April 21, 1998
Tuesday, April 21:
Tuesday in the Second Week of Easter and
Feast of Saint Anselm, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
First Reading: Acts 4: 32-37
Psalms: Psalm 93: 1-2, 5
Gospel Reading: John 3: 7-15
SAINT ANSELM, BISHOP & DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH
Born in 1033 in the village of Aosta, Italy near Piedmont St. Anselm became a Benedictine monk despite his father's protests. To fulfill his
vocation he was forced to flee to France where he entered the Benedictine monastery at Bec in Normandy, France at the age of 23. There he was appointed abbot in 1078 and became known far and wide as a dynamic preacher. His prowess as a holy man reached across the channel to Britain where the English King William Rufus (William II) requested he become his highness' personal confessor. In 1092 the English clergy overwhelmingly beseeched him to become Archbishop of Canterbury which had been vacant for three years. While Anselm consented to it, he refused to compromise the Church's position with the state and the English king who, for worldly reasons, refused to acknowledge Anselm. To further aggravate the situation, William II demanded excessive payments from Anselm for the diocese which the latter refused to pay. Those who were not loyal to Rome backed the king against Anselm, but when the bishop made an impassioned plea to the people, "If any man pretends that I violate my faith to my king because I will not reject the authority of the Holy See of Rome, let him stand forth, and in the name of God I will answer him as I ought." The common people understood he was one of them and they rallied behind Anselm who fled England to Rome. There Pope Urban I backed Anselm and refused William's demands for fees or threats to confiscate diocesan property. The king realized he had met his match and the "vox populi" sounded solidly behind Anselm against the king. William wilted and died in 1100. With the obstacle gone, Anselm returned triumphantly to England but ran into almost the same problems with William's successor King Henry II over lay investiture. Anselm returned to Rome where Urban's successor Pope Paschal II strongly supported the archbishop. Henry realized it was a no-win situation and recanted allowing Anselm to return and invest bishops and abbots himself instead of the king. In 1102 at a synod in Westminster, Anselm was one of the first to vigorously denounce slave trade in Africa. In 1108, Henry made Anselm a regent and a year later Anselm passed on to his Heavenly reward when he breathed his last on April 21, 1109 at the age of seventy six.
Though he had been embroiled in many disputes with imperial parties during his bishopric, he wrote many tomes on theology and established a powerful influence on the people of his time, coming to be known as the "Father of Scholasticism." He was studied in depth by such luminaries as Saint Thomas Aquinas. In 1720 Pope Clement XI declared Anselm a "Doctor of the Church."