Bishop Confessor, Doctor of the Church (1033 -1109)
Born in Aosta in the Italian Alps, St Anselm came from the noble Lombard family. His mother, Ermenberga, a Burgundian, was a pious woman, but after her death his father's violence and harshness led Anselm to flee home. After several years of wandering in France he took the Benedictine habit in 1060 at Bee (Normandy), where his illustrious countryman Blessed Lanfranc had started his famous school. Soon outstanding for his learning, within a span of three years he was made Prior and, after another 15 years, despite his reluctance, Abbot.
While at Bee he wrote his well known philosophical and theological works, the Monologium and the Proslogium, with the ontological argument for the existence of God. As Abbot, Anselm had to cross over to England from time to time in connection with his abbey's English properties; he thereby came to be so known and highly esteemed for his virtues of holiness and prudence that in 1093 he was, in spite of his strenuous remonstrances, made Archbishop of Canterbury, in the hope that he would be able to cope with the encroachments of King William the Red.
William had kept the See of Canterbury vacant for four years after the death of Lanfranc in order to seize its income. Anselm's insistence on reforming the Church and maintaining her rights saw him now banished to the Continent by the king. However, William's successor, Henry I, recalled him in 1100, but the encroachments continued, and a second exile followed. Reconciliation was not effected until 1107, when the king relinquished his claim to investing Bishops and Abbots, though the latter were permitted by the Pope to take an oath of allegiance in the light of their temporal possessions. Two years later Anselm died at Canterbury on 21 April 1109.
Gentle and self-effacing by nature, St Anselm was unyielding on matters of principle. A man of fearless zeal, he strongly denounced the slave trade and staunchly defended the Filioque ("and from the Son"), a doctrine that indicated matter- of-factly that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son.
Many important writings of this noble Prelate, who was considered the greatest intellect of his age and a "pattern for all theologians", were composed during his two banishments. His main work is Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man), a dialogue with a non-Christian. Debunking the theory that Satan has a right over man through sin, this treatise teaches that sin is essentially an infinite offence against God, which demands adequate atonement, an act the God-Man Jesus performed once and for all on the Cross. The deep and abiding influence which his thinking has had upon the Church's philosophy and theology earned him the titles of "Father of Scholasticism" and "Doctor of the Universal Church" (1720).
Reflection :"O Lord, our God, grant us the grace to desire you with our whole heart, that in desiring you we may seek and find you; that finding you we may love you, and loving you we may despise the sins from which you have redeemed us" (St Anselm).