Theologian Thursday: Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Added on by Keegan Osinski.
Saint Anselm spent much of his young life cultivating a love of learning and discipline of piety with the help of his virtuous mother.

As a teenager, he applied to join a monastery and was denied, even after he prayed for an illness (which he thought would make the abbot have mercy on him) and became sick.

Once Anselm's mother died, he ran away from home because his dad--whose name was Gundulf. Seriously.--was a total jerk. After wandering the countryside, Anselm entered the Benedictine Order at a monastery in Normandy.

In 1093, Anselm was made Archbishop of Canterbury. He had many conflicts with the monarchy in England, Kings William and Henry I, who wished to have control over the church. As a result, Anselm was sent into exile at least twice. He even threatened to excommunicate King Henry.

Despite all of these political distractions, Anselm managed to continue studying and writing. His philosophy was that faith precedes reason, but that reason can indeed be valuable in the life of faith. It is from this place that he wrote the Prosologion, which includes his famous "ontological argument" for the proof of God--that God is "that than which nothing greater can be conceived," and so, since a thing existing in reality would be greater than a thing existing only in the mind, God must exist in reality.

What you should read:

Ratings:
(To read more about my Theologian Rating System, click HERE)
Gender Equality: 
Apparently, in his correspondence as Archbishop, Anselm engaged frequently with laywomen, and in a positive way. He shows a surprising belief in a sort of spiritual equality--asserting that women can have the same individually fruitful spiritual life as men.
Environmental Sensibility:
The more Theologian Thursday posts I write, the more I realize that care for God's creation is a relatively new concern. Besides those nature-loving mystics, nobody really talked about concern for the environment.
Heretical Tendencies:
Anselm's beliefs were quite orthodox, and are considered so to this day. While he was often at odds with the English government, he remained faithful to the Church.
General Badassery: 
Anselm definitely deserves props for running away to join a monastery. Also for writing some of the best-known works in Church history.

Here is a prayer attributed to Saint Anselm:

O Lord my God.
Teach my heart this day
where and how to find you.
You have made me and re-made me,
and you have bestowed on me
all the good things I possess,
and still I do not know you.
I have not yet done
that for which I was made.
Teach me to seek you,
for I cannot seek you
unless you teach me,
or find you
unless you show yourself to me.
Let me seek you in my desire;
let me desire you in my seeking.  
Let me find you by loving you;
let me love you when I find you.