3 March ~ St. Ailred

Ailred was born in 1109, the son of a married priest of Hexham. He appears to have been well connected, for he was a lifelong friend of King David I of Scotland and the king’s son, Henry, whose dominion stretched far south across what was later to be the border. Ailred passed from boyhood to manhood and was appointed seneschal of Scotland. He relinquished a brilliant career at court to become a monk when, in 1134, he entered the great and beautiful Rievaulx in Yorkshire as a Cistercian. He left nine years latter to become abbot of Ravesby in Lincolnshire. After four years he was back at Rievaulx as abbot.

Apart from his friendship with the royal family, Ailred had many Scottish links. He delighted in visiting Dundrennan and the other Scottish Cistercian houses, and he wrote the life of St. Ninian which became the standard biography. He was a close friend of Godric, the hermit of Finchale.

His theological works showed not only a great depth of learning, but also spirituality; foremost among these were Speculum Caritatis (The Mirror of Charity) and De Spirituali Amicitia (On Spiritual Friendship). Among the finest gems of medieval devotion is his great pastoral prayer for his family of monks. An extract (translated) reads:

To thee, my comfort and my God, I humbly own
That I am not as contrite and as fearful as I ought to be
For my past sins.
Nor do I feel enough concern about my present ones.
And Thou, Sweet Lord, hast set a man like this over they family.
Me, who take all too little trouble with myself.
Thou biddest to be concerned on their behalf;
And me, who never pray for them.
I, who never pray enough about my own sins,
Thou wouldst have pray for them.
I, who have taught myself so little too,
Have also to teach them.
Wretch that I am, what have I done?
What have I undertaken? What was I thinking of?
Or rather, Sweet Lord, what wast Thou thinking of

Regarding this poor wretch?

Ailred died a Christmas 1166, prematurely worn out not only by his responsible monastic duties but by illness. From living for years in damp, cold buildings, he contracted very severe arthritis and internally he suffered from kidney and bladder disorders. His faithful biographer monk, Walter Daniel, tells a little about the beloved abbot’s terrible pain, with constant rising during the night for relief.

Ailred was never formally canonised but from the beginning his Cistercian brethren accorded his the honor of a saint.

His festival is 3 March, or 3 February for the Cistercian Order.

F.M. Powicke (ed), The Life of Ailred of Rievaulx by Walter Daniel, 1950

error: Content is protected !!