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Category: Reading

Aelred, Walter, and Gratian Bid Adieu

“Book Three” is the last book of Spiritual Friendship. Aelred and Gratian are conversing while waiting for Walter to arrive. Gratian admits that he needs Walter there to help him see other points that he can not. And so begins the last book, and my last post of this series.

Last Conversation Together

Aelred starts by saying what unites friends. He notes many character traits that can end a friendship. Some can be overcome, but others can not. For the ones that can’t be overcome, he gives practical ideas to take to dissolve the friendship, so it does not devolve into further destruction. For those that can be saved, he gives steps for correction. Finally, Aelred describes one famous biblical friendship that shows how to be friends when they are of different stations in life – Jonathan and David.

Reason and sweetness, the word that Aelred uses for affection, have to be united so the love between friends is pure. Or in modern vernacular, the head and heart have to be united for love to flourish in a friendship. Reason sometimes is needed to lovingly admonish a friend when needed.

Once a friendship starts, then it needs to be tested, acceptance is granted if the tests are passed, and finally, there is “perfect harmony in matters human and divine with charity and benevolence.” At the foundation of the friendship is God, who is according to Ephesians 2:14 (NKJV) “…is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.”

Aelred mentions a few categories, grouped by being salvageable or not, of vices anathema to friendship ranging in severity. The ones that are not salvageable, he teaches, need to be slowly unwound, so as not to cause any more destruction. The brotherly love should always be preserved with the other party. Aelred notes some sins against friendships can be overcome, providing they are not dishonorable, violate a confidence, or destroy virtue.

If the offense is public, it warrants an immediate end. He defines public as

  • against one’s church leadership (this book’s setting is a monastery)
  • against one’s country
  • against one’s family or friends.

He talks about the friendship between David and Jonathan in one aspect: that they were of different social classes. David tended the sheep in his family and Jonathan was the son of a king. Inside the friendship itself, Aelred teaches that the friends are equal in the sight of God, and should within the friendship conduct themselves this way. Galatians 3:28 (ESV) states “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.One should humble themselves and allow the anointed one to rise when necessary as Jonathan did by recognizing David as king and not his father.

Ending Thoughts

Spiritual Friendship is a timeless classic, short, and easy to understand. Buy or borrow a copy and read the points that I left out. Godly friendships will be needed in the days to come.

I made a personal vow to make my best friend that I lost last Good Friday famous. I hope in Heaven he is reading and smiling over my words, for he loved me despite myself.

Post 1 – Introduction to Aelred’s Spiritual FriendshipPost 2 – Aelred Writes What He Can’t Read
Post 3 – Add Gratian’s and Walter’s Banter

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Add Gratian’s and Walter’s Banter

Aelred and Walter Begin

Just as with Ivo in Book One, Aelred, while holding a conversation with a group of monks, notices Walter is alone and need to talk privately. Ivo has gone to be with the Lord. Book Two introduces Walter and later Gratian. Giving homage to the fruit of their friendship beyond the grave, Aelred feels Ivo’s comforting presence in Walter’s and his midst.

Walter asks Aelred for his Spiritual Friendship notes on Book One. Aelred is a prolific writer and is loathe to share anything before he has a chance to edit notes. However, he does reluctantly, asking Walter not to make it public until it is edited. How many writers out there can relate?

In contrast to Aelred referring to spiritual friendship as sweetness, he calls someone not having this kind of friend a beast. They have no one to rejoice, sorrow, and lift up (Ecclesiastes 4:10). He also has no problem calling some in worldly friendships insane and “friendship’s poison.” He calls evil friendships non-existent because evil and friendship do not co-exist.

In this age of health issues, isolation, and disputes many may be friendless in some form. Lest you may think “Am I a beast?” John 15:15 Jesus counters with “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

For the ones who do have friendships, Aelred teaches Walter the perks of spiritual friendship.

  • You can tell your friend about your spiritual progress without fear of boasting because they know your heart. Aelred uses the term “unblushingly” which suggests a sense of humility.
  • You can tell your friend secrets, knowing they will not be repeated.
  • You can tell your friend anything without dread of the response when corrected.

Gratian Joins In

At this point, Gratian joins the conversation. The sarcastic banter between Walter and Gratian adds some comic relief to the seriousness of the subject. Walter is the antagonist to Gratian’s breezy style: Walter fears that Gratian does not take friendship seriously enough.

Despite this, they manage to focus on the lessons that Aelred has yet to teach them. Gratian calls their conversation a “spiritual banquet,” which brings to my mind Psalms 23:5a “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” In Book One, Aelred says that spiritual friendships were formed out of the fallen world caused by Adam and Eve.

How far should you go for a friend? Aelred answers with John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” He addresses Adam’s sin with Eve, saying Adam should have told Eve she was presuming and told her no, instead of complying with her request. In Adam sparing Eve, he dishonored both himself and Eve and God’s imprint on humanity.

Walter states it is shameful to leave someone on their deathbed. Many with healthcare issues today are dealing with this possibility in our complex and divisive culture. This is one of the hardest moments in our modern history, if ever. Only God can give each person an individual answer.

All Three Wind It Up

Gratian brings their conversation to a close, praising Aelred for the summary so they could memorize what they had learned. Walter wants to return tomorrow, admonishing Gratian to be on time.


I need a break, just like Aelred did to attend to other matters, to work on my psalm. My fingers are curved around my pen to write a poem. I am a first write-on-paper person.

Post 1 – Introduction to Aelred’s Spiritual FriendshipPost 2 – Aelred Writes What He Can’t Read
Post 4 – Aelred, Walter, and Gratian Bid Adieu

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Aelred Writes What He Can’t Read

Prologue

Some writers, past or present, have not found the subject matter they wanted to read and decided to write what they could not find. Aelred had read Cicero’s On Friendship, but could not find anything on Christian friendship. So he decided to write it himself.

The book is sectioned into three parts: Book One covers the theology of spiritual friendship, as discussed between Ivo and himself. He also lists two more worldly friendship types. Book Two and Book Three is another conversation between Aelred, Walter, and Gratian discussing practical points on forming and maintaining friendships.

Book One

Aelred doesn’t just jump into this theology, he sets the stage with how this conversation should be conducted between both parties.

He notices Ivo is silent in a group of talking monks and surmises that Ivo wants to talk privately. He tells Ivo he likes the fact that he is not an idle-talking monk, speaking only what is “useful and necessary.” For this reason, Aelred trusts Ivo to speak freely, knowing that time will not be wasted (on what I would call frou-frou). Aelred tells Ivo, he will be treated as an equal partner in the conversation.

Laying the foundation for their conversation, they agree to use Cicero’s definition of friendship as a starting point. “Friendship is mutual harmony in affairs human and divine coupled with benevolence and charity.” Ivo asks what the two terms mean and Aelred replies that benevolence means affection of the heart and charity means carrying out in deed. In other words, one is a feeling and the other is an action.

Ivo can’t see how true friendship can be lived with those who live without Christ. Aelred says though Cicero’s definition is imperfect for all types of friendships, you can get some idea of the nature of friendship.

He tells Ivo that he won’t teach what he doesn’t know. Aelred then proceeds to explain that a friend is a “guardian of our mutual love or the guardian of my spirit to preserve all its secrets in faithful silence, as far as he can, cure and endure such defects as he may observe.” In other words, protect your friend’s privacy, speak the truth in love when needed and wanted, and have patience.

Aelred does refer to spiritual friendship as being a “sweetness.” This counters Ivo’s argument of even trying if, as Cicero states, friendship is rare. And regardless of the outcome of any friendship, knowledge is gained.

He does define two other types of non-spiritual friendship. Both can turn into spiritual friendship.

  1. Worldly – useful for getting money.
  2. Carnal – useful for getting passionate desires met.

Aelred also references Adam and Eve in friendship. “How beautiful it is that the second human being was taken from the side of the first. So that nature might teach that human beings are equal…neither superior nor inferior, a characteristic of true friendship.” From beauty to ugliness, the fall of Adam and Eve corrupted charity and friendship. Once this happened, friendship remained among whom he refers to good, according to natural law.

For his final question, Ivo wants to know if wisdom can be abused through pleasing others through it, being prideful with it, or selling it. Aelred answers these are vices, so they are not an aspect of wisdom, so no.

Some Thoughts

  • True friendship is a trinity – Christ in the middle of two bound together for eternity.
  • When Aelred tells Ivo he can’t teach what he doesn’t know, he is showing humility and honesty towards Ivo. Servant leadership. I had a boss once who epitomized a true leader. One thing she hated was the small talk before business meetings. This is where I learned the term frou-frou. Seriously, though, agreeing on the terms of conversation dispels confusion later and keeps it steered in the right direction.
  • Aelred’s definition of friendship as each other’s guardians makes me think of the protection of each other and God’s protection of us in Psalms 91.
  • In the days ahead, as society is rebuilt with a godly foundation, true friends will be role models.
  • I looked up natural law. Divine timing – the next day after I wrote this, I heard a radio interview mention natural law and our Founding Fathers. Worth looking up.

At the end of Book One, Ivo doesn’t want to wait for another conversation, but he does this side of heaven. He dies before Book Two is written. We will have the practical aspects taught to us through Aelred’s conservation with Walter and Gratian.

Post 1 – Aelred Writes What He Can’t ReadPost 3 – Add Gratian’s and Walter’s Banter
Post 4 – Aelred, Walter, and Gratian Bid Adieu

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Introduction to Aelred’s Spiritual Friendship

Welcome to my first of four or five post series on Spiritual Friendship, a book praising the wonders of Christian friendship. This post will give you a bit of theological, historical, and cultural background information of St. Aelred’s world.

Aelred’s Life

Aelred was born around 1110 A.D. in Northumbria to Eilaf, priest of St. Andrew’s at Hexham. During his father’s married life, Pope Gregory VII ordered the priesthood to become monks or leave the church. His father chose to leave which created financial hardship. But it did not seem to affect Aelred, at least based on his educational opportunities and rise within the ruling Scottish government.

He likely was educated in a cathedral school and later became a steward in King David I of Scotland’s court. He held this position for nine years. During this time he read Cicero’s On Friendship, which had a profound influence on his book, Spiritual Friendship.

After nine years of court life, he visited the Cistercian monastery of Rievaulx in Yorkshire, where he asked and received permission to join. Aelred’s life was spent mainly in Rievaulx, but he spent a few years starting a new monastery at Revesby. He died at Rievaulx of ill health in 1167.

Since he prospered in his duties in King David’s court, his time there gave him the skills he needed to lead Rievaulx: it grew to 140 monks and 500 laymen. His unhappiness with superficial life in court was the goad that God used, I believe, to drive him to spiritual life. When he wrote Spiritual Friendship, he wanted to go beyond On Friendship, adding a Christian foundation.

Aelred’s Monastic Life

The Cisterns had their theology – they took the Benedictine’s Rules more stringently by following the rules and doing no more. Their world view was one of hierarchy starting with God at the top: learning to love Him through experience and metaphor. The monks read both the Psalms and spiritual books. They balanced work and prayer, refused elaborate church art, and practiced poverty. They also settled uninhabited European land to build the world for God to overcome man’s lawlessness.

He also viewed himself as equal to women, as seen through the eyes of God. I can’t help but wonder if St. Francis of Assissi, an after-his-time contemporary, had read or heard of Aelred, because of his lifelong friendship with St. Clare.

Aelred’s Reading and Writing Life

Around the 3rd century, the practice of Lectio Divina began. Readers read to apply what is read to their own lives. It usually applies to religious works, but can also apply to secular ones. (Reading poetry using Lectio Divina is explained in Sage Cohen’s Writing the Life Poetic.)

Aelred was a prolific reader. One of the books he read was Augustine’s Confessions.

He was also a prolific writer, writing histories, guides, and sermons along with his books. One book, The Mirror of Charity, was requested by St. Bernard, a fellow well-known Cistern. The book became the foundation for Spiritual Friendship.

In Spiritual Friendship, Aelred writes in the dialog format, teaching us through his conversation with younger monks. He teaches us the value of friends through the mediator of Jesus Christ:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

Ephesians 2:14 NIV

Closing Thoughts

Though this was written by a monk roughly 1,000 years ago, the principles still apply to anyone. Knowing a smattering of the background enhances the understanding of Spiritual Friendship. However, I think we can all to some degree relate to his solitude due to our lockdowns.

Godly friendships prepare us for our time in heaven, where our bodies are transfigured for eternity. Where there is no giving in marriage, just friendships for eternity.

Friendships here on earth allow us to bear each other’s sorrows and celebrate each other’s joys. Over the years, I have made big mistakes and lost friends, but I have also been blessed with a few that have been “closer than brothers” (Proverbs 17:17). One waits for me Up There.


Post 2 – Aelred Writes What He Can’t ReadPost 3 – Add Gratian’s and Walter’s Banter
Post 4 – Aelred, Walter, and Gratian Bid Adieu

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Aelred’s Spiritual Friendship, A Series

With orchestrated divisions being perpetrated on all of us, friendship is a commodity more valuable than gold. And the divisions being perpetuated are on a micro, local level between friends and families too. Anyone who reads the news knows the specific ways we are being divided – I will not rehash that here.

Some think that “What the world needs now is love sweet love,” and we do. But sometimes that love comes in the form of … “speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—“ (Eph 4:15 NKJV).

So if you have managed to hang onto friends and familiy despite the differing opinions and actions of others, you are blessed indeed. Civility of conversation and brotherly love are required for the other person’s benefit.

My Friend

I recently wrote about one of my best friend’s passing, but I didn’t explain why he was a best friend. He would listen to me, then give me his opinion. And I never once felt slighted. I knew he knew me well and spoke the truth as he saw it (and he did see it), keeping his love utmost in his words to me. He told me that my blog writing was mainly for my benefit (in an enriching way) when I would moan and groan about having low numbers of followers. But he read my posts, commented on one that touched him, and subscribed to my newsletter.

Blog Series

A few years ago, I read Spiritual Friendship by Aelred of Rievaulx, who lived during the 12th century. I marked it up as I read. Aelred wrote this book in a time when friendships were discouraged in the church. His views on friendship, and his education and ties to nobility before he became a monk, enabled his footprint in the church to flourish.

As well as work on my Psalm project, I am going to do a short series of blog posts on what I glean from rereading Spiritual Friendship. The book is sectioned into three books, and I will do one post after each book, plus some background information, and a summary post.

The passing of my friend is opening the possibility to pass on what I know about friendships that the Lord would be proud of. Friends are united through Him. Or put another way:

You should love the Eternal, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength”.The second great commandment is this: “Love others in the same way you love yourself.” There are no commandments more important than these.

Mark 12:30-31 VOICE

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Poetry, Grief and Love

A little bit of shoot the breeze and quite a bit of why I haven’t been posting lately. Grief has a funny way of pausing projects, a lifestyle.

Little Bits

I have read that some poets don’t read poetry. (And I would be interested in knowing the percentage.) I have a few anthologies that I pick up and thumb through, especially when I am feeling blue. I love Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz’s three Favorite Poem Project Anthologies. Every poem has at least one reader’s reaction to it – how it affected their lives.

After college, I kept my copy of the Harbrace College Handbook, which is a grammar and style book for writers. I found newer used editions as the years went by, but I noticed they were dumbed down. I actually bought an older version to replace a newer one for this reason. I can’t imagine the state of education today…

Quite a Bit

I have two best friends. I lost one of them on Good Friday.

It was a desire of mine since I began my adult years, to have a male platonic friend. My mother had a co-worker at the small rural high school where she was a counselor. They talked to each other on the telephone all the time. She told me that her friends were asking why don’t you just marry him? It worked for them, they were both very independent. I talked to him after my mother passed and before I moved away, and I could tell he missed her horribly. This relationship I think fostered a desire in me for the same thing. To be loved for me.

The way I met my friend was miraculous. He was an online game player that met my son online shortly after I moved here. He was from Wisconsin and about my age. I would talk to him occasionally through the VoIP software they used sometimes. After my son joined the Marines, the offer went out to talk to him myself while my son was in boot camp. And afterward, we took turns leading with a devotional and communion once a month over the same software. We had church.

We never met in person (though he did get to see my son), but he knew me better than almost anyone else. How did he show me love? He read my poems. And this one made him laugh.

Harry – of When Harry Met Sally fame – is not right when he says the sex always gets in the way. Sometimes the lack of it can be very healing.

Thank you, Lord, for Dec. I will be forever grateful.

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What Is Public Domain?

Surprisingly, some of my most liked posts are public domain poems. I’ll admit, I post them to keep myself from infringing copyright, but I also believe it is important to read from an historical standpoint. And I try to pick ones that have bearing on current events. Poetry is truly timeless.

So what exactly is the public domain? According to Copyright.laws.com, “they are works that are considered to be in the public domain are not protected by copyright. To be in the public domain means that the works can be used, copied, and distributed without any particular authorization from the copyright holder. This situation occurs when a copyright term expires or the rights themselves have been forfeited.”

In United States copyright law – each country and jurisdiction has its own – it is not a cut and dry date for all conditions of how and when a work is produced. Anonymous works can even be copyrighted. Cornell University hosts a downloadable PDF to explain conditions and dates. (Make sure to figure correct dates, based on the date of the PDF.)

Public Domain Day starts on January 1 of every year for all countries/jurisdictions depending on their own laws, and determines what goes into the public domain. Oregon has its own special case regarding unpublished works.

At the beginning of every year, you can surf the internet and usually find a list of works that enter the public domain. For 2021, The Mary Sue entertains us with its list, along with the basics of when a work enters the public domain.

Creative Commons explains two different ways artists can choose to release their works into the public.

Copyright law protects an artist’s ability to receive recognition and financial reward from work that is created. But at some time in the future, they are released into the public for everyone’s benefit.

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Feeds for a New Era

My blog post today may be old-hat to some, but because of the censorship issues today, I am revisiting it.

The technology of RSS feeds some consider to be old-hat, and they have been since the rise of social media. But they have been under the radar, not obsolete like others have proclaimed over the years. Twitter had a feed many years ago.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Netscape created it in 1999 under the different name of RDF Site Summary, and through the years it morphed into the current name.

The format is in XML language, which is a plain text file. Another file associated with RSS is OPML, which is XML’s outline format for exporting the feeds you have created in a feed reader for backup.

Feed readers consolidate feeds from websites that use this form of syndication. Blogs, podcasts, emails, websites, and news sites (this is not an exhaustive list) publish the XML files to their sites so that feed readers can pull in articles that are newly published. Most feed readers are free. Another file form of aggregating websites is called Atom. Most feed readers support both.

I will use mine to illustrate. I use the Linux program named QuiteRSS. It allows you to add folders to organize subject matter. For example, I have folders called Oregon, News, Church, Writing, and Personal. I can update all at once, only certain folders, or certain sites. There is a rudimentary browser so that you can read the feeds on their home website. Or you can open an external browser to read articles. Filters are available to further help sort information. And the articles can be labeled or deleted as needed. I clean mine daily so I am not overwhelmed.

The fall of popularity of RSS, a decentralized form of gathering data for the user, instead traveled to companies centralizing data on us users, was planned? If so, it is time to stake our claims on the World Wide Web and raise the flag of our RSS mailboxes.

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Setting Sail for 2021

Now that the festivities of the Christmas season are over, I have amassed a list of projects to keep me busy, and writing more blog posts. I want to make a spreadsheet of commonly used Linux terminal commands, reorganize my planner, and as stated before, one of the biggest is revamping my blog.

My New Year Resolutions get written on New Year’s Eve, sealed and read the next New Year’s Eve. They, over the last few years, have morphed more into a letter to the Lord and what I feel He wants me to do. Plus a few of my own desires thrown in.

Ordered three new books today. One in response to a follower: 1984 by George Orwell. It will be interesting to see how current events line up with the book.

Next two in line: Blogging for God’s Glory in a Clickbait World by Benjamin Vrbicek and John Beeson, and To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction by Phillip Lopate. I have a weakness for writing books; most of my bookshelf is crowded with them.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

This verse – read in context – is during the time of Israel’s captivity, with promises from God that He will someday return them to their homeland. I think it is a key verse for 2021.

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Happy Reading!

Today was a mailbox bonanza for me: two books and two writing magazines to peruse.

Both books had to do with road trips, and I did not even realize it until I had clicked the order button. It’s likely my subconscious, or conscious desire, is to get out on the road like I did before the lockdowns.

First up is Nala’s WorldOne Man, His Rescue Cat, and a Bike Ride around the Globe by Dean Nicholson. Another unmet desire is to own a cat again, but due to circumstances I can’t right now, hopefully in the near future. So I read vicariously. Color pictures in two sections of the book made my heart smile. If you have an Instagram account, you can find them at @1bike1world.

Second, is Writing In A Convertible With The Top Down by Sheila Bender with co-author Christi Glover. Looks to be an encouraging and fun guide to navigate the writing life.

Third, I have pointed to political bias in the writing magazines. One this time was no exception, though it wasn’t as bad as the last issue. (Throat clear – that would be Poets & Writers). Maybe they should rebrand themselves as a political writing magazine. That being said, looks to have some nuggets for me to panhandle. Writer’s Digest is celebrating their 100th Anniversary, and it is thicker than usual. I am really looking forward to reading this issue.

To all you readers out there – Happy Reading!

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