"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012
The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch
His father,Gundulf, was aLombardwho had become a citizen ofAosta, and his mother, Ermenberga, came of an oldBurgundianfamily. Like many othersaints,Anselmlearnt the first lessons ofpietyfrom his mother, and at a very early age he was fired with theloveof learning. In afterlifehe still cherished thememoriesof childhood, and his biographer,Eadmer, has preserved some incidents which he had learnt from thesaint'sown lips. The child had heard his mother speak ofGod, Who dwelt on high ruling all things.Livingin the mountains, he thought thatHeavenmust be on their lofty summits. "And while he often revolved these matters in hismind, it chanced that one night he saw in avisionthat he must go up to the summit of the mountain and hasten to the court ofGod, the great King. But before he began toascendthe mountain, he saw in the plain through which he had passed to its foot,women, who were the King's handmaidens, reaping the corn; but they were doing this very negligently andslothfully. Then, grieving for theirsloth, and rebuking them, he bethought him that he would accuse them before theirLordand King. Thereafter, having climbed the mountain he entered the royal court. There he found the King with only hiscupbearer. For it seemed that, as it was now Autumn, the King had sent his household to gather the harvest. As the boy entered he was called by theMaster, and drawing nigh he sat at his feet. Then with cheery kindliness he was asked who and whence he was and what he was seeking. To these questions he made answer as well as heknew. Then at theMaster'scommand some moist white bread was brought him by thecupbearerand he feasted thereon in his presence, wherefore when morning came and he brought tomindthe things he had seen, as a simpler and innocent child hebelievedthat he had truly been fed inheavenwith the bread of theLord, and this he publiclyaffirmedin the presence of others". (Eadmer, Life ofSt.Anselm, I, i.)Eadmeradds that the boy was beloved by all and made rapid progress in learning. Before he was fifteen he sought admission to amonastery. But theabbot,fearingthe father's displeasure, refused him. The boy then made a strangeprayer. He asked for an illness, thinking this would move themonksto yield to his wishes. The illness came but his admission to themonasterywas still denied him. None the less he determined to gain his end at some futuredate. But ere long he was drawn away by the pleasures of youth and lost his firstardourand hisloveof learning. Hislovefor his mother in some measure restrained him. But on her death it seemed that hisanchorwas lost, and he was at the mercy of the waves.
At this time hisfathertreated him with great harshness; so much so that he resolved to leave his home. Taking a single companion, he set out on foot tocrossMont Cenis. At one time he was fainting with hunger and was fain to refresh his strength with snow, when the servant found that some bread was still left in the baggage, andAnselmregained strength and continued the journey. After passing nearly three years inBurgundyandFrance, he came intoNormandyand tarried for a while atAvranchesbefore finding his home at theAbbey of Bec, then made illustrious byLanfranc'slearning.Anselmprofited so well by the lessons of this master that he became his most familiardiscipleand shared in the work of teaching. After spending some time in this labour, he began to think that his toil would have moremeritif he took themonastichabit. But at first he felt some reluctance to enter theAbbey of Bec, where he would be overshadowed byLanfranc. After atime, however, he saw that it would profit him to remain where he would be surpassed by others. His father was now dead, having ended his days in themonastichabit, andAnselmhad some thought of living on his patrimony and relieving theneedy. Thelifeof ahermitalso presented itself to him as a third alternative. Anxious toactwithprudencehe first asked the advice ofLanfranc, who referred thematterto theArchbishopofRouen. Thisprelatedecided in favour of themonastic life, andAnselmbecame amonkin theAbbey of Bec. This was in 1060. Hislifeas a simplemonklasted for three years, for in 1063Lanfrancwas appointedAbbotofCaen, andAnselmwaselectedtosucceedhim asPrior. There is somedoubtas to thedateof this appointment. ButCanonPoreepoints out thatAnselm, writing at the time of hiselectionasArchbishop(1093), says that he had then lived thirty three years in themonastichabit, three years as amonkwithout preferment, fifteen asprior, and fifteen asabbot(Letters ofAnselm, III, vii). This isconfirmedby an entry in the chronicle of theAbbey of Bec, which was compiled not later than 1136. Here it is recorded thatAnselmdied in 1109, in the forty-ninth year of hismonastic lifeand the seventy-sixth of his age, having been three years a simplemonk; fifteen,prior; fifteen,abbot; and sixteenarchbishop(Poree, Histoire de l'abbaye de Bec, III, 173). At first his promotion to the officevacatedbyLanfrancgaveoffenceto some of the othermonkswho considered they had a better claim than the young stranger. ButAnselmovercame their opposition by gentleness, and ere long had won their affection andobedience. To thedutiesofpriorhe added those of teacher. It was likewise during this period that he composed some of hisphilosophicalandtheologicalworks, notably, the "Monologium" and the "Proslogium". Besides givinggoodcounsel to themonksunder his care, he found time to comfort others by his letters.Rememberinghis attraction for the solitude of a hermitage we can hardly wonder that he felt oppressed by this busylifeand longed to lay aside his office and give himself up to the delights ofcontemplation. But theArchbishopofRouenbade him retain his office and prepare for yet greater burdens.
This advice wasprophetic, for in 1078, on the death ofHerluin, founder and firstAbbotofBecAnselmwaselectedtosucceedhim. It was with difficulty that themonksovercame his reluctance to accept the office. His biographer,Eadmer, gives us a picture of a strange scene. The Abbot-elect fell prostrate before the brethren and with tears besought them not to lay this burden on him, while they prostrated themselves and earnestly begged him to accept the office. Hiselectionat once broughtAnselmintorelationswithEngland, where theNormanabbeyhad severalpossessions. In the first year of his office, he visitedCanterburywhere he was welcomed byLanfranc. "The converse ofLanfrancandAnselm", says Professor Freeman, "sets before us a remarkable and memorable pair. The lawyer, thesecularscholar, met the divine and thephilosopher; theecclesiasticalstatesman stood face to face with thesaint. The wisdom,conscientiousnodoubtbut still hard and worldly, which could guidechurchesand kingdoms in troublous times was met by the boundlesslovewhich took in allGod'screatures of whatever race orspecies" (History of theNormanConquest, IV, 442). It is interesting to note that one of the matters discussed on this occasion related to aSaxonarchbishop,Elphage(&#AElig;lfheah), who had beenput to deathby theDanesfor refusing to pay a ransom which would impoverish his people.Lanfrancdoubtedhis claim to thehonoursof amartyrsince he did not die for theFaith. ButAnselmsolved the difficulty by saying that he who died for this lesserreasonwould much more be ready to die for theFaith. Moreover,Christistruthandjusticeand he who dies fortruthandjusticedies forChrist. It was on this occasion thatAnselmfirst metEadmer, then a youngmonkofCanterbury. At the same time thesaint, who in his childhood waslovedby all whoknewhim, and who, asPriorofBec, had won the affection of those who resisted his authority, was already gaining the hearts ofEnglishmen. His fame had spread far and wide, and many of the great men of the age prized his friendship and sought his counsel. Among these wasWilliam the Conqueror, who desired thatAnselmmight come to give him consolation on his death-bed.
WhenLanfrancdied,WilliamRufuskept theSee ofCanterburyvacantfor four years, seized itsrevenues, and kept theChurchinEnglandin a state ofanarchy. To many theAbbotofBecseemed to be the man best fitted for thearchbishopric. The general desire was so evident thatAnselmfelt a reluctance to visitEnglandlest it should appear that he was seeking the office. At length, however, he yielded to the entreaty ofHugh, Earl ofChesterand came toEnglandin 1092. Arriving inCanterburyon theeveof theNativity of the Blessed Virgin, he was hailed by the people as their futurearchbishop; but he hastened away and would in no wiseconsentto remain for thefestival. At a private interview with the King, who received him kindly, he spoke freely on theevilsby which the land was made desolate.Anselm'sown affairs kept him inEnglandfor some months, but when he wished to return toBecthe King objected. Meanwhile the people made no secret of their desires. With the King's permissionprayerswereofferedin all thechurchesthatGodwould move the King to deliver theChurchofCanterburyby the appointment of apastor, and at the request of thebishopsAnselmdrew up theformofprayer. The King fell ill early in the new year (1093), and on his sick-bed he was moved torepentance. Theprelatesand barons urged on him thenecessityofelectinganarchbishop. Yielding to the manifest desire of all he namedAnselm, and alljoyfullyconcurred in theelection.Anselm, however, firmly refused thehonour, whereupon another scene took place still more strange than that which occurred when he waselectedabbot. He was dragged by force to the King's bedside, and apastoral staffwas thrust into his closed hand; he was borne thence to thealtarwhere the "Te Deum" was sung. There is no reason to suspect the sincerity of this resistance.Naturallydrawn tocontemplation,Anselmcould have little liking for such an office even in a period of peace; still less could he desire it in those stormy days. Heknewfull well what awaited him. The King'srepentancepassed away with his sickness andAnselmsoon sawsignsof trouble. His firstoffencewas his refusal toconsentto the alienation ofChurchlands which the King had granted to his followers. Another difficulty arose from the King's need of money. Although hisseewas impoverished by the royal rapacity, theArchbishopwas expected to make his majesty a freegift; and when heofferedfive hundred marks they were scornfully refused as insufficient. As if these trials were not enoughAnselmhad to bear the reproaches of some of themonksofBecwho were loath to lose him; in his letters he is at pains to show that he did not desire the office. He finally wasconsecratedArchbishopofCanterbury4 December, 1093. It now remained for him to go toRometo obtain thepallium. But here was a fresh occasion of trouble. TheAntipope Clementwas disputing the authority ofUrban II, who had been recognized byFranceandNormandy. It does not appear that theEnglishKing was a partisan of theAntipope, but he wished to strengthen his own position by asserting hisrightto decide between the rival claimants. Hence, whenAnselmasked leave to go to thePope, the King said that no one inEnglandshould acknowledge eitherPopetill he, the King, had decided thematter. TheArchbishopinsisted on going toPope Urban, whose authority he had already acknowledged, and, as he had told the King, this was one of theconditionson which alone he would accept thearchbishopric. This grave question was referred to acouncilof the realm held atRockinghamin March, 1095. HereAnselmboldly asserted the authority ofUrban. His speech is a memorable testimony to thedoctrineofpapalsupremacy. It is significant that not one of thebishopscould call it in question (Eadmer, HistoriaNovorum, lib. I). RegardingAnselm'sbeliefon this point we may cite the frank words ofDeanHook: "Anselm was simply apapist— HebelievedthatSt. Peterwas thePrinceof theApostles— that as such he was the source of allecclesiasticalauthority and power; that thepopewas hissuccessor; and that consequently, to thepopewas due, from thebishopsandmetropolitansas well as from the rest ofmankind, theobediencewhich aspiritualsuzerain has therightto expect from his vassals" [Lives of theArchbishopsofCanterbury(London, 18(i0-75), II, 183].
William now sent envoys toRometo get thepallium. They foundUrbaninpossessionand recognized him. Walter,BishopofAlbano, came back with them aslegatebearing thepallium. The King publicly acknowledged the authority ofUrban, and at first endeavoured to getAnselmdeposedby thelegate. Eventually a reconciliation was occasioned by the royal difficulties inWalesand in the north. The King and theArchbishopmet in peace.Anselmwould not take thepalliumfrom the King's hand; but in asolemnservice atCanterburyon 10 June, 1095 it was laid on thealtarby thelegate, whenceAnselmtook it. Fresh trouble arose in 1097. On returning from his ineffectualWelshcampaignWilliambrought a charge against theArchbishopin regard to thecontingenthe had furnished and required him to meet this charge in the King's court.Anselmdeclined and asked leave to go toRome. This was refused, but after a meeting atWinchesterAnselmwas told to be ready to sail in ten days. On parting with the King, theArchbishopgave him hisblessing, whichWilliamreceived with bowed head. AtSt. Omer'sAnselmconfirmeda multitude ofpersons.Christmaswas spent atCluny, and the rest of the winter atLyons. In the spring he resumed his journey andcrossedMont Cenis with two companions all travelling as simplemonks. At themonasterieson their way they were frequently asked for news ofAnselm. On his arrival inRomehe was treated with greathonourby thePope. His case was considered and laid before thecouncil, but nothing could be done beyond sending a letter of remonstrance toWilliam. During his stay inItalyAnselmenjoyed thehospitalityof theAbbotofTelese, and passed the summer in a mountain village belonging to thismonastery. Here he finished his work, "Cur Deus Homo", which he had begun inEngland. In October, 1098,Urbanheld acouncilatBarito deal with the difficulties raised by theGreeksin regard to theprocessionof theHoly Ghost. HereAnselmwas called by thePopeto a place ofhonourand bidden to take the chief part in the discussion. His arguments were afterwards committed to writing in his treatise on this subject. His own case was also brought before thiscouncil, which would haveexcommunicatedWilliambut forAnselm'sintercession. Both he and his companions now desired to return toLyons, but were bidden to await theactionof anothercouncilto be held in theLateranatEaster. HereAnselmheard thecanonspassed againstInvestitures, and thedecreeofexcommunicationagainst the offenders. This incident had a deep influence on his career inEngland.
While still staying in the neighbourhood ofLyons,Anselmheard of the tragic death ofWilliam. Soon messages from the new king and chiefmenof the land summoned him toEngland. Landing atDover, he hastened to KingHenryatSalisbury. He was kindly received, but the question ofInvestitureswas at once raised in an acuteform.Henryrequired theArchbishophimself to receive a freshinvestiture.Anselmalleged thedecreesof the recentRomancounciland declared that he had no choice in thematter. The difficulty was postponed, as the King decided to send toRometo ask for a specialexemption. Meanwhile,Anselmwas able to render the King two signal services. He helped to remove the obstacle in the way of hismarriagewith Edith, the heiress of theSaxonkings. The daughter ofSt. Margarethad sought shelter in aconvent, where she had worn the veil, but had taken novows. It was thought by some that this was a bar tomarriage, butAnselmhad the case considered in acouncilat Lambeth where the royalmaiden'sliberty was fully established, and theArchbishophimself gave hisblessingto themarriage. Moreover, when Robert landed atPortsmouthand many of theNormannobles were wavering in their allegiance, it wasAnselmwho turned the tide in favour ofHenry. In the meantimePope Paschalhad refused the King's request for anexemptionfrom theLaterandecrees, yetHenrypersisted in his resolution to compelAnselmto acceptinvestitureat his hands. The revolt of Robert de Bellesme put off the threatened rupture. To gaintimethe King sent another embassy toRome. On its return,Anselmwas once more required to receiveinvestiture. ThePope'sletter was not made public, but it was reported to be of the same tenor as his previous reply. The envoys now gave out that thePopehad orallyconsentedto the King's request, but could not say so in writing forfearof offending other sovereigns.FriendsofAnselmwho had been atRome, disputed this assertion. In this crisis it was agreed to send toRomeagain; meanwhile the King would continue toinvestbishopsandabbots, butAnselmshould not be required toconsecratethem.
During this intervalAnselmheld acouncilatWestminster. Here stringentcanonswere passed against theevilsof the age. In spite of the compromise aboutinvestiture,Anselmwas required toconsecratebishopsinvested by the King, but he firmly refused, and it soon became evident that his firmness was taking effect.Bishopsgave back thestaffthey had received at the royal hands, or refused to beconsecratedby another in defiance ofAnselm. When thePope'sanswer arrived, repudiating the story of the envoys, the King askedAnselmto go toRomehimself. Though he could not support the royal request he was willing to lay the facts before thePope. With this understanding he once more betook himself toRome. The request was again refused, butHenrywas notexcommunicated. Understanding thatHenrydid not wish to receive him inEngland,Anselminterrupted his homeward journey atLyons. In this city he received a letter from thePopeinforming him of theexcommunicationof the counsellors who had advised the King to insist oninvestitures, but notdecreeinganything about the King.Anselmresumed his journey, and on the way he heard of the illness ofHenry'ssister,AdelaofBlois. He turned aside to visit her and on her recovery informed her that he was returning toEnglandtoexcommunicateher brother. She at once exerted herself to bring about a meeting betweenAnselmandHenry, in July, 1105. But though a reconciliation was effected, andAnselmwas urged to return toEngland, the claim toinvestwas not relinquished, and recourse had again to be made toRome. Apapalletter authorizingAnselmtoabsolvefromcensuresincurred by breaking thelawsagainstinvestitureshealed pastoffencesbut made no provision for the future. At length, in acouncilheld inLondonin 1107, the question found a solution. The King relinquished the claim toinvestbishopsandabbots, while theChurchallowed theprelatesto do homage for their temporalpossessions.Lingardand other writers consider this a triumph for the King, saying that he had thesubstanceandabandoneda mereform. But it was for no mereformthat this longwarhad been waged. Theriteused in theinvestiturewas thesymbolof a real power claimed by theEnglishkings, and now at lastabandoned. The victory rested with theArchbishop, and asSchwanesays (Kirchenlexicon, s.v.) it prepared the way for the later solution of the same controversy inGermany.Anselmwas allowed to end his days in peace. In the two years that remained he continued hispastorallabours and composed the last of his writings.Eadmer, thefaithfulchronicler of these contentions, gives a pleasing picture of his peaceful death. Thedreamof his childhood was cometrue; he was to climb the mountain and taste the bread ofHeaven.
His active work as apastorand stalwart champion of theChurchmakesAnselmone of the chief figures inreligious history. The sweet influence of hisspiritualteaching was felt far and wide, and its fruits were seen in many lands. His stand for the freedom of theChurchin a crisis ofmedievalhistoryhad far-reaching effects long after his own time. As a writer and a thinker he may claim yet higher rank, and his influence on the course ofphilosophyandCatholictheologywas even deeper and more enduring if he stands on the one hand withGregory VII, andInnocent III, andThomasBecket; on the other he may claim a place besideAthanasius,Augustine, andThomas Aquinas. Hismeritsin the field oftheologyhave received official recognition; he has been declared aDoctor of the ChurchbyClement XI, 1720, and in the office read on hisfeast day(21 April) it is said that his works are a pattern for alltheologians. Yet it may bedoubtedwhether his position is generally appreciated by students of divinity. In some degree his work has been hidden by the fabric reared on his foundations. His books were notadopted, like those ofPeter LombardandSt. Thomas, as the usual text ofcommentatorsand lecturers intheology, nor was he constantly cited as an authority, likeSt. Augustine. This wasnaturalenough, since in the next century new methods came in with the rise of the Arabic andAristoteleanphilosophy; the "Books of Sentences" were in some ways more fit for regulartheologicalreading;Anselmwas yet too near to have the venerable authority of the earlyFathers. For these reasons it may be said that his writings were not properly appreciated tilltimehad brought in other changes in theschools, andmenwere led to study thehistoryoftheology. But though his works are not cast in the systematicformof the "Summa" ofSt. Thomas, they cover the whole field ofCatholic doctrine. There are few pages of ourtheologythat have not been illustrated by the labours ofAnselm. His treatise on theprocessionof theHoly Spirithas helped to guidescholasticspeculations on theTrinity, his "Cur Deus Homo" throws a flood of light on thetheologyof theAtonement, and one of his works anticipates much of the later controversies on FreeWillandPredestination. In the seventeenth century, aSpanishBenedictine,Cardinald'Aguirremade the writings ofAnselmthe groundwork of a course oftheology, "S. Anselmi Theologia" (Salamanca, 1678-81). Unfortunately the work never got beyond the first three folio volumes, containing thecommentarieson the "Monologium". In recent yearsDom AnselmÖcsényi, O.S.B. has accomplished the task on a moremodestscale in a littleLatinvolume on thetheologyofSt. Anselm, "De Theologia S. Anselmi" (Brünn, 1884).
Besides being one of the fathers ofscholastic theology,Anselmfills an important place in thehistoryofphilosophicspeculation.Comingin the first phase of the controversy onUniversals, he had to meet the extremeNominalismofRoscelin; partly from this fact, partly from his nativePlatonismhisRealismtook what may be considered a somewhat extremeform. It was too soon to find the golden mean of moderateRealism, accepted by laterphilosophers. His position was a stage in the process and it is significant that one of his biographers,John of Salisbury, was among the first to find thetruesolution.
Anselm's chief achievement inphilosophywas theontologicalargument for theexistence of Godput forth in his "Proslogium". Starting from the notion thatGodis "that than which nothing greater can be thought", he argues that what exists in reality is greater than that which is only in themind; wherefore, since "Godis that than which nothing greater can be thought", He exists in reality. The validity of the argument was disputed at the outset by amonknamedGaunilo, who wrote acriticismon it to whichAnselmreplied.Eadmertells a curious story aboutSt. Anselm'sanxiety while he was trying to work out this argument. He could think of nothing else for days together. And when at last he saw it clearly, he was filled withjoy, and made haste to commit it to writing. The waxen tablets were given in charge to one of themonksbut when they were wanted they were missing.Anselmmanaged to recall the argument, it was written on fresh tablets and given into safer keeping. But when it was wanted it was found that the wax was broken toPieces.Anselmwith some difficulty put the fragments together and had the whole copied on parchment for greater security. The story sounds like an allegory of thefatewhich awaited this famous argument, which was lost and found again, pulled to pieces and restored in the course of controversy. Rejected bySt. Thomasand his followers, it was revived in anotherformbyDescartes. After being assailed byKant, it was defended byHegel, for whom it had a peculiar fascination — he recurs to it in many parts of his writings. In one place he says that it is generally used by laterphilosophers, "yet always along with the otherproofs, although it alone is thetrueone" (German Works, XII, 547). Assailants of this argument shouldrememberthat allmindsare not cast in one mould, and it is easy to understand how some can feel the force of arguments that are not felt by others. But if thisproofwere indeed, as some consider it, an absurd fallacy, how could itappealto suchmindsas those ofAnselm,Descartes, andHegel? It may be well to add that the argument was not rejected by all the greatSchoolmen. It was accepted byAlexander of Hales(Summa,Pt. I, Q. iii, memb. 1, 2), and supported byScotus. (In I, Dist. ii, Q. ii.) In modern times it is accepted byMöhler, who quotesHegel'sdefence with approval.
It is not often that aCatholicsaintwins the admiration ofGermanphilosophersandEnglishhistorians. ButAnselmhas this singular distinctionHegel'sappreciation of hismentalpowers may be matched by Freeman's warm words of praise for the greatArchbishopofCanterbury. "Stranger as he was, he has won his place among the noblest worthies of our island. It was something to be the model of allecclesiasticalperfection; it was something to be the creator of thetheologyofChristendom— but it was something higher still to be the very embodiment of righteousness and mercy, to be handed down in the annals ofhumanityas the man whosavedthehuntedhare and stood up for theholinessof &#AElig;lfheah" (History of theNormanConquest, IV, 444).
Collections of the works ofSt. Anselm were issued soon after the invention of printing. Ocsenyi mentions nin