The Need for Anselm

Thomas Griffin 4/21/23 (For Crisis Magazine)

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Excerpt: Crosses come in many forms. Deciding to pick ours up and persevere with Christ makes us a disciple. 

During Lent I heard a homily where a priest spoke about the following words of Jesus: “My yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:30). The priest mentioned the fact that the yoke was the harness that was placed over animals in order for them to help with the manual labor of a farmer. Most yokes, however, had two openings where two animals would be placed next to one another. Christ’s yoke is easy because we are next to him and he is pulling through life with us. The saints went through life with the deep knowledge of this reality. 

St. Anselm (1033-1109) has much to teach our modern world about human nature and about the search for God. April 21st is the feast day of this Benedictine monk and archbishop who is a giant from the intellectual tradition of the Church. Rediscovering his genius and his perseverance can aid us in our journey today. 

He is famous for his words and writings in theology but his early life was filled with hardship and that should not be overlooked. Anselm was born into a noble family of his time. His father, Gandolfo, had high hopes that his son would enter the realm of politics and be more esteemed in his role as a nobleman. When Anselm voiced his desire to study under the monastic tradition, his father was furious. Before Anselm was even fifteen years old he applied to enter a monastery, but the abbot was so concerned about the displeasure of his father that he rejected his application. 

Anselm experienced, from an early age, resistance to his faith and desire to be a strong disciple. Even more so, he experienced it coming from his own father. Perhaps because of the difficult relationship with his dad, Anselm was very close with his mother. Upon her death he admits that he traversed through an intense time of grief and loneliness. This grief led to a deadening of a desire in his heart for religious life and piety.

Despite this he continued to persevere and he later fled his home to live near a famous monk and teacher who he craved to learn from. After his father’s death he joined the monastery as a monk, was quickly made a teacher, and later an abbot and archbishop. Anselm shows us that when we are lonely, depressed or rejected we must keep going. We cannot make rash decisions to flee our duties or deny the truth just because we experience challenges. 

The current climate in our culture hates and rejects much of what it means to be a Catholic Christian today. This leads many to despair and to anxiety over the state of our world. In the midst of these trials, we must persevere – we must keep the yoke on our shoulders and view who is next to us. We must be like Anselm.

Read the Full Article HERE

Thomas Griffin is the chairperson of the religion department at a Catholic high school on Long Island where he lives with his wife and two sons. He has a masters degree in theology and is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Empty Tomb Project: The Magazine.

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