A Prayer of St. Aelred

Lord I sometimes wander away from you, not because I am deliberately turning my back on you, but because of the inconstancy of my mind. I weaken in my intention to give my whole self to you. I fall back into thinking of myself as my own master. When I wander from you, my life becomes a burden, and within me I find nothing but darkness fear and anxiety. So I come back to you and confess that I have sinned. Forgive me Lord. — St. Aelred of Rivaux
saint aelred
I wandered into Church this afternoon to pray, and picked up one of the Advent booklets we’re giving out, and opened it up to read this beautiful prayer from St. Aelred. He’s renowned for his treatise on Spiritual Friendship, a brief summary of which can be found here, and a pdf version can be found here.

Aelred speaks about spiritual friendship – a relationship which helps us grow in love: love of each other and love of God. In fact, for him friendship is a sacrament of God’s love. In an earlier book he says that just as there is a continuous dialogue and interchange of love berween the three persons of the Trinity, so human beings – the rational creatures made in the image and likeness of this Trinity of Persons – are called to relationships based on mutual dialogue, exchange, sharing and self-giving. This is the theological foundation for all spiritual relationships. In fact, through the experience of spiritual friendship we come to experience something of God’s love. He refers to this friendship as a very holy sort of charity.

But his prayer (rather than his treatise, although it did come to mind,) struck me so peacefully as I knelt in Church and prayed and felt God’s grace working in my life, healing my spirit and bringing a sense of understanding to the quasi-complex, more than likely semi-pelagian issues of the last weeks. Also, this is the start of Advent Confessions, and tomorrow is First Friday (which will bring an abundance of Confessions…) so I realized the need for a more thorough examination of conscience. I have issues, man.

God’s grace…. It’s only by God’s grace we get to heaven.

Confessors: Open a Dialogue of Salvation with Penitents

This from the Vatican Information Service, is worthy of reflection…

VATICAN CITY, 11 MAR 2010 (VIS) – At midday today, the Pope received
participants in an annual course on the “internal forum” organised by the
Apostolic Penitentiary. By participating in the course, he told them, “you
have shown the pressing need to dedicate deeper study to a subject that is
essential for the ministry and the life of priests”.

Benedict XVI recalled how this year’s course coincides with the current
Year for Priests, dedicated to St. John Mary Vianney, “who heroically and
fruitfully exercised the ministry of Reconciliation. … From the saintly
‘Cure of Ars’ we priests can learn not only a limitless trust in the
Sacrament of Penance which leads us to reinstate it as the focus of our
pastoral concerns, but also the method of ‘the dialogue of salvation’ which
must be part thereof”, he said.

“Awareness of one’s own limits and the need to turn to Divine Mercy in
order to ask forgiveness, to convert the heart and to find support on the
path of saintliness, are fundamentals in the life of priests. Only someone
who has himself experienced greatness can convincingly announce and
administer the Mercy of God”, the Holy Father explained.

The current cultural context, characterised by “a hedonistic and
relativist mentality which tends to remove God from the horizon of life,
does not facilitate our acquisition of a clear picture of reference values,
and does not help us to discern good from evil or to develop a correct sense
of sin”. This, the Pope noted, is not very different from the period in
which St. John Mary Vianney lived, marked as it was by “a mentality hostile
to the faith, as expressed by certain forces that even sought to prevent the
exercise of the priestly ministry.

“In these circumstances, the saintly ‘Cure of Ars’ made ‘the church his
home’ in order to lead men and women to God”, the Pope added, “and he
appeared to his contemporaries to be an evident sign of God that he
encouraged many penitents to come to his confessional”. Thus, the Holy
Father went on, “it is necessary for priests to live their own response to
vocation ‘exaltedly’, because only someone who daily becomes living and
clear presence of the Lord can arouse a sense of sin in the faithful, give
them courage and stimulate their desire for forgiveness from God”.

“The ‘crisis’ in the Sacrament of Penance, which is often spoken of, is an
appeal addressed first and foremost to priests and to their great
responsibility to educate the people of God in the radical demands of the
Gospel. In particular, it calls on them generously to dedicate themselves to
hearing sacramental confessions, and courageously to guide their flock not
to conform itself to this world, but to make choices that go against the
tide, avoiding deals and compromises”.

Finally, Benedict XVI invited priests to open a “dialogue of salvation”
with their penitents, as suggested by the “Cure of Ars”. A dialogue that,
“arising from the certainty of being loved by God, helps man to recognise
his own sin and progressively to introduce himself into a stable process of
conversion of heart, which leads to the radical rejection of evil and to a
life lived in accordance with God’s wishes”.

The Rev. Kenneth Allen