Aelred of Rievaulx

February 03

Aelred of Rievaulx (ca. 1110-67), Cistercian monk, spiritual writer. Aelred was raised in a foster home, the court of King David of Scotland. There he gained popularity and success but became restless and dissatisfied. At the age of twenty-four he left the court abruptly and offered himself at the gate of Rievaulx, a Cistercian monastery, to become a monk. He quickly rose in responsibility, first as novice master and later as leader of a group of monks that started a new monastery. Later he was recalled to become abbot at Rievaulx and supervised many daughter houses as well. He had a close relationship with Bernard of Clairvaux, since Clairvaux was the mother house of Rievaulx.

Aelred is best known for Spiritual Friendship, written over a span of years, in which he reflected on Cicero's theories of friendship and went far beyond. He advocated friendship on both the natural and the supernatural planes. He wrote from the perspective of his own experiences with friendship, through which he experienced a higher and deeper relationship with Christ and with God. Friendship was a reflection of the love of God, with God being the source.

Aelred, conscious of the dangers and pitfalls of friendship in monasteries, maintained that loving one's immediate neighbors with charity and goodwill offered a foretaste of heaven. No conflict existed between love of friends and love of God. Judgment of what was right would contribute to true friendship, which required constant attention. Aelred died as he had lived, surrounded by a crowd of monks. EWF

If Aelred of Rievaulx had taken the Spiritual Types Test, he probably would have been a Lover. Aelred of Rievaulx is remembered on Febuary 3.

[Excerpted with permission from the entry on Aelred of Rievaulx by Elizabeth W. Fribance, fromThe Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation, edited by Keith Beasley-Topliffe. Copyright © 2003 by Upper Room Books®. All rights reserved.]

Today's Reflection

Aelred of Rievaulx