PATRICK FRIEND: Joe went to the seminary first, so I think I might be one of few older brothers who can truly say that his younger brother’s his hero.
BR. KOLBE WOLNIAKOWSKI: You’re listening to Echoes from the Bell Tower, stories of wit and wisdom from Benedictine monks who live, work and pray in southern Indiana. We’re your hosts, Br. Kolbe.
BR. JOEL BLAIZE: And I’m Br. Joel. At the end of 2018, we released two episodes of monks having conversations with their families. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to them, there will be links to them in the blog post for this episode.
BR. KOLBE: Today’s episode will be similar to those two episodes, but it will feature two brother seminarians talking with their family. Patrick and Joe Friend studied for the priesthood at Saint Meinrad for the Diocese of Little Rock. Patrick graduated in 2018 and Joe graduated this year.
Our audio is from two separate interviews. The first interview is from a conversation in the fall of 2016, after Joe had graduated from Holy Trinity Seminary in Texas and began studying at Saint Meinrad. Pat had already been studying at Saint Meinrad since 2012.
BR. JOEL: The second interview is a conversation Joe and Pat had with their father and sister, Jerry and Katherine, on Patrick’s graduation day in 2018. We did use a couple different microphones and recorded in two different locations for these interviews, so you might notice a slight difference in audio quality between speakers. Let’s start with some introductions.
JERRY FRIEND: I’m Jerry Friend. I’m the father of Patrick, Joe and Katherine.
KATHERINE FRIEND: I’m Katherine Friend. I’m the sister of Pat and Joe, in the middle.
JOE FRIEND: I’m Joe Friend, and I am the baby.
PATRICK: I’m Patrick Friend. I am the oldest, the oldest son and big brother to Joe and Kat.
BR. KOLBE: Both brothers felt called to the priesthood at a young age, but they took different paths to get there. Their uncle, Monsignor Scott Friend, is a priest and the vocation director for the Diocese of Little Rock. As the Friend brothers grew up, their uncle served as an example of what it meant to be a priest. Here’s Patrick and then Joe.
PATRICK: He has just embraced the love of Christ. You can just feel that in every single person he meets. We saw this man just so alive and on fire and happy living out his vocation, so the priesthood was always an option for us.
JOE: I’ve always thought I wanted to be a priest. I don’t really remember the exact first time I thought it, but I remember being in my bed as a little boy and our parents would always tell us to say our prayers at night, but I remember as a little kid, I used to cry in my bed and I would tell the Lord that I was going to serve Him. That made me cry for some reason. I still do that sometimes. That’s still my prayer.
BR. JOEL: As Joe got older, he became busy with sports and friends and school, but the call to priesthood was always in the back of his mind.
JOE: Through all the baseball games and football games and parties that I went to, I always knew that, at the end of the day, I was going to serve God. It took my mom’s witness and her suffering and death for me to really re-embrace my relationship with God.
BR. JOEL: Pat, Joe and Kat’s mother and Jerry’s wife, Betty, was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in 2011 and passed away in March 2013.
JOE: She had this supernatural quality about her that just knew us so well. I think it’s a testament to how close she was with the Lord. But when she got sick, I knew even more she was a superhero and that’s how much she relied on Christ. Whenever the doctor would come in and tell her the diagnosis, every test it was worse. This test, now it’s in your lungs. This test, now it’s in your brain.
PATRICK: Now it’s in your mediastinum, affecting your heart.
JOE: Every time we got new news, new news, bad news, bad news. I remember one time the scariest news is when the doctor came in and said, “You have two months to live.” All of us broke down. We couldn’t handle it. My mom looked steadfast into the man’s eyes and said, “I’m okay because my Lord holds me.” I mean, when she said that, it was so powerful because she said it with such confidence and grace that it was … I witnessed something supernatural, something divine.
BR. KOLBE: While their mom was sick, Patrick, Joe and Katherine were growing up and beginning to make life decisions. Patrick had finished his undergraduate degree at Westminster College and was teaching high school chemistry and English, Joe was a senior in high school and Katherine was studying art at Benedictine College in Kansas. Joe decided to enter college seminary right out of high school.
JOE: I remember when it came time to finally make the decision on where I was going. Mom just kind of looked at me, and it was just this kind of really calm look. And she looked down at this piece of paper that I was going to have to write on my, you know, so they could announce where I was going at my graduation. And it was this really calm look, and I nodded at her, and then she wrote down “seminary.” And it was kind of cool, just uncommunicated by words, but she knew what I wanted to do. It was a really special experience when I told her.
BR. JOEL: Jerry is a dentist and about the time Joe said “yes” to seminary, Pat was studying for the dental admissions test. Pat came to his dad one evening and said he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a dentist, that he would only being doing it for the money and to take care of his family.
PATRICK: My dad at every pivotal stage in my life would always be like, “Are you sure you’re not supposed to be a priest? Look at your gifts, Pat. God might be calling you to be a priest. This might be where you’re happy.”
JERRY: When he was a little boy, when he was probably 4 years old, I remember sitting at Mass at Christ the King. It was during the consecration. I remember the exact chair I was sitting on. I was kneeling down, and he was, you know, being goofy. He was a 3- or 4-year-old. And I remember at one point I said, “Lord, please give me courage to protect my children’s souls.” And it was just a silent prayer.
Anyway, so when we stopped in the hallway, I remember just like God can make time stop, He did, and He said, “Okay, big boy, here’s your chance.” I said, “Well, Patrick, all I know is ever since you’ve been a little boy, I’ve felt like you had the heart of a priest.” And that’s all I said.
BR. KOLBE: Joe saying “yes” to seminary influenced Patrick to go to the chapel 15 minutes early every morning at Catholic High where he was teaching.
PATRICK: I said, “God, I feel like you’re calling me to be a priest. I don’t want to do it, but I feel your call. So, this is what I’m going to do, Buddy, I’m going to sit here for 15 minutes before school starts. I’m going to ask you to help me to desire your will, because I don’t want to ask for your will because I don’t want it. First, you’re going to have to help me desire.”
God being God, He did it. One day, I sat down in the chapel, I remember sitting and this profound realization that I would never … that happiness thing, I would never be fully happy, fully alive, fully engaged and able to use all this love I feel like I have in my heart, all this energy, this passion that I have. The only thing that can find rest for that is the priesthood.
BR. JOEL: Pat talked with his uncle, Msgr. Scott Friend, who is the vocation director for the Diocese of Little Rock and finally said “yes” to seminary. He called his mom and dad and told them to stay up so he could tell them his news.
PATRICK: So, I was driving home, and I got there. My dad was laying in his bed with the CPAP machine on and my mom was sitting, you know, she was sick at that point, she was sitting in her little massage chair. Anyways, I said, “Well guys, I’m going to go to the seminary.” And my dad, you know the CPAP just blows air into your face, and so he was just making this horrible noise, but he kept laughing, he was like, “I knew it! I always knew it! I always knew you were going to be a priest!” And my mom, she was sitting there crying joyfully. She goes, “What did I do to deserve to have two priests?” And so, they were very supportive, very happy.
BR. KOLBE: Patrick moved into his room at Saint Meinrad in the fall of 2012. As time went on, it was obvious to Pat and Joe and to those around them that they were exactly where God wanted them to be.
KATHERINE: I think that Pat came home the Christmas after his first year in the seminary, and in a lot of ways, the seminary gave us Patrick wholly back to us. After he went to college and came back, it’s like, he was always Pat, but he just seemed so fulfilled and had this childlike joy that I feel like part of him had been lost going to college. And he came back home for Christmas and it was so evident that he was doing what he was supposed to be doing. It was really exciting to see and be a part of.
JERRY: I think after what we had to go through with their mom, my wife, and her death and sickness, as a dad, I knew right after they went in and I could see just in six months at Christmas. I was like, they are in the right place. I mean, God is feeding them and taking care of them. My daughter was at a very good Catholic college and I felt the same about her, so in some ways it was a relief that they are doing what God wants them to do.
And we all know, I mean some of us don’t learn it until we get older, but if we’re doing God’s will, if what his will is for our life, then everything else is really pretty simple. We make it complicated. So, it was good medicine, good spiritual medicine for our family.
BR. JOEL: The Friends are a tight-knit family. They grew closer during their mom’s battle with cancer and continue to tighten the family bonds as the three siblings grow in their relationships with God.
KATHERINE: Not very many people can call their brothers with most theological or philosophical questions they have, and they have the answers, or they know someone right down the hall that does. That’s been a huge blessing in my life, because in your 20s, you’re really challenged by people that you’re around and kind of what the world is feeding you that’s important and what’s going to make you happy.
To have them and have that support has been so huge and I feel so blessed that for the rest of my life my family’s going to have that and my future children are going to have that. I mean just blessing on blessing because of their “yes.” I’m grateful to them for that.
BR. KOLBE: Over the years, Jerry has received a wide range of reactions to both of his sons studying to be priests. He has heard comments like, “Do you realize you’re not going to have very many grandchildren or that your name’s not going to be carried on?” But Jerry believes if his children are following the will of God, everything will be taken care of. As a parent, he says his most important job is to get his kids to heaven.
JERRY: It’s not about going on a pilgrimage or folding your hands the right way. It’s about doing the little things. It’s about going to Mass every Sunday, whether half of them are in stinky diapers or whatever, just get there. And if you’re a little late, don’t worry about it, just go. It’s about saying prayers with them every night. Doesn’t have to be a hundred Hail Mary’s, just a simple prayer before they go to bed at night and praying for them.
I wouldn’t say that I was a very holy man. I mean, I can hold up a confession line with the best of them, and I am kind of a sophomore and love telling jokes. It’s not so much what I have done. God blessed me with three beautiful children, and it’s my responsibility to make sure that the gift He gave me, I take care of.
PATRICK: He’s done a dang good job.
KATHERINE: I will say that, too. People do always ask about our upbringing once they hear that Pat and Joe are seminarians and know that I’m super involved in the Church, and they’re like, “You must have grown up in a crazy Catholic household. Was it super intense all of the time?” And it wasn’t. I was like, “No, actually, we didn’t say three rosaries before we went to bed every night.”
PATRICK: There were at least as many beer cans as there were crucifixes in our home.
KATHERINE: Yes, there were. There were lots of both.
BR. JOEL: Jerry and Betty were an example of love to Pat, Joe and Katherine and to their friends. People always felt loved and accepted by them, no matter where they came from or what religion they were.
KATHERINE: It was always very evident in the way that they were love to us and the people around them, that God was important and our faith, our Catholic faith, was important. The Eucharist, it was important, and it was everything. And it was mostly by action. So, Dad can say it wasn’t them, and it was us being who we are, but they made us who we were in every sense of the way. And we’re very blessed for that.
PATRICK: Yeah, and I think there’s something to be said that for us, as men, our dad is the role model for us. And we just saw him at every stage of the game saying “yes” to his vocation. He was faithful to his work, faithful to his wife, faithful to his kids, faithful to his role as a father, and I think it made it that much easier for Joe and me to be faithful to this call because of the example that our father has provided. And so, Dad, you are a holy man. Holiness doesn’t have to look like floating 10 feet above the ground. Our Lord was incarnate. He had a human body. So, you’re a holy man.
BR. KOLBE: While Jerry has served as a role model on how to live out your vocation faithfully, Joe and Pat have served as role models for each other while in the seminary. They have different gifts and weaknesses and because of their unique relationship as brothers, they know how to push each other. Here is Joe.
JOE: Pat has a tremendous amount of trust and this zeal to do. I have a tendency to think back and reflect and be scared to act. I think Pat is a wonderful role model for me because he can get me out of my funk every once in a while.
PAT: Joe is certainly a role model in his contemplative, caring heart and his reflective spiritual life. I think one of my favorite things to do with Joe, even though we’re terrible at it, is pray out loud together. I say terrible
JOE: Because we start laughing.
PATRICK: We laugh. We can’t get through Liturgy of the Hours together without just like giggling, because it has these lines like, you know, “Lord, I am the apple of your eye.” When we hear – that’s one of the lines – whenever it’s apple of our eye, man…
JOE: We bust out laughing.
PATRICK: We bust out laughing. I find myself half-praying, half-apologizing to God that we’re sitting here like laughing at his prayer. But when we’re praying, I feel like it’s when we’re bringing both of our personalities to the priesthood or to this formation. I don’t know. When I’m praying with Joe, I just feel like in awe of it, because I know that Joe is this deep man of prayer, this deep contemplation. When I get to sit here and kind of tap into that, you know, it’s really, it’s a neat experience for me because I really feel connected to those deep waters that are in Joe. I can kind of siphon him off a bit.
BR. JOEL: The seminary pries the seminarian open. It makes him deal with his flaws and accept his gifts. In return, he grows fully into the man God made him to be. Patrick and Joe grow closer each year because of their personal growth while in the seminary. It has been incredibly valuable to have a blood brother and a diocesan brother to lean on while in the seminary. Here is Joe.
JOE: In growing as our own persons individually, I think that in return helps us develop a closer relationship because we are healthier, we know ourselves better. And in doing that, we’re able to put ourselves out there in a more intimate way. You have few spiritual friendships where you’re able to share your heart with them, but even in a friendship, you’re not blood related. We come from the same DNA. We have the same blood.
PATRICK: Same parents, experiences.
JOE: Same parents. Even if you want to say, I’m completely vulnerable to this friend or this friend, I don’t think there is a level of vulnerability that you can reach in a relationship that you can with a brother.
PATRICK: Joe can see me at my worst, I mean my worst. I can just “bleh,” like vent, throw it at him and he just takes it. He knows where it’s coming from. He knows it’s not because of him and is able to absorb that and just be goofy Joe back. It’s like somehow everything’s alright again, you know.
To have that in the seminary. You know, this is a stressful place sometimes. So, to have that in the seminary now with me on a daily basis, where even I’m like tired and don’t have to be at morning prayer, there’s Joe sitting there, and it just makes me smile. I think that it’s like a new font of energy.
JOE: Gosh, it’s an incredible support system. I think there are wonderful benefits to it. Pat and I don’t get jealous of each other. We balance each other out so well, that I think, too, with Pat he can hear me out or he can push me if I need to be pushed. It doesn’t come out of ill; it comes out of love. Gosh, I think it’s a phenomenal thing. I love you.
PATRICK: I love you too.
BR. JOEL: Thanks for listening to this conversation with the Friend family. Patrick was ordained a priest two years ago and Joe will be ordained this year on August 15. Jerry married Dona in 2016 and they saw their family grow overnight. Patrick, Joe and Kat gained a brother, Michael, and sister, Mary Shannon. They have three nieces and one nephew. They are all incredibly grateful to the Lord.
BR. KOLBE: This episode was edited and produced by Krista Hall, with the help of Br. Joel Blaize, Br. Kolbe Wolniakowski, Mary Jeanne Schumacher, Jim Paquette, Tammy Schuetter and Christian Mocek. The music for this podcast was written and produced by Br. Joel.
BR. JOEL: Thanks to Jerry, Patrick, Katherine and Joe Friend for talking with us for this episode. We have some Friend family photos as well as links to those two episodes of monks having conversations with their families at saintmeinrad.edu/echoes.
BR. KOLBE: If you are enjoying “Echoes from the Bell Tower,” tell your friends and subscribe to it on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher or your favorite listening platform.
BR. JOEL: Stay tuned, we are still working on one more episode for this season about the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks for listening!
PATRICK: We were sitting around the table and Mom comes in. She was, “Now kids, you all gotta be careful if you go outside because a gorilla escaped from the zoo. It’s snatching kids up and taking…” it’s probably a morbid joke, but anyways, we’re sitting there, and, in our kitchen, there was this one wall of windows and doors and everything. We all of a sudden see this gorilla come around the corner and just start banging on our window. He’s banging hard and we’re like, “Ah!” just like absolutely losing our minds.
Then all of a sudden, the gorilla started itching itself like real bad and grabbing at its throat. Then eventually it jerked off the mask and little did we know, it’s our father in this gorilla suit. He was extremely allergic to latex. He knew it and he knew there was latex in the suit, but he was like, “For my kids, I’m going to do this so that they have this memory.”