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St. Alfred or Aelred

Name: St. Alfred or Aelred
Date: 12 January


Saint Aelred was remarked in the court of a royal Saint, David of Scotland, for his humility andhis gentleness. He resolved to separate from his king, his friends, and all whom he loved dearly,reflecting that death will soon separate us from all things in this world. To make his sacrificecomplete, he left Scotland and went to the Province of York in England, where he received thehabit at the age of twenty-four years under William, Abbot of Rieval, a disciple of Saint Bernard.

The heart of Saint Aelred never ceased to love his friends, according to his own avowal, becausethe center of it was Love itself. He was heard to exclaim: “What is love, O my God? It is, if I amnot mistaken, this ineffable delight of the soul, the more sweet as it is more pure, the moregratifying as it is more ardent. The one who loves You possesses You in proportion to his love,because You are Love. Love is the torrent of joy with which you inebriate Your elect,transforming them into Yourself by love for You!”

As a young monk, his attention was drawn to one of his brethren because of his holiness. Thisgood monk, named Simon, had left the world in his youth, and he appeared as though deaf anddumb, so absorbed was he in God. One day Aelred, forgetting for a moment the rule of perpetualsilence, spoke to him. At once he prostrated himself at his feet, acknowledging his fault; butSimon’s look of pain haunted him for many a year, and taught him to let no human sentimentdisturb for one moment his or another’s union with God.

Aelred in 1142 was named Abbot of Revesby, a newly founded Cistercian monastery, and thefollowing year was obliged to take upon himself the government of the larger monastery ofRieval. A novice once came to him, saying that he must return to the world. But Aelred hadbegged his soul of God and answered, “Brother, do not ruin yourself; nevertheless you will beunable to do so, despite your desire.” The novice would not listen, however, and wanderedamong the hills, thinking all the while he was going far from the abbey. At sunset he found himselfbefore a convent strangely like Rieval, and Rieval it was. The first monk he met was Aelred, whoembraced him, saying, “Son, why have you done this? I have wept for you with many tears, and Itrust in God that, as I have asked of Him, you will not perish.” The world does not so dearly loveits friends.

At the command of his superiors Aelred composed his great works, both historical and ascetic,among which are the Life of David, King of Scotland; Life of Saint Margaret, Queen ofScotland; Spiritual Friendship and Mirror of Charity. In the last-named treatise he says that truelove of God is only to be obtained by joining ourselves in all things to the Passion of Christ. SaintAelred died in 1167, Superior of some three hundred monks.

Sources: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints

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