Spiritual Friendship

St. Aelred of Rievaulx once wrote these words: “God is friendship. Those who abide in friendship abide in God, and God abides in them.” Today at Vintage, after a lunch of Helen’s sloppy joes and cherry pie, students read St. Aelred and discussed the topic of friendship. St. Aelred of Rievaulx was born in Durham, England, and was sent to the Scottish court for an education as noble and courtier. He was high in the court of the king of Scotland. At age 24, he left to enter the Cistercian monastery in Rievaulx in Yorkshire, where he eventually became the monastery’s abbot. Here, he was encouraged by Bernard of Clairvaux to write.  Today, we read excerpts from his book Spiritual Friendship, a collection of thoughts on friendship—a subject that was of utmost importance to him.

St. Aelred believed that true friendships are eternal. However, as we read today, not all friendships we have and experience are true. St. Aelred wrote that there are three types of friendships: carnal, worldly, and spiritual. In these readings, he describes the differences between them. While worldly friendships begin and are maintained simply for the sake of some advantage, spiritual friendships are born and “cemented by similarity of life, morals, and pursuits among the just.” Today at Vintage, students discussed what such a true and deep friendship looks like. St. Aelred had something to say on this. He wrote that there are four qualities that characterize a friend: loyalty, right intention, discretion, and patience.

We also talked about the real reason why our friendships are so important and meaningful.  According to Chris Heurertz and Christine Pohl, our relationship with God is “at the heart of it all,” and “a grateful response to God’s gift of friendship involves offering that same gift to others.” We love others because God first loved us not just as servants, but also as friends.

-Caroline Parsley, UVa '14