Friday, 12 January 2007

St Aelred today

Today is the feast of St Aelred of Rievaulx. Yesterday, I visited the ruins of his old Abbey near Ampleforth with the St Patrick's School. We laid fresh flowers on the ground where his shrine used to be - behind the high altar of the Abbey church.
Fr Julian has pointed out how St Aelred is seen as a 'henchman' by some Gay communities. I would like to quote here his most famous saying taken from his "Mirror of Charity". You may see from this text why he is seen by some as an advocate of homosexuality.
"It is no small consolation in this life to have someone you can unite with you in an intimate affection and the embrace of a holy love, someone in whom your spirit can rest, to whom you can pour out your soul, to whose pleasant exchanges, as to soothing songs, you can fly in sorrow, to the dear breast of whose friendship, amidst the many troubles of the world, you can safely retire. ... A man who can shed tears with you in your worries, be happy with you when things go well, search out with you the answers to your problems, whom with the ties of charity you can lead into the depths of your heart."
This very beautiful description of friendship by St Aelred comes from an era which we could describe as the "Twelfth Century Renaissance". Not only was the Church being renewed at this time by St Francis and St Dominic, but the Cistercian Monastic movement was gradually civilising and evangelising the country districts of Europe. This more autere form of Benedictine Monasticism was ennobled in Rievaulx by its great Abbot Aelred. He sought to transform the auterity of the Cistercian life and make it more human. He emphasised the ethos of friendship in his abbey, teaching his monks to make their lives one of special care and commitment to one another. You could say that he spoke of friendship as one would speak of the evangelical counsels. This is a far cry from the aggressive monopolising of friendship by Gay culture.

Indeed, so evangelical was Aelred's leadership that there were more than five hundred monks living the Christian life at Rievaulx during his time as Abbot. We know from St Aelred's writings that he loved Christ and had a profound knowledge of Scripture. It was this love and knowledge which flowed into the community which he ruled, a community which was marked with sincere joy; the joy that comes from friendship with Christ.


Daniel said...

Why is it that saints like Augustine and others can have such clear ties to homosexuality yet people seem to turn a blind eye to these facts? People are loved by God no matter their orientation. What it shows is that the ancients were far less narrow minded in their views of sexuality and love than modern people. If God could make use of a bisexual man like Augustine who formed the pillars of modern theology why not another gay man? It is sad honestly that the Catholic Church has taken such a authoritarian view on people honestly no different than them. The modern world has evolved more than the church in how homosexuals are treated as well as women. It is time for the church of Rome to get its own house in order.

Fr Richard Aladics said...

Dear Daniel,thanks for your comment. The church of Rome may have some catching up to do; me too. And you also. The Catholic Church is not against homosexual people, or any other groups of people. It is for all people. Much of what the Church says about homosexuality is said in order to try to protect people from the culture, which can let us down.
I am sure that God can use a gay man, like he used Agustine and Aelred. And yes, many of the ancients had a better view of sexuality and love than much of our culture today. The truth about human love and chastity are indeed important - but it is our love for Christ that leads us to be chaste and to guide our way of loving. Our response to Christ is greater than any other human project. Indeed, it is our relationship with Him that conditions and guides our humanity. The Church's teaching about sexuality and chastity flows from this relationship. But the Church seeks to best for every person; my humanity and your humanity can only flower in Christ. Look more closely at what the Church says, and look at what Christ himself says in the Gospel - there was no one who He turned away.