Pope Benedict XVI traveled by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo to Rome for Wednesday’s general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, where he called on all Christians to imitate St. Anselm of Canterbury's example of love for the truth and constant thirst for God.
This year, Benedict XVI recounted, marks eleven centuries since the death of Anselm. Known also as Anselm of Aosta and Anselm of Bec, the saint was born in the northern Italian town of Aosta in 1033. The eldest son of a noble family, his mother gave him a Christian etew experiences and was drawn to the Abbey of Bec by the fame of its prior, Lanfranco of Pavia. There, at the age of 27, he embraced the monastic life. Three years later Lanfranco was appointed abbot of Caeny, and Anselm became the prior of Bec.
The Pope added that in his new role, Anselm “was very demanding with himself and others in monastic observance, but rather than imposing discipline he sought to make people follow it by persuasion.” Instead of resorting to authoritarian methods, Anselm preferred to give them “a 'healthy' measure of freedom,” Benedict XVI summarized.
When Lanfranco of Pavia was appointed as archbishop of Canterbury, England, he asked Anselm to help him in educating the monks. Later, when Lanfranco passed away in 1093, Anselm succeeded him as archbishop.
Anselm, the Pontiff said, “defended the Church from undue interference by the political authorities, especially King William Rufus and King Henry I.” His faithfulness to the Pope caused him to be exiled for three years in 1103.
This great spiritual leader was also a brilliant teacher and writer. In the prayer that opens his most celebrated work, the “Proslogion,” he expressed his desire to understand the faith, the divine truth his heart already believes and loves.
Anselm died on April 21, 1109 and Christian tradition has bestowed upon him the title of “Doctor Magnificus,” the Pope recalled. “The clarity and logical rigor of Anselm’s ideas always sought ‘to raise the mind to the contemplation of God.’ He made it clear that anyone who intends to study theology must not rely only upon his own intelligence but must also cultivate a profound experience of faith.”
“In St. Anselm’s view,” Pope Benedict said, “a true theologian’s work is divided into three stages: faith, God’s gratuitous gift to be welcomed with humility; experience, which consists in incarnating the Word of God into daily life; and true knowledge, which is never the fruit of sterile reasoning but of contemplative intuition.”
The Pope concluded by praying that the love for truth and the constant thirst for God, both of which characterized St. Anselm’s life, become a stimulus for Christians to tirelessly seek a more intimate union with Christ. He added, “May the courageous zeal that distinguished his pastoral work and that sometimes brought misunderstandings, bitterness and even exile be an encouragement for pastors, consecrated people and all the faithful to love the Church of Christ.”