Friday, January 12, 2007

St Aelred of Rievaulx

I really love St Aelred, one of the first Saints that I really got to know deeply. In thinking of Aelred, one's mind tends to go immediately to the Mirror of Charity or Spiritual Friendship. The text which has affected me the most, however, is his pastoral prayer. I came across this by chance (well, perhaps not entirely randomly - it was in the giftshop at Rievaulx) and have prayed with it often.

Here's an extract:

O good Shepherd Jesus, good, gentle, tender Shepherd: behold a wretched and pitiful shepherd cries out to you. He is weak and clumsy and of little use, but still he is a shepherd of your sheep. O good Shepherd, a shepherd who is not good cries out to you: anxious for himself, anxious for your sheep. You have entrusted them to this poor sinner, your servant, to rule. So I beg you sweet Lord, not for gold or silver or precious stones, but for wisdom, that I may know how to rule your people.

You know, Lord, my heart. You know that my desire is to devote wholly to their service whatever you have given your servant; to spend it completely for them. You know also that I am ready to be myself wholly spent, poured out, for them. May all I perceive and all I utter, my leisure and my occupation, my thoughts and my actions, my prosperity and my adversity, my life and my death, my health and my sickness, yes all that I am be spent on them, be poured out for them, for whom you yourself did not disdain to be poured out. Grant me, Lord, through your grace that is beyond our understanding, grant that I may bear their infirmities with patience, that I may have loving compassion for them, that I may come to their aid effectively. Taught by your Spirit may I learn to comfort the sorrowful, confirm the weak and raise the fallen. May I be myself one with them in their weaknesses, one with them when they burn at causes of offence, one in all things with them, and all things to all of them, so that I may gain them all. And since you have given them this blind leader, this unlearned teacher, this ignorant guide, if not for my sake then for theirs teach him whom you have made to be their teacher, lead him whom you have bidden to lead them, rule him who is their ruler.

Hear me, therefore, hear me, O Lord my God, and let your eyes be open on them day and night. Spread forth your wings in love and protect them; stretch out your holy right hand and bless them; pour into their hearts your Holy Spirit, that He may keep them in unity of spirit and in the bond of peace; chaste in their bodies, lowly in their minds. May He be present when they pray. May He fill their hearts with the rich abundance of your love. May He refresh their minds with sweet compunction, enlighten their hearts with grace, cheer them with hope, humble them with fear, kindle them with charity. May He suggest to them the petitions which you wish graciously to hear. May He be present in their meditations, that they may know you, and readily call on you when in adversity, or consult you when in doubt. O sweet Lord, by the working of your Holy Spirit may they be at peace within themselves, with one another and with me. May they be modest, kind and obedient; serving and supporting one another; fervent in spirit, rejoicing in hope, always patient: through poverty, through abstinence, through labours and vigils, in silence and in repose. Be in their midst according to your faithful promise. Inspire them, also, my God, to have of me who am your servant, and their servant for your sake, such an opinion as may profit them. May they have such love and fear of me as you see to be good for them. I for my part commit them into your holy hands and loving providence. May no one snatch them from your hand, nor from the hand of your servant to whom you have entrusted them. May they persevere with gladness in their holy purpose, and through their perseverance may they obtain everlasting life.

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