Saturday, September 19, 2009

Aelred of Rievaulx: The Lives of the Northern Saints

Translated by Jane Patricia Freeland, 144 pages, Cistercian Publications, USD 24.95.

With an interesting Introduction by Marsha Dutton, this book offers insights into the medieval mind through three translations of Aelred of Rievaulx' works.

First, “The Life of Ninian, Apostle of the Southern Picts,” tells of this priest's heroic evangelization of parts of the British Isles in late antiquity. According to Aelred, Ninian had the passion and sense of adventure of a soldier for this evangelical work.

For example, before beginning his evangelical work, Ninian “made a pilgrimage to Rome where, after shedding tears in token of his devotion before the sacred relics of the apostles and commending his desire to their patronage with many prayers, the ever-blessed young man approached the see of the supreme bishop. When he had explained to him the reason for his journey, the pontiff embraced his devotion and with great affection received him as a son. He soon gave him over to the teachers of truth to be imbued with the discipline of faith and the sound meaning of Scripture.”

Once back in Britain, the people received him like a prophet, with lepers being cured by his sanctity.

Second, in “The Saints of the Church of Hexham and their Miracles,” we get some interesting medieval religious scenes, as when a violent king threatens the town's inhabitants: “Some appealed with groans and outcries to Wilfrid, some to Cuthbert, some to Acca, and not a few to Alchmund.”

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