Selected Texts on Friendship


 St. Ćlred, of Rievaulx,  Medieval illum. MS.






Speculum Charitatis. PL 195, 501-620D







39. Those in whom we may rejoice in this life CAPUT XXXIX. Qui sint quibus in hac vita frui valeamus.







108. THERE is a rejoicing in temporal matters of which Paul speaks when he prays that he may rejoice in Philemon, (Phil. 20) and also an eternal rejoicing, our rejoicing in each other in heaven, like the rejoicing of the angels, in pure unity of mind.

Sed est fructus temporalis, quo invicem in hac vita frui possimus; sicut Paulus fruitus est Philemone (Phil., 20): [0618C] et est fructus aeternus, quo invicem fruemur in coelo, sicut se fruuntur angeli pura mentium unitate.

Rejoicing in something means using it with joy and delight; and I take it for granted that we cannot all rejoice in one other. Our true enjoyment is bound to be restricted to a small number.

Proinde cum frui sit cum gaudio et delectatione uti, manifestum arbitror in praesenti nequaquam nos omnibus frui posse, sed admodum paucis.

It seems to me that [:]

Nam ut mihi videtur,

some people serve to test us;

others instruct;

others console;

and still others sustain us.

uti quidem possumus quibusdam ad probationem,

quibusdam ad eruditionem,

quibusdam ad consolationem,

quibusdam ad sustentationem.

Our enemies serve to test us;

Our teachers instruct us;

our elders console us;

and for life's needs we turn to those who sustain us.

Inimicis siquidem ad probationem,

magistris ad eruditionem,

senioribus utimur ad consolationem,

necessaria ministrantibus ad vitae sustentationem;

But only those we cherish with gentle affection, whichever category they belong to, [offer] us sweetness of life and spiritual delight.  In these we can indeed rejoice with joy and delight, even in this present life. [...]

solis autem his quos suavi quodam affectu complectimur, de quocunque horum genere sint, ad vitae dulcedinem, ac spiritus delectationem. His igitur [0618D] etiam in praesenti frui possumus, id est cum gaudio ac delectatione uti. [...]





109. IT is no ordinary consolation to have someone in this life with whom you can be united by deep affection and the embrace of most holy love, in whom your spirit may rest, to whom you may pour out your soul; to whose gracious conversation you may flee for refuge in sadness, as to consoling songs; whose most generous bosom of friendship you may safely approach amid the many scandals of this world;

Porro non modicum vitae hujus solatium est, habere quem tibi affectu quodam intimo ac sacratissimi amoris unire possis amplexu, habere in quo requiescat spiritus tuus, cui se refundat animus tuus; ad cujus grata colloquia, quasi ad consolatoria quaedam carmina inter tristia quaeque confugias; ad cujus amicitiae gratissimum sinum inter tot saeculi scandala securus accedas,

to whose most loving breast you may unhesitatingly confide all your inmost thoughts, as to yourself; by whose spiritual kisses as by medicinal ointments you may purge from yourself the weariness of agitating cares. Someone who will weep with you in anxiety, rejoice with you in prosperity; seek with you in doubts; someone you can let into the secret chamber of your mind by the bonds of love, so that even when absent in body he is present in spirit.

cujus amantissimo pectori, ac si tibi ipsi omnium cogitationum tuarum viscera sine cunctatione committas; cujus spiritualibus osculis, quasi medicinalibus quibusdam fomentis languores tumultuantium curarum [0619B] exsudes; qui tibi collacrymetur in anxiis, collaetetur in prosperis, tecum quaerat in dubiis; quem vinculis charitatis in illud secretarium tuae mentis inducas, ut licet absens corpore, spiritu tamen praesens sit,

There, you alone may converse with him alone, all the more sweetly because more secretly. Alone, you may speak with him alone, and once the noise of the world is hushed, in the sleep of peace, you alone may repose with him alone in the embrace of charity, the kiss of unity, with the sweetness of the Holy Spirit flowing between you. Still more, you may be so united to him and approach him so closely and so mingle your spirit with his, that the two become one.

ubi solus cum solo conferas; ac quiescente mundi strepitu, in somno pacis, in amplexu charitatis, in osculo unitatis, interfluente Spiritus sancti dulcedine, solus cum solo repauses: imo ita te ei adjungas et applices, et animum animo misceas, ut de pluribus unum fiat.





110. IN this present life we are able to rejoice in those whom we 1ove not only by reason but also by attachment. Among them, we especially rejoice in those who are linked to us more intimately and more closely by the pleasant bond of spiritual friendship. Lest someone think that this very holy sort of charity should seem reproachable, our Jesus himself, lowering (Himself) to our condition in every way, suffering all things for us and being compassionate towards us, transformed it by manifesting his love. His igitur in praesenti frui possumus, quos non solum ex ratione, sed etiam ex affectu diligimus: inter quos his maxime, qui nobis spiritualis amicitiae gratissimo foedere caeteris familiarius, arctiusque junguntur. Cujus charitatis sacratissimum genus ne cui improbandum videretur, [0619C] ipse Jesus noster per omnia nobis condescendens, per omnia nobis patiens et compatiens, suae dilectionis exhibitione transformans,

To one person, not to all, did he grant a resting-place on his most sacred breast as a sign of his special love, [...]

uni, non omnibus, suavissimi pectoris sui reclinatorium in signum praecipue dilectionis indulsit, [...]

So it is that even though all the disciples were cherished by the sweetness of supreme charity by the most blessed Master, still it was to this one that he accorded this name as a prerogative of yet more intimate attachment: that he would be called that disciple whom Jesus loved. (Jn. 19)

Hinc est, quod licet a piissimo magistro discipuli omnes summae charitatis dulcedine foverentur; huic tamen hoc cognomen familiarioris affectus praerogativa concessit, ut diceretur discipulus ille, quem amabat Jesus (Joan. XIX).





40. How We are to Rejoice in One Another CAPUT XL Quomodo invicem frui debeamus.





111. LET anyone who finds it pleasant to rejoice in his friend see to it that he rejoices in him in the Lord, not in the world or in pleasure of the flesh, but in joyfulness of spirit. But, you ask, what does it mean to enjoy someone in the Lord ? About the Lord, the apostle Paul said: By God he has been made for us wisdom, sanctification, and justice. Since the Lord is wisdom, sanctification, and justice, to rejoice in the Lord is to rejoice in wisdom, sanctification, and justice. By wisdom worldly vanity is banished, by sanctification the vileness of the flesh is foresworn, and by justice all flattery and fawning are checked. Then it is charity, if it comes, as the apostle says, from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and unfeigned faith. (I Tim. 1)

[0619D] Qui igitur amico frui dulce habet, videat ut fruatur in Domino, non in saeculo: non in carnis voluptate, sed etiam in spiritus jucunditate. Sed quaeris, quid sit frui in Domino? Dicit de Domino Apostolus: Qui factus est nobis a Deo sapientia, et justitia, et sanctificatio (I Cor. I). Cum igitur Dominus sapientia sit, sanctificatio, et justitia: in Domino frui, est frui in sapientia, frui in sanctificatione, frui in justitia. Sapientia vanitas saecularis excluditur, sanctificatione spurcitia carnis abscinditur, justitia assentatio omnis, adulatioque compescitur. Tunc enim charitas est, si sit, ut ait Apostolus, de corde puro, et [0620A] conscientia bona, et fide non ficta (I Tim. I).





112. If our mutual exchange of words is delightful, let our talk therefore about our habits and about Scripture. Let us now grieve together over the miseries of the world, now rejoice together in the hope of future happiness. Let us alternately refresh one another by confiding our mutual secrets; then together long for the blessed vision of Jesus, and for heavenly benefits.

Ergo si mutua delectat verborum collatio, sit sermo de moribus, sit sermo de Scripturis: nunc de miseriis hujus vitae congemiscamus; nunc in spe futurorum bonorum congaudeamus; nunc mutui secreti revelatione recreemur; nunc simul ad illam beatam visionem Jesu, ac bona coelestia suspiremus.

If, as is often useful, we loosen our tense spirits with somewhat less lofty but pleasant subjects, such moments of relaxation ought to be full of integrity and free of flippancy. Although such subjects may not be weighty, they should never disedify. Let us rejoice in our mutual sanctification, so that each sees how to possess his vessel—that is to say, his own body—in sanctification and honor, and not in the passion of desire. We should rejoice in justice, mutually encouraging one another in the spirit of freedom, knowing that wounds from a friend are preferable to kisses from an enemy (Prov 27.6).

Si vero, quod nonnunquam utile est, tensum animum ad inferiora quaedam ac jucunda laxemus, sint laxamenta ipsa plena honestatis, vacua levitatis, etsi careant aedificatione. Fruamur invicem in sanctificatione, ut sciat unusquisque vas suum possidere, [0620C] id est proprium corpus in sanctificatione et honore, non in passione desiderii. Fruamur in justitia, ut in spiritu libertatis mutuo cohortemur, mutuo corripiamus, scientes quia meliora sunt amici vulnera, quam fraudulenta inimici oscula (Prov. XXVII).











English Translation based in part on that of  Sr. Mary Eugenia Laker, SSND: Spiritual Friendship, (Cistercian Publications, 1974) pp 45-47, 129.  Latin text ed. by A. Hoste, O.S.B. & E. H. Talbot: in Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medievalis (Brepols, 1971) v. 1, pp. 347-358.





WHEN I was still a [young] boy at school, and the charm [gratia] of my companions pleased me very much, I gave my whole soul to affection and devoted myself to love amid the ways and vices with which that age is wont to be threatened, so that nothing seemed to me more sweet, nothing more agreeable, nothing more practical,

1. Cum adhuc puer essem in scholis, et sociorum meorum me gratia plurimum delectaret, et inter mores et uitia quibus aetas illa periclitari solet, totam se mea mens dedit affectui, et deuouit amori ; ita ut nihil mihi dulcius, nihil iucundius, nihil utilius

     than to [be] love[d]
           [and to love]

  quam amari
    et amare uideretur.

 (2). AND so, torn between conflicting loves and friendships, I was drawn now here, now there, and not knowing the law of true friendship, I was often deceived by its mere semblance.

2. Itaque inter diuersos amores et amicitias fluctuans, rapiebatur animus huc atque illuc - et uerae amicitiae legem ignorans, eius saepe similitudine fallebatur.





 AT length there came to my hands the treatise which Tullius [Cicero] wrote on friendship, and it immediately appealed to me as being serviceable because of the depth of his ideas, and fascination because of the charm of his eloquence.

 Tandem aliquando mihi uenit in manus, liber ille quem de amicitia Tullius scripsit ; qui statim mini et sententiarum grauitate utilis, et eloquentiae suauitate dulcis apparebat.

(3). And though I saw myself unfitted for that type of friendship, still I was gratified that I had discovered a formula for friendship whereby I might check the vacillations of my loves and affections. 3. Et licet nec ad illud amicitiae genus me uiderem idoneum, gratulabar tamen quamdam me amicitiae formulam reperisse, ad quam amorum meorum et affectionum ualerem reuocare discursus.



And towards the end of the text, decades later, having grown older and wiser, Aelred reflects on the experience of real friendship and concludes:






THERE was no pretense between us,

Nihil inter nos simulatum,

  no simulation, no dishonorable flattery,

         no unbecoming harshness,

                   no evasion, no concealment,

fucatum nihil,

 nihil inhoneste blandum,

  nihil indecenter durum,circuitus

  nullus, nullus angulus,

but everything open and above board;

sed omnia nuda et aperta;

for I deemed my heart in a fashion his,

       and his mine,

          and he felt in a like manner towards me.

qui meum pectus quodammodo suum putarem,

  et eius meum,

    ipseque similiter,

 AND so we were progressing in friendship without deviation,

Ita in amicitia recta linea gradientibus,

neither’s correction evoked the indignation of the other,

nullius correptio indignationem,

neither’s yielding produced blame.

nullius consensio culpam pariebat.







What more is there, then, that I can say?

Quid ergo?

Was it not a foretaste of blessedness

Nonne quaedam beatitudinis portio fuit,

thus to love and to be loved;

thus to help and thus to be helped;

sic amare et sic amari;

sic iuuare et sic iuuari;

and in this way from the sweetness of fraternal charity

et sic ex fraternae caritatis dulcedine

to wing one’s flight aloft

in illum sublimiorem locum

to that more sublime splendor of divine love,

dilectionis diuinae splendorem altius euolare;

and by the ladder of charity

et in scala caritatis

now to mount to the embrace of Christ himself;

nunc ad Christi ipsius amplexum conscendere,

and again to descend to the love of neighbor,

there pleasantly to rest?

nunc ad amorem proximi
ibi suauiter repausaturum descendere?

And so in this friendship of ours, which we have introduced by way of example, if you see aught worthy of imitation, profit by it to advance to your own perfection.

In hac igitur amicitia nostra quam exempli gratia inseruimus, si quid cernitis imitandum, ad vestrum id retorquete profectum






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