Monday, April 21, 2008

St. Anselm, Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of the Church

Today is the III Class Feast of St. Anselm, and it is also the 99th anniversary of Pope St. Pius X’s Encyclical Letter Communium Rerum (On St. Anselm of Aosta), itself issued on the 8th Centenary of St. Anselm’s death in 1109.

I lieu of writing any meagre words of my own in honor of this great saint, whom I have chosen as a theological patron, I offer to you some selections from the saintly pontiff Pius X (do follow the link and read the whole encyclical though).

The pope highlights two things in particular about St. Anselm: his tireless fight for the liberty of the Church (he lived in the era of the investiture controversy), and against false philosophy. The pope sees in Anselm a man for our own times, in which also the Church is besieged by those within and those without. The enemies of the Church without (especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) set the rights of the Church at naught and the enemies of the Crhuch within spread the pernicious heresy of modernism everywhere they go.

5. ...We have examples of this in the Saints of other centuries, whom God raised up to resist by their virtue and wisdom the fury of persecution against the Church and the diffusion of iniquity in the world. One of these We wish especially in these Letters to commemorate, now that the eighth centenary of his death is being solemnly celebrated. We mean the Doctor Anselm of Aosta, most vigorous exponent of Catholic truth and defender of the rights of the Church, first as Monk and Abbot in France. and later as Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate in England...

12. Recalling all these things, venerable brethren, with special interest during the solemn commemoration of the great Doctor, we shall find in them splendid examples for our admiration and imitation; nay, reflection on them will also furnish Us with strength and consolation amid the pressing cares of the government of the Church and of the salvation of souls, helping Us never to fail in our duty of co-operating with all our strength in order that all things may be restored in Christ, that "Christ may be formed" in all souls (Galat. iv. 19), and especially in those which are the hope of the priesthood, of maintaining unswervingly the doctrine of the Church, of defending strenuously the liberty of the Spouse of Christ, the inviolability of her divine rights, and the plenitude of those safeguards which the protection of the Sacred Pontificate requires.

[regarding the threat to the Church from without]

13. For you are aware, venerable brethren, and you have often lamented it with Us, how evil are the days on which we have fallen, and how iniquitous the conditions which have been forced upon Us... For what more unnatural sight could be witnessed than that of some of those children whom the Church has nourished and cherished as her first-born, her flower and her strength, in their rage turning their weapons against the very bosom of the Mother that has loved them so much! And there are other countries which give us but little cause for consolation, in which the same war, under a different form, has either broken out already or is being prepared by dark machinations. For there is a movement in those nations which have benefited most from Christian civilization to deprive the Church of her rights, to treat her as though she were not by nature and by right the perfect society that she is, instituted by Christ Himself, the Redeemer of our nature, and to destroy her reign, which, although primarily and directly affecting souls, is not less helpful for their eternal salvation than for the welfare of human society; efforts of all kinds are being made to supplant the kingdom of God by a reign of license under the lying name of liberty...

[regarding the threat to the Church from within]

15. But with no less severity and sorrow have We been obliged to denounce and to put down another species of war, intestine and domestic, and all the more disastrous the more hidden it is. Waged by unnatural children, nestling in the very bosom of the Church in order to rend it in silence, this war aims more directly at the very root and the soul of the Church. They are trying to corrupt the springs of Christian life and teaching, to scatter the sacred deposit of the faith, to overthrow the foundations of the divine constitution by their contempt for all authority, pontifical as well as episcopal, to put a new form on the Church, new laws, new principles, according to the tenets of monstrous systems, in short to deface all the beauty of the Spouse of Christ for the empty glamour of a new culture, falsely called science, against which the Apostle frequently puts us on our guard: "Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ (Colos. ii. 8).

16. By this figment of false philosophy and this shallow and fallacious erudition, joined with a most audacious system of criticism, some have been seduced and "become vain in their thoughts" (Rom. i. 1), "having rejected good conscience they have made shipwreck concerning the faith" (I Tim. i. 19), they are being tossed about miserably on the waves of doubt, knowing not themselves at what port they must land; others, wasting both time and study, lose themselves in the investigation of abstruse trifling, and thus grow estranged from the study of divine things and of the real springs of doctrine. This hot-bed of error and perdition (which has come to be known commonly as modernism from its craving for unhealthy novelty) although denounced several times and unmasked by the very excesses of its adepts, continues to be a most grave and deep evil. It lurks like poison in the vitals of modern society, estranged as this is from God and His Church, and it is especially eating its way like a cancer among the young generations which are naturally the most inexperienced and heedless. It is not the result of solid study and true knowledge, for there can be no real conflict between reason and faith (Concil. Vatic., Constit. Dei filius, cap. 4). But it is the result of intellectual pride and of the pestiferous atmosphere that prevails of ignorance or confused knowledge of the things of religion, united with the stupid presumption of speaking about and discussing them. And this deadly infection is further fomented by a spirit of incredulity and of rebellion against God, so that those who are seized by the blind frenzy for novelty consider that they are all sufficient for themselves, and that they are at liberty to throw off either openly or by subterfuge the entire yoke of divine authority, fashioning for themselves according to their own caprice a vague, naturalistic individual religiosity, borrowing the name and some semblance of Christianity but with none of its life and truth.

[regarding Anselm's intellectual contribution to the preservation of Doctrine]

45. Without entering here in detail into the intellectual state of the clergy and people in that distant age, there was a notable danger in a twofold excess to which the intellects of the time were prone.

46. There was at the time a class of lightminded and vain men, fed on a superficial erudition, who became incredibly puffed up with their undigested culture, and allowed themselves to be led away by a simulacrum of philosophy and dialectics. In their inane fallacy, which they called by the name of science, "they despised the sacred authority, dared with impious temerity to dispute one or other of the dogmas professed by Catholic faith . . . and in their foolish pride considered anything they could not understand as impossible, instead of confessing with humble wisdom that there might be many things beyond the reach of their comprehension. . . For there are some who immediately they have begun to grow the horns of an overweening knowledge - not knowing that when a person thinks he knows something, he does not yet know in what manner he should know it - before they have grown spiritual wings through firmness in the faith, are wont to rise presumptuously to the highest questions of the faith. Thus it happens that while against all right rules they endeavor to rise prematurely by their intelligence, their lack of intelligence brings them down to manifold errors" (S. Anselm., De Fide Trinitatis, cap. 2). And of such as these we have many painful examples under our eyes!

47. Others, again, there were of a more timid nature, who in their terror at the many cases of those who had made shipwreck of the faith, and fearing the danger of the science that puffeth up, went so far as to exclude altogether the use of philosophy, if not of all rational discussion of the sacred doctrines.

55. ...Anselm laid the foundations of the true principles of philosophical and theological studies which other most learned men, the princes of scholasticism, and chief among them the Doctor of Aquin, followed, developed, illustrated and perfected to the great honor and protection of the Church. If We have insisted so willingly on this distinction of Anselm, it is in order to have a new and much-desired occasion, venerable brethren, to inculcate upon you to see to it that you bring back youth, especially among the clergy, to the most wholesome springs of Christian wisdom, first opened by the Doctor of Aosta and abundantly enriched by Aquinas.

1 comment:

Mr S said...

I believe I have his relic.....if you were here, I might consider a bequeath.....

maybe.....

sorta.....

possibly...