Today is the feast of St Anselm of Canterbury. He is most famous for fighting for what today we call religious freedom. Some points of view might criticise this: it would not be the first time Catholic priests have been criticised for speaking or acting in the public sphere, or for the very fact that they govern the church. Its a bizarre point of view though. Of course every state of life, include that of the laity, has their mission and place in the church, each necessary and equally important. But we don’t see heaps of helpful lay church leadership in Anselm’s time. The rich and powerful laity, all Catholic, were missing in action, either too busy preserving their wealth or too cowardly to defend their faith. Certainly the leading lay Catholics at the time, the English kings, spent their time subduing the Church in order to get support for their throne and their wars, and more importantly get their hands on her money.
Anselm, a priest, totally given to the Church and for the Church, was free to do what the leading lay Catholics would not: instead of trying to remodel the Church according to his own ideas, he laid down his life for her as she was, being forced into abandoning his peaceful contemplative life for a perpetual rough ocean of political trouble as Archbishop of Canterbury, twice being kicked out of his own country for his troubles, constantly reaffirming, at great cost to himself, the teachings and structure that Jesus instituted. Let’s thank the Lord for our pastors, begging God keep them to their vocation of courageously leading us in our vocation of holiness.
Let us pray:
O God, who led the Bishop Saint Anselm
to seek out and teach the depths of your wisdom,
grant, we pray,
that our faith in you may so aid our understanding,
that what we believe by your command
may give delight to our hearts.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,