Monday, 21 April 2008

Feast of St Anselm OSB

Today is the feast day of one of the great Doctors of the Church, St Anselm.

Dubbed the Father of Scholasticism, he represents the bridge between late antiquity styles of theology, and scholasticism. He is most remembered today for this 'ontological' proof of God, which continues to divide philosophers, but he was also a stalwart warrior in the defence of the rights of the Church against the State, and wrote a number of important theological works, as well as some particularly beautiful prayers and meditations.

He is a particularly useful role model though for leaders, due to his ability to find ways of winning people over in difficult circumstances. Born in Italy in 1033, hecame a monk in France, and was catapulted into the position of Prior after only three years. It didn't please a number of the older monks. But they unanimously elected him Abbot in 1078, and forced him to accept the appointment despite his resistance.

He was an even more reluctant Archbishop of Canterbury (after several days the electing bishops refused to listen any further to his protests and literally picked him up and carried him to the altar), consecrated in 1093. His reluctance was justified, however, because he spent the remaining years of his life in conflict with King William Rufus (son of the Conqueror) and his successor King Henry over lay investiture, the supremacy of the Pope and the rights to Church revenues. He died in 1109.

Here is a little of his prayer for enemies:

"Almighty and tender Lord Jesus Christ,
I have asked you to be good to my friends,
and now I bring before you what I desire in my heart for my enemies.....

You who are the true light, lighten their darkness;
you who are the whole truth, correct their errors;
you who are the true life, give life to their souls...."

You can read more of his work here:

St Anselm, pray for us.

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