Posted in SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 21 April – St Anselm (1033-1109) Bishop, Confessor, Doctor

Saint of the Day – 21 April – St Anselm (1033-1109) Bishop, Confessor, Magnificent and Marian Doctor of the Church

St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury
By Fr Francis Xavier Weninger SJ (1805-1888)

“Anselm, the celebrated Archbishop of Canterbury, in England, was born in Piedmont in the year 1033. He was gifted by nature with brilliant talents and a large, comprehensive mind. When he was hardly fifteen years of age, he was desirous of entering upon a religious life but he was not, admitted, as it was feared that it would provoke the wrath of his father and his noble relatives. This refusal was so deeply regretted by Anselm that he fell into a grievous illness which renewed his determination to enter a Monastery. On his recovery, however, he forgot his resolution and not only did he lose all inclination to enter the religious state, but he began to lead a much more worldly life than he had done previously. It was fortunate for him that, to a certain extent, he had lost his father’s love and was treated by him rather harshly. Not being able to endure this, Anselm left home, hoping that his absence might restore to him his father’s affection.

He, therefore, proceeded to France, where he remained for three years. Suddenly his desire to study, which had lain dormant in his mind so long, was reawakened and hearing that the celebrated Doctor Lanfranc, his compatriot, instructed young men in sacred science, in an Abbey not far distant, he went to him and begged to be admitted among the number of his disciples. Lanfranc consented and Anselm made such rapid progress in his studies that he soon left all others behind him.

During this time, he renewed his zeal in the practice of piety and virtue and also his determination to give his life entirely to the Almighty. In pursuance of this, he received the Habit, at the age of twenty-seven, in the Abbey of St Benedict, where he had studied and, after having passed through his novitiate, he took his vows. How eanestly he strove after spiritual perfection is evident from the fact that three years after, he had taken the vows, he succeeded Lanfranc, his teacher, as Prior of the same Abbey, the latter being called as Abbot to another Monastery. Several, who had been longer in the Order than he, envied and persecuted him on account of his promotion but the exquisite gentleness, patience and humility of Anselm soon won him all hearts and changed envy and jealousy into love and respect. His holy life added much to their veneration. He fasted almost daily,and his body became fearfully emaciated. By his constant mortification, he lost all relish for food. During the day, he instructed others in sacred science and in the Mysteries of the Faith. The greater part of the night he passed in prayer and meditation.

He attended, before all his other affairs, to the sick, day and night and wherever he was needed. He fed them and lifted them in and out of their beds, with his own hands. The most tender devotion he bore to our Crucified Saviour and often wept bitterly when he thought how our Redeemer, notwithstanding all His sufferings for us, is so frequently and so deeply offended. His aversion to sin was so intense that he, several times said that he would rather cast himself into hell, than commit a mortal sin. He shunned carefully the least thing that he thought was displeasing to God – because nothing is little which offends the Most High and often from something which appears, in itself, of small importance, eternal happiness or damnation depends! He too, was much devoted to the Blessed Virgin and was one of the first who defended, by the pen, her Immaculate Conception. Besides this, he wrote many other works in praise of the Divine Mother,and endeavoured to incite others to pay her due honours.

After the death of the Abbot, Anselm was unanimously elected as his successor, although he did what he could to prevent it. Invested with this new dignity, he changed, not in the least his mode of life, unless he was more fervent than ever in all his devotional exercises.

The fame of his sanctity and erudition spread abroad daily, more and more, so that he was not only esteemed by the Prelates of the Church, as well as by Kings but also by Pope Gregory VII, who, harassed on account of the sad condition of the Church at that period, recommended himself several times to the prayers of the Saint.

Some business appertaining to his Convent called Anselm to England and as his name was already well known there, he was everywhere received with the greatest honour. While he was, in England, Lanfranc, who after being instructor to Anselm, had become Abbot and then Archbishop of Canterbury, died and the King, without hesitation, chose St Anselm to be his successor and although the Saint most earnestly declined, he was at last obliged to yield to the influences of the clergy. He shed many bitter tears during his Consecration but once installed in his new functions, he went zealously to work to change the depraved manners of the people by preaching, writing instructive works and holding Councils.

Everything was going well, when the King himself caused great disturbances. He took forcible possession of a great deal of property belonging to the Church and would not consent that, during the division which at that time existed in the Church, anyone else but himself, should be regarded as the head thereof. Anselm courageously protected the rights and liberties of the Church and opposed, with manly independence, the wicked oppression and evil designs of the King. Hence, the unscrupulous counsellors of the King, persecuted him, banished his friends, deprived him of his revenues and tormented him in manifold ways, thinking thus to intimidate him and make him pliable to the King’s wishes. But they were mistaken. The Saint remained inflexible and was willing, rather to die, than in the least to swerve from his duty. Believing that the wrath of the King would be sooner appeased, if another occupied his See, he went to Rome and humbly requested the Pope to release him from his Archbishopric. The Pope, however, refusing his request, endeavoured to reconcile him with the King and meanwhile, made use of the knowledge and talents of the holy man in his warfare against the heretics and schismatics.

After sometime, Anselm went to Lyons, in France, to escape the honours which were tendered to him at Rome. While there, King William of England, who had so violently resented the Saint’s protection of the rights of the Church, died an unhappy death. He was hunting and the excitement was just at its height, when the fatal arrow of a French officer piercing his heart, sent him, without a moment for repentance, into eternity. Indescribably grieved was Anselm on hearing this news and he said more than once, that he would willingly give his life, if with his blood, he could save the soul of the unhappy Monarch. Before the intelligence of the King’s death had reached Lyons, Hugh, the holy Abbot of Cluny, said to Anselm : “King William stands accused before the Judgement Seat of the Most High and is already judged and sentenced to the eternal fire.

On the death of King William, the crown fell to his son Henry, who, warned by the example of his father, endeavoured to ameliorate matters. He abolished the intolerable investitures, was gracious and kind to all, would neither have anything to do with the property of the Church, nor lay hands on the income of the clergy. As he knew how great the consideration was that Anselm enjoyed among all right-minded people, he recalled him to England and received him very graciously. But this behaviour was of short duration and before long the Archbishop had again to make a journey to Rome to seek protection for the rights of the Church, which Henry, like his father, commenced to violate. The Pope granted the Saint all he requested, all that justice demanded but when the King heard of it, he forbade the Archbishop to return to his See.

Anselm, therefore, repairing once more to Lyons, remained there for sixteen months. While there he daily celebrated the Holy Mass and offered many prayers and penances for the conversion of the King and the salvation of the whole land. Meanwhile, all England wished for the return of her shepherd and the King’s sister rested not in her endeavours, until her brother was appeased and allowed him to come back. After the holy man had returned to his See, he strove with all his energy to employ his few remaining years for the benefit of his flock. Thus he passed three peaceful years.

When he was no longer able to say Mass, he caused himself to be carried into the Church that he might at least be present at the Holy Sacrifice, for which he had always evinced the deepest veneration. After having received the Holy Sacraments on Wednesday in Holy Week, he requested to be laid, clad in a penitential robe, on the ground upon ashes and while they read to him the Passion of our Lord, he peacefully expired, in the seventy-sixth year of his age.

The many miracles which were wrought at his tomb caused the fame of his sanctity to be spread abroad through the whole of the Christian world.”



Passionate Catholic. Being a Catholic is a way of life - a love affair "Religion must be like the air we breathe..."- St John Bosco Prayer is what the world needs combined with the example of our lives which testify to the Light of Christ. This site, which is now using the Traditional Calendar, will mainly concentrate on Daily Prayers, Novenas and the Memorials and Feast Days of our friends in Heaven, the Saints who went before us and the great blessings the Church provides in our Catholic Monthly Devotions. This Site is placed under the Patronage of my many favourite Saints and especially, St Paul. "For the Saints are sent to us by God as so many sermons. We do not use them, it is they who move us and lead us, to where we had not expected to go.” Charles Cardinal Journet (1891-1975) This site adheres to the Catholic Church and all her teachings. PLEASE ADVISE ME OF ANY GLARING TYPOS etc - In June 2021 I lost 95% sight in my left eye and sometimes miss errors. Thank you and I pray all those who visit here will be abundantly blessed. Pax et bonum! 🙏

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