My Thoughts 12/01/2022

In the 80’s our then Archbishop, Michael Bowen, introduced a scheme to support priests known as The Ministry to Priests.

During the initial presentation of this scheme we were encouraged to read a book entitled Spiritual Friendship, written by an English Cistercian monk, Aelred of Rievaulx. We keep his feast today.

He was born in 1110 , son of a priest, and died 1167, and thus was a contemporary of St. Thomas of Canterbury. David Farmer in his Dictionary of the Saints wrote,

“Aelred’s sensitive discretion and gentle holiness, with its strong emphasis on charity, inspired by the writings of John and Augustine, humanised the intransigence of Cistercian monasticism and attracted men of similar character to his own.”

The treatise on friendship that he wrote was modelled on Ciceros work on Friendship and in a form of dialogue between an Abbot and three monks.

Patricia Carroll OCSO in her article on Aelred for Spirituality magazine wrote,

“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. He says that ‘in friendship there is nothing more praiseworthy than loyalty, which seems to be its nurse and its guardian. 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. .. A truly loyal friend sees nothing in his/her friend but their heart.’ This ability to see beyond the superficial elements of someone’s personality towards deeper levels would be one of the distinguishing features of this spiritual relationship.”

Aelred was a singularly attractive figure, a man of great spiritual power but also of warm friendliness and humanity. He has been called the St. Bernard of the North.

O God, who endowed Saint Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx
with the gift of fostering Christian friendship
and the wisdom to lead others in the way of holiness,
grant to your people, we pray, that same spirit of fraternal affection,
so that in loving one another we may know the love of Christ
and rejoice in the eternal possession of your supreme goodness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.

Canon Father Anthony
Canon Father AnthonyParish Priest