Wednesday, April 15, 2009

(4) The Cathedral

Reading about St. Anselm in the school's library, I figure that I was initially
drawn to him because he was deemed one of the first Benedictine
scholar-monks. Without much ado, I already was beginning to turn into
a little smarty scholar. Naturally, that never made me too popular amongst
my fellows at school. But I was born "quiet," introspective if you will, and
so it was not surprising that I had a scholarly bent.

And what with my interest in monasticism, I began to realize that I really
held a propensity for theology. Even during my earliest years, I asked
lots of embarrassing questions about God. Not surprising I rarely
received very many resoundingly good answers. Finally I began to
realize that I was asking the wrong people my quibbling little questions.
Many people are just not into religion or God--or if they are, they don't
wander far from the traditional stock answers that are culturally inherited.

If I were to find any answers to my God questions, well I was going to have
to look elsewhere--and, perhaps, even try to provide some of those answers
myself. And it was Anselm who started me on my way.

At the time I most certainly was *not* into St. Anselm's "Ontological
Argument." As a teenager I wasn't able to follow his serious writings,
as put in his "Proslogium" and "Monologium." I would encounter heavy
theological works much later. Rather, Anselm's life made him a hero
for me!

Simply put, St. Anselm was a good man. As a boy he had a loving
mother and a cruel father. Like any teenager, he has his problems.
His father died when he was a young man. Earlier Anselm had wanted
to join a monastery, but his father would not give his approval. But
after his father's death he became a novice-monk in 1059 c.e. at the
Abbey of Bec in Burgundy. He was then 26 years old.

In 1093 c.e., at the age of 60, Anselm was named the Archbishop of
Canterbury. Before then, he had traveled occasionally in England--
visiting some of the English landholdings of the Abbey of Bec. During
this period he became well loved by the English people, due to his
gentle countenance. So he was a good choice to rule Canterbury
Cathedral. He died in 1109 c.e. and is buried at the cathedral.

To paraphrase, I once read that St. Anselm said that "because I have
faith, I need to understand." In his own day, he made a mighty effort
to ally faith with reason. Anselm became a great Benedictine teacher.
He was one of the first religious scholars to employ the analytic
method. He realized that a simple affirmation of faith was not enough.
Rather he demanded a firmness in faith. He strove to go beyond
feeling faith and arrive at an insight into faith. Anselm attempted to
know the existence of God on the basis of things he met through his
cognitive powers. St. Anselm of Canterbury was a spiritual pathfinder!

St. Anselm provided a pattern of approach for me. By the time I
graduated from King's School I was well on my way to study Theology.
I had been accepted by Queens College at Oxford University.

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