St. Anselm was born in Italy around the year 1033. In 1060, just before England switched from the Anglo-Saxon era to the Norman era, he entered the monastery of Bec in Normandy where he later became the Abbot. With Norman success in England he was called from the Bec to Canterbury where he was enthroned in the most senior post in Catholic England in those pre-reformation days- he became Archbishop of Canterbury.
Anselm was a brilliant academic whose works of theology and philosophy were of enormous benefit to the Western Church. He is perhaps the most important Christian philosopher to have existed after St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas. His books and theories are still in use today at seminaries and universities the world over. Most famously he came up with the ‘ontological argument’ for the existence of God which is almost impossible to refute with logic.
As Archbishop of Canterbury he had a rocky ride at times. King William II of England had no fondness for the Church and, because Anselm resisted his efforts to interfere in Church business, found him a source of constant irritation. Eventually he sent St. Anselm into exile in Italy where he remained until the King died three years later. During his exile he was not idle but wrote books and helped settle Catholic doctrine on the matter of the dispute with the Eastern Orthodox regarding the Creed.
In 1100 Anselm returned to Canterbury at the invitation of the new monarch Henry I. However he proved just as irritating when he refused to allow the new King to select bishops and abbots. So back into exile went our patron for a further seven years until the two brokered an uneasy peace and he returned to England in 1107. He died two years later, on the date that is now his feast day, 21 April.
St. Anselm’s feast fell on Easter day this year. So we have moved our patronal festival to this coming Sunday. We thank God that he ever showed courage to protect the faith from error both by his intellectual arguments and by standing up to the secular powers of his day.
St. Anselm pray for us. A fine saint for an Ordinariate charged with reviving and preserving an authentic English spirituality.