The struggle of theology is engaging the Faith in the world without being distracted away from living it and acting the Faith in the world without losing the ability to wonder and explore the Faith.
We can see in Anselm this journey. He desired a religious life but his father would not allow it and we can see a bit of swing the other way. It is the death of his mother that re-focuses him. He defies his father and runs away to join, not the circus, but monks (though the argument may be made that there is little difference between the two). There he begins to grow in holiness rising eventually to become abbot. There he also completed some of his most famous works and created an atmosphere at the monastery that gave Bec status as one of the great intellectual centers.
But the pope needed help in the Saxon territories; he needed the intellectual strength of Anselm to quell theological and political matters. He needed someone with religious power to help repair the Great Schism with the Greek Church. He needed someone to take on political power and limit the reach of kings into ecclesiastical matters.
Sure, he was only partially successful in most of these endeavors, but he did it with humility and great intelligence. We can extol him for his successes and frown at some of his solutions, but that is a historical view, not a spiritual one. Even amidst controversy, exile, opposition, partial success, and even failure he continued to produce theological works of great insight and beauty.
We know that theology by itself is sterile. We know the effects of Christianity without thoughtful guidance. Anselm was able to keep theology a lived experience and he inspired and led others to deeper relationships with God by his thought and his deeds. It is for this reason that we extol him today!
CERTAIN brethren have often and earnestly entreated me to put in writing some thoughts that I had offered them in familiar conversation, regarding meditation on the Being of God, and on some other topics connected with this subject, under the form of a meditation on these themes. It is in accordance with their wish, rather than with my ability, that they have prescribed such a form for the writing of this meditation; in order that nothing in Scripture should be urged on the authority of Scripture itself, but that whatever the conclusion of independent investigation should declare to be true, should, in an unadorned style, with common proofs and with a simple argument, be briefly enforced by the cogency of reason, and plainly expounded in the light of truth. It was their wish also, that I should not disdain to meet such simple and almost foolish objections as occur to me.
This task I have long refused to undertake. And, reflecting on the matter, I have tried on many grounds to excuse myself; for the more they wanted this work to be adaptable to practical use, the more was what they enjoined on me difficult of execution. Overcome at last, however, both by the modest importunity of their entreaties and by the not contemptible sincerity of their zeal; and reluctant as I was because of the difficulty of my task and the weakness of my talent, I entered upon the work they asked for. But it is with pleasure inspired by their affection that, so far as I was able, I have prosecuted this work within the limits they set.
I was led to this undertaking in the hope that whatever I might accomplish would soon be overwhelmed with contempt, as by men disgusted with some worthless thing. For I know that in this book I have not so much satisfied those who entreated me, as put an end to the entreaties that followed me so urgently. Yet, somehow it fell out, contrary to my hope, that not only the brethren mentioned above, but several others, by making copies for their own use, condemned this writing to long remembrance. And, after frequent consideration, I have not been able to find that I have made in it any statement which is inconsistent with the writings of the Catholic Fathers, or especially with those of St. Augustine. Wherefore, if it shall appear to any man that I have offered in this work any thought that is either too novel or discordant with the truth, I ask him not to denounce me at once as one who boldly seizes upon new ideas, or as a maintainer of falsehood; but let him first read diligently Augustine’s books on the Trinity, and then judge my treatise in the light of those.
-- Preface to Monologium
Truth to Ponder
I decided to spend a year thinking about the Faith celebrated in the sanctoral calendar. There are also just some events, Scriptural, and other quotes that strike me on random days; or randomly on days, as the case may be.
Saint's Days by Month
Days by Entry