Page 12, 14th April 1938

14th April 1938
Page 12
Page 12, 14th April 1938 — ST. GEORGE (Died About 300?) April 23 And ST. ANSELM (Died 1109) April 21

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Organisations: Holy Church
Locations: York, Canterbury, London, Oxford


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ST. GEORGE (Died About 300?) April 23 And ST. ANSELM (Died 1109) April 21

By Father Martindale

PRIL is a happy month for England,

if only because so many of our Martyrs are then commemorated —Margaret Clitherow and John Payne (April 2); Alexander Rawlins, Henry Walpole, Edward Oldcorne, and Ralph Ashley (April 7); John Lockwood and Edmund Catherick (April 13); James Duckett (April 19); James Bell, John Finch, Robert. Watkinson, and Francis Page (April 20); Robert Anderton and William Marsden (April 25); Francis Dickinson and Miles Gerard (April 30)—and we may have missed some.

Moreover, within this month arc celebrated several Saints who played a great role within our Island—St. Richard, Bishop

of Chichester (April 3); St. Ethelburga, who married Edwin of Northumbria, being herself daughter of Ethelbert of Kent, converted by St. Augustine (April 5); St. Stephen Harding (April 17); the martyred Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Elphcge (April 19); St. Anselm (April 21), to whom we return; St. Mellitus, who was sent here by St. Gregory the Great in 601—he was the first Bishop of London or of the " East Saxons," founded St. Paul's Cathedral and the monastery of St. Peter which ultimately became Westminster Abbey, and, after a spell of exile due to his refusing to give the " fine white bread," i.e., the Blessed Sacrament, to the pagan sons of King Sigebert whom he had baptised, returned to be Archbishop of Canterbury after St. Lawrence in 619: he died in 624 (April 24): St. Wilfrid the Younger, Archbishop of York (April 29); St. Erconwald, Bishop of London (April 30), and other saints connected in various ways with our land.

If England .

But this sort of catalogue is not very illuminating; while we are grateful for these glories of our past, we look forward courageously to our future, the more so because St. Paul of the Cross (April 28), founder of the Passionists, declared quite early in his career (1720; he died in 1775) ;hat he had been inspired to pray for the aonversion of England : long years later he said: That country is always before my eyes: if England again becomes Catholic, immeasurable benefits will accrue to Holy Church."

But we should be playing false to a long tradition did we not mention St. George, the more so because the poor Saint has been made the object of much mockery, and has been described not only as a heretic bishop, but as the survival of a pagan hero—for plenty of such heroes slaughtered pestilential and hurtful beasts. I think he has also been identified with the Sun, since many of his churches are on mountain-tops, where also the sun was worshipped.

Foolish and Out of Date I am not sure about this, but it is characteristic of a foolish and out of date method used by students of " comparative religion " i.e„ the comparing and if possible connecting various religions among themselves. Whenever a similarity was noticed, people jumped to the conclusion that the two " similars " were somehow casually connected. Thus I have known the Crown of Thorns to be associated with the ray-ed, spiky halo of the sun-god Apollo and, for that reason among others, to be regarded as mythical. This bad patch in historical study has, I think, been satisfactorily outpassed.

Not but what .

Not but what St. George attracted to himself the most astounding collection of legends: in fact both in east and west he was almost more popular than any Saint of the sort. But at first it was his exceptionally savage martyrdom that was con centrated on. In what is considered a "comparatively mild" version of his Acts, we find that he is beaten with clubs; tortured with red-hot irons; given poison to drink; crushed between two spiked wheels; boiled in molten lead — all without any effect.

After that they cut his head off quite easily. The dragon, I am sorry to say, came in quite late—perhaps not before the twelfth century. Dragons are decorative, and the Knight in silver armour contrasted with the swirling scarlet dragon is a pleasing sight to contemplate and gives an artist enormous opportunities. But I fear that we must content ourselves with being quite sure—as we may indeed be—that George was an oriental—probably a Palestinian— whose superlative courage during martyrdom impressed the imagination of his contemporaries more than many another did.

Dragon Stories

His glory reached England long before the Norman Conquest: I cannot but expect, however, that it was the Crusaders, returning from the East, who gave a strong impetus to his cult, for it was at its most splendid there. Only, I cannot quite see why the cult did not therefore " take on " similarly in other countries from which Crusaders came : perhaps they had a sufficiency of dragon-stories already.

trust not to be frivolous if I recall the misprint mentioned by, I think, Mr. Belloc. " In Provence there lived a famous dragon called Tarask, who was defeated by St. Mary Magdalen, and had no better luck

with St. Martha." Unluckily the rag fell out of "dragon" and got transposed into Tarask: so you got: " . a famous Don called Tragarask who, etc. . ." Since 1 am writing this at Oxford, I derive a slightly malicious satisfaction from the "wellfound" tale.

St. Anselm St. Anselni (April 21; 1033-1109) played a definite part in our history, and is not only a Doctor of the Church, but so sweet and sympathetic a character that he somehow wins our affection rather as St. Bede does. He was a nobleman from Aosta in Piedmont; had wished to enter a monastery; had been thwarted in this by his father —and, a very human fact—desponded about religion altogether, and for some time

led a dissipated life. But he recovered, though life with his father became impossible. He left, for study's sake, for Burgundy, and then for Bec in Normandy, such was the fame of its abbot Lanfranc.

His father died: Anselm abdicated his estates, became a monk at Bec, and was chosen prior at no more than 27. Not only the older monks objected, but not least quite a young one, who was jealous,

I suppose; undisciplined, certainly. But Anselm's unfailing patience won the obedience and the hearts of all: indeed it was he who nursed the recalcitrant youth throughout his last illness.

You can guess something of his attitude from what he said to a neighbouring abbot who lamented that he Could not succeed with the abbatial school: " If you planted a tree . . and tied it up on all sides, so that it could not spread, what would it be like, later on, when you did give it room? Useless, with boughs all twisted and tangled! But that is how you treat your boys . . you cramp them with fear and blows and let them enjoy no freedom."

Abbot of Bec

In 1078, he became abbot. This meant, visits to England, for Bec had property there. Lanfranc was then Archbishop of Canterbury, and though he often had to resist King William,the Conqueror became, it was said, " another man " in Anselm's presence. Eadmer, an English monk, attached himself so closely to Anselm, that it is from his biography that we learn all we need to about him—including even his special method of giving very simple instructions, full of homely illustrations that could be understood by all.

Lanfranc died in 1089 and William Rufus was keeping the See of Canterbury vacaft so that he might keep the revenues. Anselm, back in England on,business, begged that the See might be filled.Rufus swore that so long as he lived, neither Anselm nor anyone else should be Archbishop. He fell mortally ill: lapsed into panic: made all sorts of promises and named Anselm for Canterbury.

Anselm was almost as determined that he should not be Archbishop as that there must be an Archbishop.

Forced to take the Crozier The English hierarchy literally forced the crozier into his hands and carried him off to the church and sang a 7'e Deunt. Even so, he entered' on that struggle which was to last all-but for the rest of his life, even under Henry I—though towards the very end the King and the Archbishop made friends and Henry actually nominated him Regent during an absence of his in Normandy.

Always the Same Quarrel The essence of the quarrel, from the Church's point of view, was, that kings had no right to " invest " whom they would with bishoprics: God's mart, not the king's man, should be bishop or abbot.

From the royal point of view, the question was : Who would back the King,

whatever he did? and certainly, how much money could the Crown obtain, by keeping bishoprics empty? We certainly have no space for the details of this struggle which endures, in its proper and indeed intensified form, down to our own times.

As for Anselm, neither can we set forth what was proper to his theology, though its excellence was such as to win him the name of Father of Scholasticism, Le., that theology which triumphed a century and a half later. Can I risk putting it thus? In him was a limpid Faith, and an acute en quiring intelligence. The former came first. So his life could be called: " Faith seeking to understand."

Later on, I think, in our day, intelligence comes first. Intelligence may seem to block

the road to Faith. Intelligence, at best, seeks to believe. But Faith is essentially the Gift .of God. Anselm started with God's richly given gifts.

We all too often have to go through a harsh noviciate, till• we become not too unworthy to be given them, and not too cowardly to accept them.

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