April 21, 2016

April 21st: Optional Memorial of Saint Anselm

St. Anselm
Saint Anselm was born in Aosta, Italy, in 1033. Anselm's contributions to the Church are numerous. As Archbishop of Canterbury he defended the Church against the encroachments of the monarchy, who possessed Church lands, impeded the Archbishop's communications with the Holy See, and claimed the right to appoint bishops, the exclusive preserve of the Church's spiritual jurisdiction. As a philosopher and theologian Anselm developed a method of reasoning that prepared the way for the thinkers of the Middle Ages. He is credited as the founder of Scholasticism. Anselm's dialogues and treatises are still read today. He is most famous for originating the ontological argument for the existence of God which he described thusly in his treatise, Prosologium:
God is that, than which nothing greater can be conceived.… And [God] assuredly exists so truly, that it cannot be conceived not to exist. For, it is possible to conceive of a being which cannot be conceived not to exist; and this is greater than one which can be conceived not to exist. Hence, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, can be conceived not to exist, it is not that, than which nothing greater can be conceived. But this is an irreconcilable contradiction. There is, then, so truly a being than which nothing greater can be conceived to exist, that it cannot even be conceived not to exist; and this being thou art, O Lord, our God.
Anselm had a great devotion to Mary and was the first to establish the feast of the Immaculate Conception in the West. His final years were marked by suffering, during which he was exiled twice in disputes with the political authorities. Anselm died on Holy Wednesday, April 21, 1109. His remains are entombed in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Life of St. Anselm

As prior and abbot, Anselm made the Benedictine monastery of Bec the center of a true reformation in Normandy and England. From this monastery he exercised a restraining influence on popes, kings, the worldly great, and entire religious orders. Raised to the dignity of Archbishop of Canterbury and primate of England, he waged a heroic campaign in defense of the rights and liberties of the Church. As a result he was deprived of goods and position and finally banned from the country. He journeyed to Rome, and at the Council of Bari supported Pope Urban II against the errors of the Greeks. His writings bear eloquent testimony to his moral stature and learning, and have earned for him the title of "Father of Scholasticism."

From The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

St. Anselm exhibited remarkable versatility in his life; a combination of contemplation, prayer, study, writing, and external activity. This was partly the result of the extraordinary talent that God gave him, but it was likewise the fruit of Anselm's faithful exercise of his talent in the study of natural and supernatural truths. But his chief merit lay in his earnest, conscious effort to live in accordance with what he had learned from the study of divine truths. By this means he was able to ascend to the heights of a life of faith and union with God. There is very much that we can learn from this great teacher.

"Lord, I do not presume to fathom the depths of your truths, for my understanding is not equal to the task. Nevertheless, I desire to learn Your truths in some measure—those truths that I believe and love. I do not seek to gain knowledge so that I can believe; rather, I believe so that I may gain knowledge. No matter how persistently my soul gazes, it still beholds nothing of Your beauty; my soul listens intently, and yet it hears nothing of the learning of Your Being; my soul wants to breathe in Your fragrance, and yet perceives none of it. What are You, Lord? Under what image can my heart recognize You? Truly, You are life; You are truth; You are Goodness; You are Holiness; You are eternity; You are everything good! O man, why do you roam about so far in search of good things for soul and body? Love the one Good, in whom all goods are contained, and that will satisfy you!" (St. Anselm.)

Excerpt via Catholic Culture.org.

Symbols: Benedictine monk admonishing an evildoer; archbishop; ship; with Our Lady appearing before him; with a ship.

Collect Prayer

O God, who led the Bishop Saint Anselm to seek out and teach the depths of your wisdom, grant, we pray, that our faith in you may so aid our understanding, that what we believe by your command may give delight to our hearts. 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.


    

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