Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A St. Aelred Catechism

Today, January 12th, we celebrate the feast of Aelred of Rievaulx, patron saint of Integrity. Below is some basic information about this holy man.

Who was Aelred?

Aelred was one of three sons of Eilaf, priest of St Andrew's at Hexham and himself a son of Eilaf, treasurer of Durham.

Aelred was born in Hexham, Northumbria, in 1110. He spent several years at the court of King David I of Scotland, rising to be Master of the Household before leaving the court to enter the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx, in Yorkshire, in 1134, at the age of twenty-four. He may have been partially educated by Lawrence of Durham, who sent him a hagiography of Saint Brigid.

Aelred became the abbot of a new house of his order at Revesby in Lincolnshire in 1142, and later, abbot of Rievaulx itself in 1147. He spent the remainder of his life in the monastery. Under his administration the size of the abbey is said to have risen to some hundred monks and four hundred lay brothers. He made annual visitations to Rievaulx's daughterhouses in England and Scotland and to the French abbeys of Citeaux and Clairvaux. He is recorded as suffering from an unspecified and very painful disease in his later years.

Aelred wrote several influential books on spirituality, among them Speculum caritatis ("The Mirror of Charity", reportedly written at the request of Bernard of Clairvaux) and De spiritali amicitia ("On Spiritual Friendship"). He also wrote seven works of history, addressing two of them to Henry II of England, advising him how to be a good king, and declaring him to be the true descendent of Anglo-Saxon kings. Until the twentieth century Aelred was generally known as a historian rather than a spiritual writer; for many centuries his most famous work was his "Life of Saint Edward, King and Confessor." Aelred died on January 12, 1167, at Rievaulx.


How did Aelred become the patron saint of Integrity?

At the 1985 General Convention in Anaheim, CA, at the suggestion of Howard Galley, Integrity/New York, the Standing Liturgical Commission recommended Aelred, along with a number of others, for inclusion in Lesser Feasts and Fasts. When this resolution came before the House of Bishops, the preconversion Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong informed the house that, according to John Boswell, Aelred of Rievaulx had been gay--implying this might disqualify his inclusion. With little discussion the House of Bishops approved the others on the list but sent Aelred back to the commission which sent him back to the House of Bishops where, in spite of his being gay, and with the bishops' full knowledge that he was, he was admitted to the calendar.

During the 1987 national convention of Integrity, in St. Louis, the following resolution was submitted by the Rev. Paul Woodrum and was passed: "Whereas the Episcopal Church USA meeting in General Convention in Anaheim, California, in 1985, with full knowledge, thanks to the vigilance of the bishop of Newark, of St. Aelred's homoerotic orientation, did approve for annual commemoration in her liturgical calendar the Feast of St. Aelred on 12 January and did provide propers for the same, Therefore be it resolved that Integrity Inc. place itself under the protection and patronage of St. Aelred of Rievaulx and, be it further resolved that Integrity, Inc. dedicate itself to regularly observe his feast, promote his veneration and seek before the heavenly throne of grace the support of his prayers on behalf of justice and acceptance for lesbians and gay men."

Source: Archived material on Integrity website written by Paul Woodrum.

What are the propers for St. Aelred's feast day?

Collect: Almighty God, you endowed the abbot Aelred with the gift of Christian friendship and the wisdom to lead others in the way of holiness: Grant to your people that same spirit of mutual affection, that, in loving one another, we may know the love of Christ and rejoice in the gift of your eternal goodness; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lessons: Ruth 1:15-18, Psalm 36:5-10, Philippians 2:1-4, Mark 12:28-34

Source: "Holy Women, Holy Men" [which replaced “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” in 2009]

Whose is celebrating St. Aelred's feast day?

At least three local groups are holding special events in honor of honor of St. Aelred--Integrity/Portland, Oasis California, and Integrity/Connecticut.

If your group is also holding a St. Aelred celebration, please share details [before or after the event] at

Where can I get an icon of St. Aelred?

Robert Lentz has created an excellent icon of St. Aelred that is available from Trinity Stores on a wide variety of media.

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