Denver, Colo., Apr 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On April 21, the Catholic Church honors Saint Anselm, the 11th and 12th-century Benedictine monk and archbishop best known for his writings on Christ's atonement and the existence of God.
In a general audience given on Sept. 23, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI remembered St. Anselm as “a monk with an intense spiritual life, an excellent teacher of the young, a theologian with an extraordinary capacity for speculation, a wise man of governance and an intransigent defender of the Church's freedom.”
St. Anselm, the Pope said, stands out as “one of the eminent figures of the Middle Ages who was able to harmonize all these qualities, thanks to the profound mystical experience that always guided his thought and his action.”
Anselm was born in Aosta, part of the Piedmont region of present-day Italy, around 1033. While his father provided little in the way of moral or religious influence, his mother was a notably devout woman and chose to send Anselm to a school run by the Benedictine order.
The boy felt a profound religious calling during these years, spurred in part by a dream in which he met and conversed with God. His father, however, prevented him from becoming a monk at age 15. This disappointment was followed by a period of severe illness, as well as his mother's early death.
Unable to join the monks, and tired of mistreatment by his father, Anselm left home and wandered throughout parts of France and Italy for three years. His life regained its direction in Normandy, where he met the Benedictine prior Lanfranc of Pavia and became his disciple.
Lanfranc recognized his pupil's intellectual gifts and encouraged his vocation to religious life. Accepted into the order and ordained a priest at age 27, Anselm succeeded his teacher as prior in1063 when Lanfranc was called to become abbot of another monastery.
Anselm became abbot of his own monastery in1079. During the previous decade the Normans had conquered England, and they sought to bring monks from Normandy to influence the Church in the country. Lanfranc became Archbishop of Canterbury, and asked Anselm to come and assist him.
The period after Lanfranc's death, in the late 1080s, was a difficult time for the English Church. As part of his general mistreatment of the Church, King William Rufus refused to allow the appointment of a new archbishop. Anselm had gone back to his monastery, and did not want to return to England.
In 1092, however, he was persuaded to do so. The following year, the king changed his mind and allowed Anselm to become Archbishop of Canterbury. But the monk was extremely reluctant to accept the charge, which would involve him in further struggles with the English crown in subsequent years.
For a three-year period in the early 12th century, Anselm's insistence on the self-government of the Church – against the claims of the state to its administration and property – caused him to be exiled from England. But he was successful in his struggle, and returned to his archdiocese in 1106.
In his last years, Anselm worked to reform the Church and continued his theological investigations – following the motto of “faith seeking understanding.” After his death in 1109, his influence on the subsequent course of theology led Pope Clement XI to name him a Doctor of the Church in 1720.
Vatican City, Apr 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Natalia Tsarkova, known as the “Michelangelo of the 21st century” for her work as the official papal portrait artist, gave Pope Benedict a special gift for his 85th birthday: a copy of her new children's book in which he is the star.
Tsarkova presented her book, titled “The Mystery of a Small Pond,” to the Pope ahead of time – his birthday is April 16 – during a private audience at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.
The two main characters in the literary work of art are Pope Benedict and a small red fish.
In an interview with CNA, Tsarkova said she came up with the story one afternoon while strolling through the gardens at Castel Gandolfo.
“While waiting in the fantastic and such spiritual atmosphere of the gardens, I got the idea to write a book and give it to the Holy Father for his 85th birthday,” she said.
“It was like an inspiration that came from my heart. I had no trouble writing it because it came to me in a very spiritual way.”
Tsarkova was born in Russia, was one of the most successful students at the Moscow Academy of Arts and is known for her portraits of numerous celebrities.
A devout Orthodox Christian, she came to Rome more than twelve years ago. Although she planned to stay just a few months, her life changed forever in 2000 when she was asked to paint a portrait of Blessed John Paul II to mark his 80th birthday.
She said it took her two years to write “The Mystery of a Small Pond,” in which she attempts to convey the love Benedict XVI has for nature.
The story is about a small red fish that swims in a pond at Castel Gandolfo during the summer. The fish takes a liking to the Pope, who comes to visit it and feed it each day while he prays the Rosary.
At the end of the summer, a cat comes to the pond to tell the fish that the Pope is not coming back. The fish’s father, seeing how saddened his son is by the news, tells him not to worry. “The man in white comes and goes each summer.”
The book includes beautiful illustrations and is printed in medieval-style calligraphy.
The Vatican publisher Liberia Editrice Vaticana plans to translate the book into Spanish, English, German, Russian and Italian. Tsarkova said the book was very special to her “because it conveys a message of love and faith and can touch the hearts of children.”
“I am very happy with the results,” she said.
Vatican City, Apr 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Holy Mass is more than a historical re-enactment, Pope Benedict XVI said on April 15, Divine Mercy Sunday.
“Christian worship is not just a commemoration of past events, or even a particular mystical, interior experience, but essentially an encounter with the Risen Lord,” he told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square prior to the midday recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer.
For while Christ now “lives in the dimension of God, beyond space and time” he is still truly present in the midst of his creation as “he speaks to us in Scripture and breaks for us the bread of eternal life.”
Pope Benedict reflected upon Sunday’s Gospel reading in which Christ appears twice to his disciples after the Resurrection. In the Mass, the Pope said, we live what the same experience as the disciples did in “seeing Jesus at the same time as not recognizing him – touching his body, a real body, yet free from earthly ties.”
He noted that Christ first appears on the Jewish Sabbath and then again eight days later.
The fact that this second encounter took place on a Sunday, he explained, is “very strong proof of the Resurrection of Christ” because only an “extraordinary and disturbing event” could induce the early Christians to start worshipping on a day other than the Jewish Sabbath.
The Pope also noted how Christ repeatedly greeted the disciplines with the words “Peace be with you.” This renders a traditional Jewish greeting into “the gift of peace that only Jesus can give, because it is the fruit of his radical victory over evil.”
This “peace” that Jesus offers to his friends is “the fruit of the love of God that led him to die on the cross, to pour out all of his blood in payment, as the meek and humble Lamb, ‘full of grace and truth’,” he said.
Pope Benedict explained this was why Blessed John Paul II declared the Sunday after Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday in 2003. John Paul II had in mind an icon of “the pierced side of Christ, from which flows blood and water,” Pope Benedict explained, referring to the eyewitness testimony of the Apostle John.
This icon was also the vision of the Divine Mercy of Christ revealed to the young Polish nun Sister Faustina Kowalska, on February 22, 1931.
“But now Christ is risen,” said the Pope, “and from the Living Christ spring the Easter Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. Those who approach them with faith receive the gift of eternal life.”
“Dear brothers and sisters,” he concluded, “let us welcome the gift of peace that the risen Jesus offers us, let us fill our hearts with His mercy!”