In the school of prayer with Anselm

Anselm of Canterbury, also called Anselm of Aosta after his birthplace and Anselm of Bec after his monastery, was a Benedictine monk, abbot, philosopher and theologian of the Catholic Church, who held the office of archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 till his death in 1109. (Wikipedia)

In 2015 the current Archbishop of Canterbury, set up the Community of St Anthem, to bring together Christians aged 20 to 35 from many countries and cultures, and many church denominations and traditions for 10 months under a shared Rule of Life focused on prayer, study and service to the most vulnerable in society.

Most of us are not in the right age bracket or circumstances to join the Community of St Anselm ourselves. There’s nothing stopping us from joining them in spirit, though. Here’s some material to get you started.

Theology as prayer

About Anselm’s development as a writer on spiritual matters, Eugene Peterson writes:

“[Anselm] had written his Monologian, setting forth the proofs of God’s existence with great brilliance and power. It is one of the stellar theological achievements in the West. Then he realized that however many right things he had said about God, he had said them in the wrong language. He rewrote it all in a Proslogian (ed. Latin for Discourse), converting [talking about God] into [talking with God]: first-person address, an answer to God, a personal conversation with the personal God. The Proslogian is theology as prayer.” (from The Gift: Reflections on Christian Ministry, p. 93)

Call to prayer

The Proslogian begins with this call to prayer:

Come now … leave behind for a time your preoccupations; seclude yourself for a while from your disquieting thoughts. Turn aside now from heavy cares, and set aside your wearisome tasks. Make time for God, and rest a while in Him. Enter into the inner chamber of your mind; shut out everything except God and what is of aid to you in seeking Him; after closing the chamber door, seek Him out.

Together, one-on-one with God.

You can find the full text of the Proslogian here.

A prayer

based on Anselm’s writings

Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us;
in your love and tenderness remake us.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

from A Service for Mothering Sunday from the Church of England website.

Digging deeper

Article: “St. Anselm of Canterbury: Scholarship Rooted in Prayer” by John P. Bequette

Article: “Faith Seeking Understanding” featuring Pope Benedict XVI’s reflections on St. Anselm from September 2009 (900th anniversary of Anselm’s death).


See also “In the school of prayer with Ann Lewin” and “In the school of prayer with Eddie Askew

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