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Posted August 10, 2009

Book: Spiritual Friendship: Aelred of Rievaulx
Editor and Commentator: Dennis Billy, C.Ss.R.
Christian Classics, Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN. 2008. Pp. 147

An Excerpt from the Introduction:

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167) was a twelfth-century Cistercian abbot and well-known spiritual writer, whose treatise, Spiritual Friendship, is widely considered a classic of Christian spirituality. Inspired by Roman statesman, and orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero’s philosophical dialogue, On Friendship, Aelred approaches his subject from a decidedly religious standpoint, examining both the theoretical and practical aspects of friendship in the light of faith in Christ. Christian friendship, he maintains, is all about extending the fellowship of Christ to another. The more two persons grow as friends, the more they should sense the gentle, unobtrusive, yet abiding presence of this quiet third partner in their lives. He affirms this belief when talking to this friend Ivo at the outset of Book One, stating, “Here we are, you and I, and I hope a third, Christ, in our midst.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Aelred gives sound advice not only on how we should enter into friendship, but also on how we should end it. He is adamant that true friendship is eternal, but understands that sometimes people mistake a much weaker bond for a profound spiritual tie. For this reason, he draws an important distinction between true and apparent friendship, between a bond of intimate companionship that is true and lasting and one that is ephemeral and short-lived. He counsels prudence to those of us who find ourselves in a situation where what we thought was a sound spiritual friendship was found to be otherwise. Rather than ending the relationship abruptly, he advises us to unravel the friendship “stitch-by-stitch” over an extended period of time. In doing so, there will be no hard feelings between those involved and, while no longer friends, they will be able to relate to one another with dignity and mutual respect. Aelred reminds us, moreover, that even though we will no longer share sentiments of affection, security, and happiness with a person we once called a friend, we are still bound to relate to him or her at all times in a loving manner.

Table of Contents:

Book One — The origin of friendship

Book Two — The fruition and excellence of friendship

Book Three — The conditions and characters requisite for unbroken friendship