Missionary Saint – St. Anselm

Drawing Water from Wellspring of Truth: The Mission of the Theologian 
An essential task of missionaries in the developing world is to dig wells. A community without access to a pure water supply cannot survive. Analogously, theologians also dig wells. Theologians draw water from the wellspring of Truth: scripture and tradition, so that all may drink freely to quench their thirst for knowledge of God and to nurture the seed of Love in their hearts.

Saint Anselm, a Benedictine monk, priest, abbot, and bishop, is one of our greatest theologians, and is so named as a Doctor of the Church. His motto, “faith seeking understanding” (fides quaerens intellectum) has often been misunderstood. Anselm is neither replacing reason with faith nor faith with reason. Rather, he is breaking through the false dichotomy that imprisons minds and locks faith away from reason and reason from faith. Many of our sisters and brothers are still trapped in the fallacy of thinking that faith is beyond reason or reason is beyond faith. Catholicism is a faith informed by reason. As Anselm recognized, reason and faith are complementary ways of knowing. Perhaps the best way to interpret Anselm’s motto, “faith seeking understanding,” is “an active love of God seeking a deeper knowledge of God.”

In his work Cur Deus Homo (Why the God-Man?), Saint Anselm explains on purely rational grounds that the redemption of humanity required one who is both fully divine and fully human. The God-Man Jesus Christ took it upon himself to offer his own life on our behalf.

Saint Anselm provided insight into God’s consistent and interrelated attributes of goodness, justice, and mercy. He makes clear that God not only can, but must have all three. Anselm displays profound wisdom in acknowledging the limitations of human reason. He asserts human reasoning cannot show why God displays his justice and mercy in precisely the ways in which he
does. Perhaps this keen awareness of the Divine attributes of goodness, justice, and mercy influenced his pastoral activities.

As Bishop of Canterbury, Saint Anselm vehemently opposed slavery. In 1102, he convened the Church Council of London which issued a decree: “Let no one dare hereafter to engage in the infamous business, prevalent in England, of selling men like animals” (See Pijper, Frederik “The Christian Church and Slavery in the Middle Ages”). In this powerful pastoral action Saint Anselm participated in Christ’s mission to bring liberty to captives.

In doing theology, one needs to stay close to the Church, to participate in her sacramental life, be fed by the Eucharist, keep company with the Saints, and rest within the very heart of the Trinity. Theology is done not only with devotion to God, but also with affection for humanity. The love for God drives the theologian’s desire to know God and in coming to know and love God more, love for humanity also increases. This knowledge and love wells up in the theologian and flows forth into the world like a spring in a dry and weary land.