Aelred of Rievaulx may be abusively adopted by some quarters representing the LGBT agenda, but his works clearly disapprove of sex outside marriage and he condemned “unnatural relations” as a rejection of charity and the law of God. He lived in the twelfth century and he was a Cistercian abbot, leading a large community of monks strictly observing the Rule of St Benedict.
His life can be easily found in books and on the internet, so I see no point in copying those resources here. The purpose of this article is to introduce a text which made a big difference to me as a seminarian and gave me a critical attitude to some of the less fortunate aspects of Catholic spirituality and clerical discipline. Other than his historical works, he wrote two books, both dealing with love, the love of God and love between human beings, are the Speculum caritatis – The Mirror of Charity, allegedly written at the request of Bernard of Clairvaux, and De spiritali amicitia – On Spiritual Friendship.
I therefore offer this pdf version of De spiritali amicitia which you can download here. This work, written in Latin and translated into English, resembles the style of Plato’s Dialogues and essentially gives a Christian perspective to Cicero’s writings on friendship. There has always been a fear of “particular friendships” in monasteries, religious houses and seminaries, and those fears are often founded when they lead to unhealthy cliques and homosexual acts. This book is a real treasure and is spiritually and intellectually nourishing, and can be a great help in our married life, discerning our friendships and faux amis and resolving conflicts at work. It isn’t just for monks!