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Saint Anselm

Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church. 

Anselm was born about 1033, of noble parents, at Aosta, in the Piedmont borders of Italy. When he was fifteen he sought to become a monk, but was kept therefrom by his father. This same was a stern man, who treated his son severely so that in later life, when Anselm himself had become famous as a teacher, he advised that lads at school should not be dealt with harshly, lest they be like trees bound with bands, that do but twist and tangle in their growth. In his disappointment over his failure to become a monk, Anselm bitterly gave himself to worldliness, for which he afterwards never ceased to repent. When his gentle mother died, his father sternly sent him forth to study in Burgundy. Thence he went to the great Abbey of Bec, to be under the tutelage of the well-known scholar Lanfranc; and there at the age of twenty-seven, after his father's death, he became a monk. Straightway his reputation for learning and godliness began to spread abroad; for after only three years in religious vows, he was made Priory and after fifteen years as Prior, he was elected Abbot. Meanwhile his friend Lanfranc had been sent elsewhere, and was finally made Archbishop of Canterbury.

Now the Abbey of Bec had possessions in England, in administration of which the Abbot Anselm used sometimes to visit there, and so he became widely known in those provinces, and after the death of Lanfranc, was much against his will elected archbishop. In the presence of King William Rufus, the pastoral staff was forced into has unwilling hands, and he was carried bodily into the church for the solemn Te Deum. But because William Rufus had despoiled the Church, Anselm refused consecration until due restitution was made. Whereupon the consecration took place with great solemnity on December 4th, 1093, in Canterbury Cathedral. Anselm strove mightily to restore devotion, and to this end he revived the conciliar system in England, and wrote books, and preached. The English monk Eadmer saith that he gave simple instructions, pointed with homely stories which even the childlike could understand. But the King gave him much trouble, so that in 1097 he went to Rome to seek redress from the Pope. During this journey he was taken ill, and retiring to a monastery to regain his health, he finished his most notable book, to wit: Why God became Man. He is known as Father of Scholasticism, and was the greatest theologian of his age, and as a metaphysician, surpassed everyone after the time of Augustine in the matter of original and independent thinking.

The death of William Rufus put an end to his exile. But with the successor of Rufus, King Henry I, he became involved in the controversy over investiture. In those days every bishop did homage to his temporal prince, in token of his loyalty to the state in the enjoyment of the temporalities of his See; but these secular rulers claimed the right to invest bishops with the insignia of their office, as though their spiritual power also came from the state; and from the abuses which thus arose, the practice was forbidden by the Church. Again Anselm was forced to leave England. But this time he was able to effect an agreement between the ecclesiastical and secular authorities that homage should be done to the King, in token of loyalty as to temporalities, but that investiture should come from the ecclesiastical authorities, in token of spiritual jurisdiction. And King Henry came to love Anselm and even made him regent during an absence in Normandy in 1108. For Anselm was known for his sincerity and kindliness, and was beloved of both the great and humble amongst all the various nationalities with whom he dealt. He was one of the first to oppose the slave trade, and caused to be enacted a prohibition against selling men like cattle. He died amongst the monks of Canterbury in 1109, during Holy Week; and albeit he was never formally canonized, in 1720 he was declared a Doctor of the Church. His body is believed to lie where it was enshrined, namely, in Canterbury Cathedral, in the chapel called by his name, on the south-east side of the high altar.


O GOD, by whose providence blessed Anselm was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation: grant we beseech thee, that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate in heaven. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Anglican Breviary, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc., New York, 1955, pages 1170-1171

Additional Information:

Ordo Kalendars are available from the Anglican Parishes Association Book Publisher.

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