was a daring soul. He was unafraid to try new adventures. Prayer
gave him new confidence to venture out into the unknown. He wasn't
always successful. He searched his mind and heart earnestly to
discover God and never gave up on his vocation despite a long delay.
One major contribution that Anselm excelled in was his opposition to
the slave trade. Secondly, his emphasis on freedom of choice and new
ideas about prayer were a first for the church.
The links at
the end of each doctor have more information than the summary. They contain some original sources and are more authentic than any
The beginning of Anselm's teenage years was
difficult because he wanted to enter a monastery but was refused
acceptance because of his father's opposition.
Do we not see
the same thing today all around us? Parents and children generally
want what is best. Occasionally there are different visions,
attitudes and approaches on how to live one's own life and what to do. This type of challenge and
confrontation goes on nonstop. Who is right or are both right? This
is definitely the age of opinion. The best way in disagreements
stemming from diverse opinions is to have a spirit of charity,
patience and understanding. Try to follow Anselm's advice. Imitate
Anselm realized his predicament had, as others experienced, similar situations in the desire to give themselves
totally to God. This can cause a dilemma. How can this happen? Why
does it happen? Are not parents supposed to be supportive of their
children and should not children, at least as teenagers, be obedient
to parents and other legal authorities?
God is always
preparing us to enter more deeply into the divine life with more
trust and surrender because nowadays there are no more pat answers.
It took Anselm another twelve years to really discern what to do
with his life. Then, he entered a monastery in Normandy, England.
Only after much disenchantment and indifference toward religion as a
young man, he returned. Sound familiar? Lesson number one from St
Anselm: it is never too late to begin or try again.
lovingly keeps after us. Anselm was gifted with the awareness that
the Almighty hounded and chased after him. Why? It's almost as if we
complete God's make-up, if that were possible. We know that's not
the case. God does not need us. However, it does not seem that way.
His words can draw, attract and pull us stronger than gravitational
forces sometimes. Besides, we are God's creatures and subject not
only to spiritual attractions but also to physical, earthly forces
and laws. Sometimes these divine forces, which we do not control,
nor do we understand, move us and have powerful motivational
We are made in God’s image and the laws of love are
stamped in us. God is the Creator and Source of life: natural and
supernatural, human and divine, heavenly and earthly. The Father
sent the Man-God to assure us that the holy One wants us to ardently return
his favors. Our Author wants us to understand that he craves us. God
wants to imprint, impress and write the supreme Being's story into our genes and is
constantly doing it with each breath we breathe. We can only believe
this when we understand it. We must know it in order to want it.
Anselm’s pursuit was exercising faith to understand and to use his
understanding to believe. The Spirit of God performs this work when
we cooperate and trust in the divine Spirit.
Our personal Lover and Creator writes new chapters into us daily. We are incomplete
breathing realities. Our existence is borrowed breath. Our perfect
Lover desires from us a divine and earthly romance. God thirsts for
love! Jesus’ very last words testify to this truth as he hung dying.
God constantly recalls for us that he wants our intimate thoughts to
be united to the Lord. However, God's infinite longing for us is perfectly
balanced with the mighty One's infinite patience. The Master's last words are
meaningful for us to recall. “I thirst”. Those words should convinces
us that it really was not water that he thirsted for when Jesus was
about to expire. His entire life was service to us and loving
servitude to his Father. He shared with us his love right up to his
last breath. His last words were for the Father. His entire life was
a constant sharing of love from beginning to end. God's urgency for
us is perfectly balanced with infinite calmness waiting for
God is in no rush to get anything done. God has eternity
and we have a lifetime. Once God raises us up on a spiritual plateau
we almost immediately perceive higher and new landings and
challenges. It is as if our Redeemer is persistently asking us to
come up higher to reach him and grow in his union, friendship and
daily intimacy. There are infinite degrees of union. Once we are
united continually with the holy will of God we somehow sense his
presence and begin to live and dwell in that Presence even if we are
not conscious of it. Obviously, God is omnipresent and more and more
that awareness of the infinite becomes one. It doesn't have to do
with thinking but in loving.
Anselm spent nearly twenty
years exploring how to please God more in prayer before he became
the abbot of the monastery. He was continually attempting to analyze
and illumine the truths of faith through the aid of reason. This led
him to a new discovery of prayer, which has been practiced for
centuries, thanks to him. He is called the Scholastic Doctor, almost
unfairly, because it is archaic church terminology. In his day,
there existed, what is called, scholastic theology and philosophy.
It was most pedantic-a splitting-of-hair-definition. Anselm
introduced an excessively subtle dimension to learning and in an
attempt to love God excessively, if that were possible. His main
emphasis was growth in love, charity and familiarity with divine
This pioneer saint set a precedent in writing for laymen
and monks. He broke away from a strongly liturgical form to develop
a daring and essentially private genre written in rhymed prose with
intricate antitheses and strikingly bold images. Each of his prayers
is addressed to an individual saint and charts the suppliant's
progression from inertia to intense spiritual awareness. Read his
books and you'll understand!
An example of his embracing and
warm writing style is his conversation with John the Baptist. Listen
to the intimate and humble pouring out of his soul to this saint. Again taken from The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm with the Proslogion.
You are that John
who baptized God; you were praised by an archangel before you were
begotten by your father; you were full of God before you were born
of your mother; you knew God before you knew the world; you showed
your mother the mother bearing God before the mother who bore you
within her showed you the day. It was of you that God said: “Among
them that are born of women there has not risen a greater.’’
To you, sir, who are so great, holy and blessed, comes a
guilty, creeping thing, a wretched little man whose senses are
almost dead with grief, and, what grieves him even more, a sinner
with a dead soul. To you, so great a friend of God, he comes, very
fearful, doubtful of his salvation, because he is sure of the
greatness of his guilt, but hoping in your greater grace; for your
grace, sir, is greater than my guilt; what you are able to do before
God will more than blot out all my wickedness. To you, then, sir,
whom grace has made such a friend of God, to, in my distress, I
I, the accused of God through manifold iniquities,
worth nothing because of so much misery, come to you whom grace has
filled with blessedness. Truly, sir, I admit this: my sins have made
me what I am, but you have not made yourself what you are, but the
grace of God with you. So remember, sir, that as the grace of God
made you so high, so your mercy can raise him up who is laid so low
Notice that Anselm humbly pours out his soul by
addressing John by the title, sir, five times. If he could show such
reverence, respect and awe to a creature what must be the profound
manner that he would address his Creator?
Anselm imparts to
us that genuine prayer is extraordinarily sensitive, delicate and
personal. The more we attempt to converse with God, his Mother or
any of his saints tenderly, sincerely and humbly the less we become
and the more God unites us to himself. The life of God dwelling in
our soul transforms us to have a tremendous respect for life for
all-even killers. If prayer isn't fond respect for all forms of life
it is not authentic conversation with the Creator. Anselm's prayer
towards the Baptist takes on the very sentiment, feeling, grace and
words that John possessed when the gospel tells us what he said: He
must become more and more, I must become less and less.
Anselm's personal ardor, literary brilliance and scrupulous
theology have secured him widespread with lasting admiration. His
tussle, as Archbishop of Canterbury, with the early Norman kings has
earned his place in secular and religious History. From the
Penguin Classics edition entitled The Prayers and Meditations of St.
Anselm with the Proslogion. This last word: Proslogion, means a
colloquy or loving conversation with God in which he goes about
using his faith in search of understanding God. It has fifteen pages
of twenty-six chapters-a quick read but a profound and lasting
meditation for a lifetime.
His best known work is Why God
Became Man. It will be apparent that Anselm was a highly independent
thinker and an original one. In the eyes of God we are all original
but some appear more by significant contributions.
pays a price in life no matter if they serve God or not. Those who
find God do it with love and peace. St Anselm lived in exile for six
years and during two separate periods. This was because he was
appointed Archbishop of Canterbury-which he did not want-and later
was opposed by England's king.
Greatly important is that St
Anselm was the first in the church to oppose the slave trade. He
obtained from the National Council of Westminster the passage of a
resolution prohibiting the sale of human beings. He had a great care
and concern for the poorest people. What may be the equivalent today
is the "Human Rights" issue.
More than half of 185 nations
have abolished the death penalty or called for a moratorium on
executions. Sister Helen Prejean among many has been battling this
issue for years. They see the death penalty as a profound moral
contradiction similar to what Anselm saw in his day regarding the
slave trade. The film, Dead Man Walking and sister’s
presentations nationwide have brought this issue to the attention of
many. The most obvious conclusion is that no amount of moral or
religious arguments will ever sway the proponents of the death
penalty. However, there are alternatives such as life without
parole. “The dignity of the human person means that every human
being is worth more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.”
Ignorance, rank discrimination, bias, prejudice and racism have
major roles in abusing human rights. God’s grace alone will uproot
deep-seated values that appear to be just but are cloaked in
spurious arguments that diminish goodness and human dignity. The Catholic
Church from Jesus to the present times needs courageous individuals
who will stand up for human dignity, human rights and God’s
This is how the love of God changes and
transforms our attitudes and dispositions toward others. We take on
a new understanding the way God possesses and we see creatures
strikingly different. Actually, we see physical things with our own
eyes. We understand through invisible forces. Through faith, we take
on Christ's dimensions. His eyes become, as it were, our eyes. The
real, physical ears of Christ become ours too. Remember he became a
man for us. When we permit God's graces, and not merely allow, we
are delicately and powerfully touched both within and without.
Again, that was and is his testament to the world. Why did God become man? The answer is patently clear in Anselm’s book, Why God
Became Man. God wants man to become most God-like so that Creator
and creature will be alike. It the same theme that all the doctors
refer to in their own specific and strategic approach to others. God
wants us to see a mirror of the Deity everywhere because God’s beauty
is eternally generous. It just makes good sense if we see clearly as
God. However, this can not happen unless we cooperate, give
wholeheatedly, and unselfishly, and are graced. Don’t just let and
Although Anselm was a gentle and mild
person, he did not back off on principles. We can easily be reminded
of our past, President Abe Lincoln, who freed the slaves. He too
paid the price. Although Anselm was not murdered as Lincoln, he had
to undergo a form of oppression, opposition and conflict with those
in political control.
One of Anselm's penetrating letters
that reveal his spirit and soul and which sums up his radiant unity
with God is the following quote: " No one will have any other desire
in heaven than what God wills; and the desire of one will be the
desire of all; and the desire of all and of each one will also be
the desire of God."
This quote contains an attitude and
stance about liberty and independence to the fullest. Anselm new
style of writing, took away, or minimized, unnecessary fear of God.
It makes us bold. Anselm would say: "How could we fear when our
salvation or damnation hangs on the will of a good Brother and
devoted mother". Again, we see the doctors pointing to Mary in a
subtle but unmistakable, personal and intimate manner. She is the
mother of humankind because she is the Mother of God. His treatise,
On the Virginal Conception and on Original Sin as well as fervent
prayers addressed to the Virgin were most influential. His writings
drew new attention to the significance of Mary. "O woman marvelously
unique and uniquely marvelous". Anselm's prayers about Mary and the
church's high esteem regarding her led others to protest and counter
with an idea of Marioltry. Mary’s honor, then as now, is seen as a
diminution of the glory of Christ as the sole
Jaroslav Pelikan, the Sterling Professor of History
Emeritus at Yale University, has some exciting things to say about
Mary through Anselm. His book, Mary, through the centuries, (Her
place in the History of Culture) is most revealing: "As the
greatness of God could be defined in the famous formula of Anselm's
ontological argument for the existence of God as that than which
nothing greater can be thought, so, the purity of the Virgin could
be defined, again, by Anselm as that than which, under God, nothing
greater can be thought." Among all that could be called holy save
God, Mary possessed a holiness that was unique. Anselm terminology
included devoted Son and devoted Mother and good Lord and good Lady.
He said that we forget that Mary is the Mother of the Judge in the
day of need. She is truly the Gate of Heaven and the Window of
We might ask Mary through St Anselm to guide our
reason through our faith as well as guide our faith through our
reason. Both will complement each other daily when we use them
jointly. We do this through our intelligence, wise use of our
reasoning powers, and prayer-worship devotion. Our supplication might
be: Despise not our petition holy Mary and through your Son please
enable us to value all creatures as you assisted your holy abbot and
lover, St Anselm.
The following are Benedictine links:
A fascinating link of Saint Anselm on the web site from the ministry of Dr Marcellino D'Ambrosio is listed below.
The below web site contains comprehensive resources on our church, faith, the bible, saints, writings, apologetics, evangelization, family issues, links, and many pertinent services. This superior and highly organized web site (see Table of Content) is a most fascinating site with beautiful prayers, devotions, and really too much to enumerate. A truly universal catholic site.
Again, the below is taken from The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm with the Proslogion, and is a sample of Anselm's Prayer to Saint Nicholas.
GIVE ME, LORD, NICHOLAS AS MY INTERCESSOR, YOUR GREAT CONFESSOR WHOM YOU HAD GLORIFIED WITH THE NAME OF BLESSED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.
SAINT NICHOLAS, I PRAY TO YOU THROUGH HIM WHO HAS MADE YOUR NAME VENERATED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD; DO NOT REFUSE TO HELP A NEEDY SUPPLIANT.
WHY, SIR, ARE YOU CALLED UPON BY ALL MEN IN ALL THE WORLD UNLESS YOU ARE TO BE AN ADVOCATE OF ALL WHO PRAY TO YOU?
WHY DOES THIS SOUND IN ALL EARS, "MY LORD, SAINT NICHOLAS", "MY LORD, SAINT NICHOLAS", UNLESS IT MEANS, "MY ADVOCATE, SAINT NICHOLAS", "MY ADVOCATE SAINT NICHOLAS?"
WHY IS YOUR NAME POURED FORTH EVERYWHERE EXCEPT THAT THE WORLD MAY HAVE SOME GREAT GOOD POURED INTO IT?
YOUR FAME CALLS TO ME, YOUR MIRACLES SEND ME TO YOUR INTERCESSION, YOUR WORKS DRAW ME TO SEEK YOUR HELP.
BUT WHY DO I SPEAK ABOUT YOUR MIRACLES, WHEN YOUR POWER NOW IS GREATER THAN THEM ALL?
WHY DO I RECOUNT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE, WHEN BEFORE GOD YOU NOW HAVE SUPREME GRACE? WHY RECOUNT THE HELP THAT YOU GAVE TO MANY WHEN YOU ARE ABLE TO GIVE SPIRITUAL HELP NOW THAT YOU LIVE IN HEAVEN, OF MORE VALUE THAN THE CORPORAL HELP THAT YOU GAVE DURING YOUR PILGRIMAGE UPON EARTH?
FOR IT IS NOT AS IF YOU WERE ABLE TO DO THOSE THINGS THEN AND CAN NO LONGER DO THEM. NO, I SAY, YOU COULD NOT HAVE POWER ONLY IN THOSE THINGS THAT COME TO NOTHING, AND TO BE POWERLESS IN THOSE THAT GO ON INTO ETERNITY.
INDEED, YOU DID NOT ONLY ACCOMPLISH THE FORMER, YOU DID NOT ASCEND MERELY THAT YOU MIGHT GRANT THEM. BESTOW UPON US THE SPIRITUAL THINGS IN WHICH YOU GLORY, THE JOYS OF ETERNITY IN WHICH YOU REJOICE, POUR UPON US THE HEAVENLY THINGS TO WHICH YOU HAVE TURNED. THROUGH YOU WE NEEDY ONES COME TO KNOW THAT ABUNDANCE WHICH YOU RECEIVE FULLY IN A PERPETUAL STREAM.
O YOUR PLENITUDE OF GOODNESS, AND MY ABUNDANCE OF BADNESS!
HOW FAR THEY ARE FROM EACH OTHER!
HOW VEHEMENTLY THE FIRST MAKES YOU HAPPY, HOW GREATLY DOES THE LATTER MAKE ME UNHAPPY.
THE FIRST COMES DOWN FROM THE PLENITUDE OF GOD, THE LATTER GOES UP FROM THE NEED OF MYSELF;
THE FIRST FLOWS FROM THE ABUNDANCE OF GOD, THE LATTER SURGES UP FROM MY POVERTY.
O IF ONLY THAT SUPER-ABUNDANCE WOULD OVERFLOW AND FLOOD INTO MY ABUNDANT ILLS!
O IF ONLY THAT FULL PLENITUDE WOULD FILL THE EMPTINESS OF MY NEED!
I DO NOT DOUBT, SIR, THAT YOU CAN DO THIS FOR ME, IF YOU ARE WILLING TO ASK THAT MUCH FOR ME OF MY JUDGE WHO IS YOUR BELOVED FRIEND-SAINT ANSELM, (+1109) ABBOT, BISHOP, PHILOSOPHER, AND THEOLOGIAN.