Born in Italy, Anselm (1033-1109) crossed the Alps into France after several years of undisciplined life. There, he took monastic vows at Bec and later became prior. At the age of 60 he became Archbishop of Canterbury. His episcopate was stormy, in continual conflict with the crown over the rights and freedom of the Church.
Both as a philosopher and a theologian, Anselm has a foremost place among medieval thinkers. His was the most luminous and penetrating intellect between St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. He made the most considerable contribution to the theology of the atonement of the Middle Ages. It interpreted the doctrine in terms of the satisfaction which is needed to restore the universal harmony of the creation dislocated by sin. Of ourselves, we are unable to make such atonement, because God is perfect and we are not. Therefore, God himself has saved us, becoming perfect man in Christ, so that a perfect life could be offered in satisfaction for sin.
He had a profound piety and was known as a spiritual director.
“I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order that I may understand. For this, too, I believe, that unless I first believe, I shall not understand.”
“I fled from God and God came with me.”
“Hope of my heart,
strength of my soul,
help of my weakness,
by your powerful kindness complete
what in my powerless weakness I attempt.”