Patricia Carroll OCSO draws our attention to Aelred of Rievaulx, a Cistercian saint and spiritual writer who specialised in writing about friendship as an image of. Spiritual Friendship has ratings and 39 reviews. Sally said: This short book was written in the form of a dialog between the author, Aelred ( He saw that his reluctance to part from his friends at court, delayed his adopting his monastic calling. For Aelred, the source.

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Patricia Carroll OCSO draws our attention to Aelred of Rievaulx, a Cistercian saint and spiritual writer who specialised in writing about friendship as an image of the relationship between God and each person. Among spiritual writers, I think that Aelred of Rievaulx has been largely overlooked. Aelred was a twelfth century English Cistercian monk, who […].

Aelred was a twelfth century English Cistercian monk, who became abbot of the monastery of Rievaulx aekred the diocese of York inand remained spiritual father of that community until his death in Steeped in Celtic traditions He was brought up in Northumbria, which was steeped in the traditions of Celtic monasticism, and stories of holy men and women who kept alive the flame of faith brought by Aidan, the Irishman from Iona, in the seventh century.

Aelred came from a family of married priests, his father and grandfather both ministered in Hexham, the last of a dying generation as Rome sought to impose its standard on rlevaulx far western Celtic Christian tradition. He was clearly marked out for great things.

Aelred of Rievaulx

However, during the course of a journey while on business for the king, he came across Rievaulx, and was drawn by the beauty of the place and the austere simplicity of the White Monks. It became clear at an early stage of his monastic life that Aelred had a gift for directing others, a capacity which was marked by compassion and gentleness.

Ae,red he became abbot, the numbers at Rievaulx escalated criendship hundreds as ftiendship rarely turned young aspirants away. At his death there were three hundred, between choir monks and lay brothers, in the community. Spiritual writer of depth Besides being a sensitive pastor, he was also a spiritual writer of remarkable depth. In his later years, with a long period of involvement in the pastoral care of his monks behind him, frinedship wrote what has come to be acknowledged as a spiritual classic, a short treatise entitled On Spiritual Friendship, which seems to have been mostly forgotten or is readily accessible in monastic circles only.

It is time that this valuable Christian resource was made available to all the people of God, because in it Aelred provides us with an in-depth spirituality of Christian friendship.

What could an fiendship twelfth century monk teach us twentieth century sophisticates about spiritual relationships? Aelred does have something to say to us who rievalx such high value today on relating easily. He also speaks to those who spend hours exploring and probing the human need for intimacy, for deep human relationships based on self-disclosure and mutual acceptance, because he provides us with a Christo-centric view of these relationships.


So what was originally written for monastics in the rwelfth century could be utilised today to help us come to a Christian understanding of rievzulx to relate to each other. Aelred speaks about spiritual friendship — a relationship which helps us grow in love: In an earlier book he says that just as there is a continuous dialogue and interchange of love berween the three persons of the Trinity, so human beings — the rational creatures made in the image and likeness friendsnip this Trinity of Persons — are called to relationships based on mutual dialogue, exchange, sharing and self-giving.

This is the theological foundation for all spiritual relationships.

He refers to this friendship as awlred very holy sort of charity. Spirituality of love Aelred did not write in an historical vacuum. He was very much a person of his age, which was referred to as the Age of Friendship. It was also the period of history when troubadours toured the countryside singing love songs, and the courts were full of the culture of love.

Those who entered the monasteries brought the language of courtly love with them, transposing and transforming it into a Christian spirituality of love.

His treatise On Spiritual Friendship is presented in the form of dialogues or imaginary conversations berween himself and three rifvaulx monks. These are probably based on actual discussions or on the difficulties Aelred had encountered in his ministry as abbot. This literary format makes him easy to read.

Ideally, friendship becomes a form of charity when it meets with a reciprocal response, so it is based on mutuality. In Christian friendship each one shares, each listens, spiditual gives and receives; it is rievauls adult relationship.

Aelred of Rievaulx – Wikipedia

In this treatise Aelred rarely refers to spiritual paternity, and usually such references are in relation to his official role as abbot. He says that the reciprocal response we encounter in these relationships is a microcosmic image of what we shall discover eternally in God.

For Aelred, God is pure reciprocity, and in heaven we friebdship know what this is in all its fulness. In Christian friendship there are three persons involved, Aelred says to his young friend Ivo: Ivo asks Aelred if we could say of friendship what John, the intimate friend of Jesus, says of charity, that God is friendship?

Of course, prayer is an intrinsic part of this relationship. We carry our friend with us in the deepest part of our being where God is found.

Spiritual Friendship – Aelred of Rievaulx – Google Books

Criteria for discernment Not all friendship is spiritual. There is such a thing as friendship based on agreement to do evil, e. Aelred acknowledges this reality and provides sound criteria for us to discern whether or not our friendship has a spiritual basis.

Rievailx the initial stages of friendship he suggests we focus on four criteria:. So, we should be asking ourselves questions like: What kind of relationship do we intend to establish? What are our deeper motives? Do we value this relationship as gift, or are we seeking some reward other than the friendship itself?

For Aelred all the advantages of friendship are secondary by comparison with the value of the relationship itself. Because friendship is a precious gift, we should be discerning about spkritual whom we choose as friends, and not establish relationships based on either mere whim spirituwl animal attraction! This element of choice would seem to be a bit strange. It has been said that psiritual cannot choose your friends, they riveaulx given as gift.


This is true, but what Aelred is emphasising here is that once the gift of friendship is given, you must make a conscious choice to be committed to the relationship, and this element of choice means that the relationship will be free, that each exercises personal responsibility for the friendship.

According to Aelred in an authentic spiritual friendship the primary foundation of this spiritual love is the love of God, and this should be the main reference point for all that take place within the friendship.

In this knowledge we should choose one who is fit to be the companion of your soul, to whom you can entrust yourself as to another self. Qualities of friendship In his third series of conversations, Aelred describes the qualities which should be found in a spiritual friend, in ourselves or the other. These are loyalty, discretion, right-intention and patience.

Spiritual Friendship

It proves itself a true companion in all things, adverse and prosperous, joyful and sad, pleasant and bitter, beholding with the same eye the humble and the lofty, the poor and the rich, the strong and the weak, the healthy and the infirm. Another important factor for Aelred is confidentiality.

Finally Aelred admits that this spiritual friendship is something we will experience with only a few people, perhaps even only one, in this life. This would be reasonable enough as it would seem to make enormous demands on the persons involved, and there are relatively few who will be able or ready to allow us enter the inner sanctuary of their heart.

In this sense, it is gift.

At a time when human love in all its aspects has been trivialised and de-sacralised, when the pleasure principle is given priority and recreational sex is commonplace, he emphasises the demands that authentic love makes. Christian relationships are demanding and his criteria could be helpful for those responding to the call to Christian marriage, those engaged in relationships of spiritual accompaniment, those endeavouring to revitalise Christian community, as well as the monastics for whom Aelred wrote so beautifully.

Incidentally, the gentle bishop of Geneva quotes Aelred in his own writings. If we were looking for a patron saint of all those who endeavour to establish Christ-centred relationships, whether inside or outside of marriage, Aelred would surely be at the top of the list.

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