the pastoral prayer

Saint Aelred of Rievaulx

Translated by A Religious of C.S.M.V.
Edited by Matthew Dallman



Aelfred was born in Yorkshire in 1110, and spent his youth mostly at the Scottish court. In 1133 he took the Cistercian habit at Rievaulx, which had been founded from Clairvaux two years before. In 1141 he was made Novice Master at Rievaulx; in 1143 he was sent to be abbot of Revesby in Lincolnshire, a daughter-house of Rievaulx; and in 1147 he was recalled to the mother-house to be its third abbot, which office he held until his death in 1167. He knew Saint Bernard, and himself is sometimes called “the Bernard of the North.” His feast day is 3rd March.

The Oratio Pastoralis exists today in a single manuscript, a compilation written at Rievaulx in the thirteenth century and now preserved at Jesus College, Cambridge. It seems never to have been published, as were Aelred’s other words—e.g., the Speculum Caritatis, and the De Amicitia Spirituali, on account of which he ranks as one of the greatest Cistercian authors—but rather to have been kept in his own monastery as a family treasure. The text is printed, however, in the late Dom Andre Wilmart’s Auteurs spirituels et textes devors du moyen-age latin, Parish, 1932, pp. 291-296, and this translation has been made from that.

As Dom Wilmart observes, there are passages in the Pastoral Prayer which recall Saint Augustine’s Confessions, and Walter Daniel, Aelred’s biography, tells us that that classic was his favorite reading.

He was probably familiar also with Saint Anselm’s prayers; but, apart from its form and of course its Scriptural basis, the Pastoral Prayer is wholly Aelred’s own. It is interesting, therefore, as a window, an intimate light, on to the holy soul of a great Cistercian abbot eight centuries ago; and it is valuable now because, as the manuscript heading says, it is propria praelatorum, apt for the use of all who are set over others in any sort of way. So I hope that this translation may be of use to many besides Religious superiors and even besides the clergy; for most of us have some responsibility for others, even if it be only as their intercessors.


Forward to PART ONE

© Akenside Press and Matthew C. Dallman, 2016. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, Akenside Press.