SAINT ANSELM of CANTERBURY (1033-1109)
bishop and Doctor of the Church
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Anselm, who became one of the Church’s greatest theologians and leaders. He received the title “Father of Scholasticism” for his attempt to analyze and illumine the truths of faith through the aid of reason.
Anselm was born into Italian nobility in 1033 at Aosta, a town in the region of Lombardy, Italy. After a childhood devoted to piety and study, Anselm, at the age of fifteen, desired to enter religious life, but was refused acceptance because of his father’s opposition. As a result, Anselm became rather worldly for several years. Upon the death of his mother, Anselm traveled to France in 1056, and became a Benedictine monk in Normandy in the year 1060. He eventually became abbot in 1078.
Considered an original and independent thinker, Anselm was admired for his patience, gentleness and teaching skill. Under his leadership, the abbey became a monastic school, influential in philosophical and theological studies. During these years, at the community’s request, Anselm began publishing his theological works, comparable to those of Saint Augustine. His best-known work is the book “Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man)”.
Because of the physical closeness and political connections, there was frequent travel and communication between Normandy and England, and Anselm was in repeated contact with Church officials in England. In 1092, at the age of sixty, Abbot Anselm was chosen Archbishop of Canterbury, which he reluctantly accepted.
As archbishop, Anselm strongly supported ecclesiastical independence of the Church from political encroachment by the king, which earned for him exile from the country until 1106. He also opposed slavery, and obtained English legislation prohibiting the sale of human beings. He also strongly supported celibate clergy, and approved the addition of several saints to the liturgical calendar of England.
He journeyed to Rome, and, at the Council of Bari in 1098, supported Pope Urban II against the errors of the Greeks, defending the Church’s teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.
Archbishop Anselm was one of the great philosophers and theologians of the middle ages, as well as a noted theological writer, and his writings bear eloquent testimony to his moral stature and learning. He was far more at home in the monastery than in political circles, but he was still able to improve the position of the Church in England.
Archbishop Anselm died on Wednesday of Holy Week, April 21, 1109 in Canterbury, England. He was canonized a saint in 1492 by Pope Alexander VI, and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1720 by Pope Clement XI.
We commemorate his feastday on April 21.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Anselm)
“Father, You called Saint Anselm to study and teach the sublime truths You have revealed. Let Your gift of faith come to the aid of our understanding and open our hearts to Your Truth.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”