Our devotion for eleventh century theologian Anselm comes from Saints and Angels All Around.
Anselm was born into an affluent Italian family in 1033. His father wanted him to become a soldier or merchant. However, the son’s love for the church took him to northern France, where he became a monk instead. He rose quickly through the authority structure of the church and was appointed abbot of the monastery at Bec in Normandy. Part of his responsibility was to oversee church properties in England. On one of his journeys there, the local people acclaimed him the new archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the English church.
Anselm did not want to become the archbishop. He knew that he would come into direct conflict with King William, who decreed that there would be no new archbishop. Rather, he as king would take over the properties of the church and also would appoint the bishops and abbots—something that church leaders had always done previously. Although Anselm did not want to be archbishop, his love for the church changed his mind. After prayerful thought, he agreed to accept the position, providing the king would back off from his decree. For a while it seemed as if things would work out. Unfortunately, William had a short memory regarding his promises and sought again to take away the church’s rights. In disappointment, Anselm left England and went to Rome to gain support for his claims to authority and the church’s rights.
While waiting for things to change in England, Anselm found good use for his time in Italy. He wrote a number of books, letters, and treatises linking theology and the things of God with reason and intellectual inquiry. His book Why God Became Man soon became a Christian classic.
Anselm hoped that things would go well for him in England when Henry succeeded William as king. But Henry did not favor church rights either. Anselm kept on traveling and meeting and praying, hoping that the situation would improve. Finally it did. King Henry and Archbishop Anselm agreed on the church’s right to appoint the bishops and abbots. They also agreed that church leaders owed homage to the king for protecting their possessions. At last the church in England was at peace and able to bring greater glory to God, thanks to Anselm’s efforts. Eventually the archbishop became such a good friend to the king that when the monarch traveled outside of England, he left Anselm in charge.
During Holy Week in the year 1109, the saintly Anselm died at Canterbury.
Gracious Lord, we thank you for the blessings we receive through the church. Help us honor, support, and cherish it, for we know that Christ loves the church and gave himself for it. We ask this in his holy name. Amen.
Devotional reading and prayer are adapted from Saints and Angels All Around, pages 18–20 © 1996 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.