Saint Aelred of Rievaulx, Abbot

January 12

Today is the feast day of St Aelred of Rievaulx.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Aelred was born at Hexham, but at an early age made the acquaintance of David, St. Margaret’s youngest son, who became shortly afterwards King of Scotland.   King David loved the pious English youth, promoted him in his household, and wished to make him bishop, but Aelred decided to become a Cistercian monk, in the recently founded abbey of Rievaulx in Yorkshire.

Aelred became the abbot of a new house of his order at Revesby in Lincolnshire, and later, abbot of Rievaulx itself in 1147. As abbot he had a charism for friendship and Rievaulx had over three hundred monks when he died. Aelred also made annual visits to other Cistercian houses in England and Scotland, and to Citeaux and Clairvaux in France.

He seems to have exercised considerable influence over Henry II, in the early years of his reign, and to have persuaded him to join Louis VII of France in meeting Pope Alexander III, at Touci, in 1162. Although suffering from a complication of most painful maladies, he journeyed to France to attend the general chapter of his Order. He was present in Westminster Abbey, at the translation of St. Edward the Confessor, in 1163, and, in view of this event, he both wrote a life of the saintly king and preached a homily in his praise.

The next year Aelred undertook a mission to the barbarous Pictish tribes of Galloway, where their chief is said to have been so deeply moved by his exhortations that he became a monk. Throughout his last years Aelred gave an extraordinary example of heroic patience under a succession of infirmities. He was, moreover, so abstemious that he is described as being “more like a ghost than a man.” His death is generally supposed to have occurred 12 January, 1166, although there are reasons for thinking that the true year may be 1167.

St. Aelred left a considerable collection of sermons, the remarkable eloquence of which has earned for him the title of the English St. Bernard. He was the author of several ascetical treatises, notably the “Speculum Charitatis,” also a compendium of the same (really a rough draught from which the larger work was developed), a treatise “De Spirituali Amicitiâ,” and a certain letter to an anchoress.

Image: Depiction of Saint Ailred (or Aelred), from an 1845 book (5)

Research by REGINA Staff


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