April 15, 2016
The Archbishop of Canterbury was recently in the news, as revelations were made about his paternity. His response was very measured and kind, but also showed his deep Christian convictions. Next Thursday we celebrate the feast of St. Anslem, who a thousand years ago occupied the same See.
Anselm too had his troubles, but like Archbishop Welby, his trust in Christ was made manifest. He was born around the year 1033. He became a monk at the famous abbey of Bec in Normandy, becoming Abbot in 1078. He wrote a number of theological and philosophical works about faith and reason. In 1093 he became Archbishop of Canterbury.
Because he was keen to defend the honour and independence of the Church he did not endear himself to the kings he had to deal with, and several times he was forced into exile.
What comes across in Anselm’s writings are a razor sharp mind wrapped in sensitivity and kindness. He was much loved by his monks and the ordinary people. He was keen, for instance, to abolish slavery which still existed in England at that time.
Let us pray to St. Anslem for those same gifts: absolute commitment to the truth, courage to stand up for it, but also the love to put it into practice.
April 11, 2016
For most of those elected Pope in the earliest years of the Church their choosing meant almost certain death at the hands of the Roman state which was vigorously trying to supress the new religion. The Roman Canon gives a long list of those Bishops of Rome who were martyred for their faith. Surprisingly, the last Pope to be martyred was St. Martin in 655 AD, long after the Empire has adopted Christianity as its religion. We celebrate his feast on Wednesday.
Martin was born in Umbria in Italy. He fell foul of the Byzantine Emperor, Constans II, for his vigorous opposition to a heresy favoured by this ruler. He was starved and banished and died in exile in the Crimea.
Christians will never sit completely easily with any state. As St. Augustine said: ‘here we have no abiding city’. Tyrants and dictators fear the Church because it commands a loyalty beyond their craven desires for complete service. The history of the Church is scattered with countless numbers of saints like Martin who, in the words of St. Thomas More, were ‘the king’s good servant – but God’s first’.
The strength of the martyrs comes from their Easter faith. They know that Christ has lordship over death, and so they are prepared to die if need be.
We will probably not be called upon to die for our faith, which is all the more reason to live it as a proclamation that Christ is risen from the dead.