Aelred of Rievaulx and Friendship

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!

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1 Response to Aelred of Rievaulx and Friendship

  1. ed pacht says:

    I am very much a same-sex-attracted male, and very much committed to a traditional view of marriage and sexuality. I was married for 15 years until she died, but realize more and more that it is to the unattainable that I am really attracted. What does one do with such an apparent contradiction? I have found Aelred to be enormously helpful to me and to others I’ve had an opportunity, in some small way, to guide. Just perhaps the attractions that I experience, rightly guided within the parameters of Christian morality, do lead to something resembling some aspect of the Love that is the nature of God.

    Frankly, I find the excessive fear of ‘particular friendships’ to be as perverted, and as much an obstacle to true spirituality as is the overt expression of homosexuality. As in all things, balance is the objective, the kind of balance that recognizes who and what I am, and seeks divine guidance as to just what to do with that realization. Read Aelred. Leave behind preconceptions when you do, but read him.

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