Above: St. Aelred
Image in the Public Domain
ST. AELRED OF HEXHAM (1109/1110-JANUARY 12, 1167)
Roman Catholic Abbot of Rievaulx
St. Aelred of Hexham became a major figure in the English Roman Catholic Church. He came from a family in which men served as treasurers of the shrine of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (lived circa 634-687) at Durham. Our saint’s father was Eliaf, a priest and treasurer of the shrine. His father, another Eliaf, was also a treasurer of the shrine. Young St. Aelred served in the court of King St. David I of Scotland (reigned 1124-1153) for up to a decade (perhaps from ages 14 to 24 years), rising to the rank of steward. Our saint became disillusioned with court politics, so he entered the monastery at Rievaulx at age 24, in 1133 or 1134.
The monastic life was St. Aelred’s vocation. In 1142 and 1143 he served as the novice master at Rievaulx. In 1143 he became the first abbot of the new daughterhouse at Revesby, Lincolnshire. Four years later he became the abbot at Rievaulx, an office he held for the rest of his life. St. Aelred increased the number of monks at Rievaulx (to about 600 at the time of his death) and the number of daughterhouses. Toward the end of his life our saint suffered from arthritis and kidney stones. He died on January 12, 1167.
St. Aelred, a spiritual writer, hagiographer, and historian, became involved in politics, such as a controversy about the appointment of the Archbishop of York, St. William of York (died in 1154), son of the treasurer to King Henry I (reigned 1100-1135). Our saint also used some of his writings to advise King Henry II (reigned 1133-1189) on how to govern properly. Some of St. Aelred’s sermons have survived. His other major works were, in chronological order:
- The Mirror of Charity (1142), which he wrote at the request of St. Bernard of Clarivaux (1090-1153);
- The Life of David, King of the Scots (1153);
- Genealogy of the Kings of the English (1153-1154);
- On the Account of the Standard (1153-1154);
- The Life of Saint Ninian (1154-1160);
- On the Miracles of the Church of Hexham (1155);
- A Certain Wonderful Miracle (1160);
- Jesus at the Age of Twelve (1160-1162);
- The Formation of the Anchoresses (1160-1162);
- The Life of Saint Edward, King and Confessor (1161-1163);
- Pastoral Prayer (1163-1167);
- On the Soul (1164-1167); and
- Spiritual Friendship (1164-1167).
St. Aelred understood friendship as a divine gift and a human creation. Love is a universal gift from God, he wrote, but friendship requires a human effort. Our saint encouraged expressions of friendship among his monks. He was correct.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
SEPTEMBER 5, 2015 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN
THE FEAST OF AARON ROBARTS WOLFE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER
THE FEAST OF WILLIAM MORTON REYNOLDS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR
Almighty God, you endowed the abbot Aelred with the gift of Christian friendship
and the wisdom to lead others in the way of holiness:
Grant to your people that same spirit of mutual affection, that, in loving one another,
we may know the love of Christ and rejoice in the gift of your eternal goodness;
through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
—Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 167