"Our Augustinian life of fraternity and community leads us to the careful cultivation of the values of friendship. Friendship begets and nourishes loyalty, trust, sincerity and mutual understanding. It joins us together in Christ, for God fastens us in friendship by means of the love poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit." declare the Augustinian seculars (RAS, n. 17).
The idea of friendship evolved in the mind of Augustine. It is in the Confessions where he gives us a formulation that is mature and elevated: "No friends are true friends unless you, my God, bind them fast to one another through that love which is sown in our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom you give." (Conf. IV,4) Here, Augustine christianizes the idea of "friendship". When he calls it "true" he meant that any other type of friendship is criminal, frivolous or remains in the natural order and therefore is empty and false. For him, that friendship alone which is true is that friendship which God grants to those who love each other in Him. He considers it as a gift from God. ..This is the heart of the Augustinian concept of friendship and its grand novelty: God alone unites two persons. In other words, friendship is not under the control of man; it is a gift of grace..
It is actually in this definition of friendship as described above where the influence of the Scriptures on Augustine shows through. The idea has a strong Pauline and Johanine flavor. True friends are bound together by the bonds of the Holy Spirit which is given by God. Paul said that the Love of God has been poured forth in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). This "Love" is the Holy Spirit itself which welds friends together. The disciple receives the name "friend" from Jesus himself : "I no longer call you servants", the Lord said, "I have called you friends. (John 15:15).. Luke tells us that the disciples were also persevering "in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (Acts 2:42.46)." In the Jewish milieu, bread was broken among one’s friends, in a fraternal atmosphere that invited trust, hospitality and openness. For the early Christians, the breaking of the bread was also a gesture by which the Resurrected Christ was known by the disciples on the road to Emmaus (cf. Luke. 24:30) and reminded them of the many occasions in which the Lord made himself the friend of sinners.
What unites friends in true friendship, therefore, is not sentiments, nor mutual attraction, nor affection32 but the Holy Spirit and the memory of the Lord as celebrated in the Eucharist. In his definition then, Augustine thinks of friendship as beginning, continuing and ending in God -- friendship is participation in the life of God.
Friendship rooted in God.
This radical idea puts friendship above the merely natural and cements what Augustine was convinced of: that God matters in friendship. To the degree that friends are near to God, to that degree is their friendship true. Sin is the only enemy of friendship; it destroys friendship and renders the heart incapable of it. If one of two friends or both of them stray away from God, the bonds that united their hearts (the Holy Spirit) are broken. They can not be friends again - even if they should still go with each other - not until they are once more reconciled together in God.
Augustine's idea of friendship evolved in time, but there was always an element that did not change - the idea that God and one's standing before God matters in any friendly relationship. This is because each man is related to God in two ways: by Creation and by Redemption. It is this two-fold relationship to God that makes it possible for man to be united to other men in love and friendship. Without this relationship, any kind of friendship is not true. Finally, true friendship is participation in the life of God and reaches its perfection in it.