How to be human again?’ is a question that I think is coming into play for our modern times.”

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In a time when many people continue to experience isolation and loneliness, the Swaffords look to an example of community building from Pope John Paul II. Before he became pope, young priest Karol Wojtyla led a group of college students who called themselves “Środowisko.” Andrew continues, “It means ‘environment,’ or ‘milieu’ and it became the word that they used to describe this little family that emerged. They could finally be themselves; they could build their friendships on faith.”

Sarah notes that as many work from home or have drifted from attending Mass, it is even more important to find this “Środowisko” or community. “Who are my good friends? Who are the people that I can run with, that I can really be friends with? I always say there are three ingredients that make a great friendship: our availability, vulnerability, and accountability,” Sarah says. “It’s hard to be available, it’s hard to give time to people in our day and age, to put your phone down and give people the gift of your eyeballs.”

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Father Dave points out that the Swaffords connect evangelization to these themes of friendship and relationship. He says, “Occasionally a Billy Graham or a Bishop Fulton Sheen [is going to come along], who’s going to have a stadium full [of people] and people are going to say, ‘I get it, I’m coming to the Lord.’ But that’s not everybody. Really, most evangelization happens on a much smaller level of relationship. You say, ‘Do you want to come to church with me?’ Or even prior to that, somebody just says, ‘You know, I noticed something different about you. You’re not like my other friends. What’s that about?’ So it really does stem from relationship.”

Andrew responds that a successful combination for evangelizing is being “normal, but different.” He says, “The ‘normal’ builds the bridge. Like yeah, you’re normal, but there’s something different about you. Without the difference, you don’t move the needle; without the normal, you don’t build the bridge. Together, that’s a powerful combination.”