Magnificent Doctor – Saint Anselm

Saint Anselm was born to noble parents in Italy in 1033.  At age 15 he wanted to enter a monastery, but was refused because his father didn’t want him there. After several additional years, he went to a French monastery to lead a quiet life of quiet life of prayer and study. He was there three years when he was made prior of the monastery. He was put in charge of the school  With Anselm leading the school, it became one of the great centers of learning during the medieval years.

In 1087, Anselm was elected abbot of the monastery. In 1092, the archbishop of Canterbury died.  King William Rufus would not allow the position to be filled. The king took the money from the Church. The king promised there would be no archbishop  of Canterbury while he was living. The king immediately became so ill, it was believed he would die. Anselm had been recommended to be the archbishop, but Anselm didn’t want the job.  He was afraid of the king.

As the king recovered from being ill, his greed returned.  The king demanded huge sums of money from Anselm. Anselm was forced to flee to Rome. The king refused to allow Anselm to return to England. He king was nearly ex-communicated. Ex-communication is an extreme penalty for the most severe sins. This means  you aren’t part of the Church until you are sorry for your sins. Anselm kept the king from being excommunicated. He was afraid of what that might do to everyone in England.

King Rufus died in 1100. Archbishop Anselm was able to return to England.  He was greeted by the people and by King Henry I. King Henry claimed he had the right to appoint all bishops. King Henry insisted he reinvest Anselm.  Anselm refused. Many letters were sent between the king and the pope, who supported Anselm. The argument between the pope and the king continued and grew more intense. It seemed that England would separate from the Church after all. King Henry was threatened with excommunication. Anselm was exiled again. The king finally backed down. He not only made up with Anselm, but he also returned the money to the Church. He also agreed he did not have the right to invest bishops or abbot.

The last two years of Anselm’s life were spent as the Archbishop. He died on Holy Wednesday, April 21, 1109.  At the Council of Tours in 1163, Thomas Becket asked Pope Alexander to make Anselm a saint. Anselm was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Clement IX in 1720. He is known as the Magnificent Doctor.

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