Lent Madness: Aelred vs. Francis of AssisiPosted: March 20, 2010
The Round of the Elate Eight begins right now! We kick things off with Aelred vs. Francis of Assisi. Aelred’s a bit of a cinderella, having defeated Anskar and upsetting John the Baptist. Francis stormed into this round by dispensing with Joseph Schereschewsky and Hilda of Whitby.
In the first round of Lent Madness we used brief biographies to distinguish the candidates. In the Round of the Saintly Sixteen our discernment tool was the Quote-Off. But this round calls for something deeper. Which is why we’ll be highlighting legends and kitsch (or L & K in Lent Madness parlance). Any saint worth his or her halo has both of these in spades.
Legends surrounding Francis’ life are abundant, many having to do with animals. It is said that while traveling with some companions he came upon a place filled with birds in trees on either side of the road. Francis preached to the birds and not one flew away, drawn so powerfully to the sound of his voice. In another story, we hear that a wolf was terrifying the townsfolk of Gubbio, devouring men and animals. Francis went into the hills, found the wolf, made the sign of the cross, and commanded the wolf to hurt no one else. Miraculously the wolf closed his jaws and lay down Francis’ feet. He then brought the wolf into the town and made a pact between the people and the wolf: the townsfolk were to feed the wolf regularly and in return the wolf would no longer prey upon them or their flocks.
Compared to Francis, Aelred of Riveaulx is a bit thin in the legends department. In modern times he has become the patron saint of several gay advocacy groups because of his writing on Spiritual Friendship. So in a sense legends have cropped up around him in retrospect. In his writings he actually appears to have rejected homosexuality. Nonetheless, this appears on the Integrity USA website:
“Whereas the Episcopal Church USA meeting in General Convention in Anaheim, California, in 1985, with full knowledge, thanks to the vigilance of the bishop of Newark, of St. Aelred’s homoerotic orientation, did approve for annual commemoration in her liturgical calendar the Feast of St. Aelred on 12 January and did provide propers for the same, Therefore be it resolved that Integrity Inc. place itself under the protection and patronage of St. Aelred of Rievaulx and, be it further resolved that Integrity, Inc. dedicate itself to regularly observe his feast, promote his veneration and seek before the heavenly throne of grace the support of his prayers on behalf of justice and acceptance for lesbians and gay men.”
It’s also hard to beat Francis in the kitsch department. Francis lawn ornaments are a cottage industry throughout the free world. Extensive research tells me that Aelred lawn ornaments are exceedingly rare.