Home > Worship Resources > Festivals & Commemorations > Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx, 1167 (January 12)

About the Commemoration

Aelred [or Ailred/Ælred; his name, variously spelled, is a contraction of Æthelred], a singularly attractive figure of particular interest to English Christians, was born in 1109, the son and grandson of Saxon priests. At an early age he was taken into the service of King David of Scotland. When he was twenty-four, after an inward struggle, he entered the Cistercian Order at the abbey of Rievaulx (pronounced ree-VOH) in 1133 and soon became a major figure in English church life, earning a reputation as “the English St. Bernard” [of Clairvaux]. He founded a new abbey at Revesby in 1143, and in 1147 returned to Rievaulx as its abbot. He died at his monastery in 1167. Since at the time of Aelred’s death the papacy had not yet centralized the process of canonization, there was no formal ratification by the Roman See of Aelred’s sanctity.

Aelred was distinguished for his energy and his sympathetic gentleness, particularly associated with friendship both human and divine. His major work was Spiritual Friendship, a kind of counterpart to Cicero’s On Friendship, and one of the most beautiful works of the Middle Ages, defining spiritual friendship as perfect mutuality in charity, attaining on earth a first realization and foreshadowing of the joy of heaven. Aelred’s biography was written by his pupil Walter Daniel (The Life of Ailred of Rievaulx by Walter Daniel, English trans, with notes, 1950).

Aelred was introduced to the Episcopal (Anglican) calendar in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 1997; he is not on the General Roman nor on the Lutheran calendar.

Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.

See also: Aelred of Rievaulx


From Spiritual Friendship by Aelred of Rievaulx

[A] friend praying to Christ on behalf of his friend, and for his friend’s sake desiring to be heard by Christ, directs his attention with love and longing to Christ; then it sometimes happens that quickly and imperceptibly the one love passes over into the other, and coming, as it were, into close contact with the sweetness of Christ himself, the friend begins to taste his sweetness and to experience his charm. Thus ascending from that holy love with which he embraces a friend to that with which he embraces Christ, he will joyfully partake in abundance of the spiritual fruit of friendship, awaiting the fullness of all things in the life to come. Then, with the dispelling of all anxiety by reason of which we now fear and are solicitous for one another, with the removal of all adversity which it now behooves us to bear for one another, and, above all, with the destruction of the sting of death together with death itself, whose pangs now often trouble us and force us to grieve for one another, with salvation secured, we shall rejoice in the eternal possession of Supreme Goodness; and this friendship, to which here we admit but few, will be outpoured upon all and by all outpoured upon God, and God shall be all in all.

Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship III.133-134, trans. Mary Eugenia Laker (Washington: Cistercian, Consortium, 1974), 131-32.


Pour into our hearts, O God, the Holy Spirit’s gift of love, that we, clasping each the other’s hand, may share the joy of friendship, human and divine, and with your servant Aelred draw many to your community of love; through Jesus Christ the Righteous, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Readings: Psalm 36:5-10 or 145:8-13; Philippians 2:1-4; John 15:9-17 or Mark 12:28-34a

Hymn of the Day:What a friend we have in Jesus” (LBW 439, LSB 770, ELW 742, H40 422)

Prayers: For our friends; For the gift of gentleness and understanding; For increased love for our neighbors; For greater love for God.

Preface: Saint (2)

Color: White