DC23 St. Anselm, Part 1 – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson – Discerning Hearts Podcast

St. Anselm, Part 1 – The Doctors of the Church with Dr. Matthew Bunson

  • Born: 1033, Aosta, Italy
  • Died: April 21, 1109, Canterbury, United Kingdom
  • Full name: Anselmo d’Aosta
  • Books: Proslogion, More

Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses St. Isidore of Seville, a Doctor of the Church often overlooked despite his significant contributions. Born around 560 and living till 636, he was a key figure in preserving classical learning during a turbulent post-Roman era.

Raised in a devout family, he became bishop of Seville following his brother Leander’s death. Isidore was known for his intellect, compiling extensive works including the influential “Etymologies,” an encyclopedia used for centuries. He was also a spiritual guide, advocating for church discipline and unity, notably combating Arianism. Isidore’s death in 636 was marked by his exemplary piety. Despite being somewhat overlooked, he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1722.

His life and teachings continue to inspire, even earning him consideration as the patron saint of the internet due to his commitment to learning and perseverance.

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. St. Isidore’s Contributions: Reflect on St. Isidore’s significant contributions to preserving classical learning and his role in shaping education during a turbulent era. How can his example inspire us to prioritize learning and intellectual pursuits in our own lives?
  2. Family Influence: Consider the influence of St. Isidore’s devout family on his spiritual formation. How does the example of his family’s strong Christian faith encourage us to cultivate faith within our own families?
  3. Spiritual Growth Through Adversity: Explore St. Isidore’s experience of spiritual growth through adversity, such as his relationship with his brother and his contemplative journey. How can we apply the lessons of patience, perseverance, and obedience to God’s will in our own spiritual lives?
  4. Role as Bishop: Reflect on St. Isidore’s role as a bishop, his efforts to combat heresy, and his leadership in guiding the Church through a period of cultural and religious transition. How can we emulate his commitment to defending the faith and fostering unity within the Church?
  5. Legacy and Patronage: Consider St. Isidore’s lasting legacy as a Doctor of the Church and his patronage, including his proposed patronage of the internet. How does his example of embracing new technologies and adapting to change challenge us to engage with the modern world while remaining faithful to our Christian values?

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of  Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2009

“He is also known as Anselm of Bec and Anselm of Canterbury because of the cities with which he was associated. Who is this figure to whom three places, distant from one another and located in three different nations Italy, France, England feel particularly bound? A monk with an intense spiritual life, an excellent teacher of the young, a theologian with an extraordinary capacity for speculation, a wise man of governance and an intransigent defender of libertas Ecclesiae, of the Church’s freedom, Anselm is one of the eminent figures of the Middle Ages who was able to harmonize all these qualities, thanks to the profound mystical experience that always guided his thought and his action.

St Anselm was born in 1033 (or at the beginning of 1034) in Aosta, the first child of a noble family. His father was a coarse man dedicated to the pleasures of life who squandered his possessions. On the other hand, Anselm’s mother was a profoundly religious woman of high moral standing (cf. Eadmer, Vita Sancti Anselmi, PL 159, col. 49). It was she, his mother, who saw to the first human and religious formation of her son whom she subsequently entrusted to the Benedictines at a priory in Aosta. Anselm, who since childhood as his biographer recounts imagined that the good Lord dwelled among the towering, snow-capped peaks of the Alps, dreamed one night that he had been invited to this splendid kingdom by God himself, who had a long and affable conversation with him and then gave him to eat “a very white bread roll” (ibid., col. 51). This dream left him with the conviction that he was called to carry out a lofty mission. At the age of 15, he asked to be admitted to the Benedictine Order but his father brought the full force of his authority to bear against him and did not even give way when his son, seriously ill and feeling close to death, begged for the religious habit as a supreme comfort. After his recovery and the premature death of his mother, Anselm went through a period of moral dissipation. He neglected his studies and, consumed by earthly passions, grew deaf to God’s call. He left home and began to wander through France in search of new experiences. Three years later, having arrived in Normandy, he went to the Benedictine Abbey of Bec, attracted by the fame of Lanfranc of Pavia, the Prior. For him this was a providential meeting, crucial to the rest of his life. Under Lanfranc’s guidance Anselm energetically resumed his studies and it was not long before he became not only the favourite pupil but also the teacher’s confidante. His monastic vocation was rekindled and, after an attentive evaluation, at the age of 27 he entered the monastic order and was ordained a priest. Ascesis and study unfolded new horizons before him, enabling him to rediscover at a far higher level the same familiarity with God which he had had as a child.

When Lanfranc became Abbot of Caen in 1063, Anselm, after barely three years of monastic life, was named Prior of the Monastery of Bec and teacher of the cloister school, showing his gifts as a refined educator. He was not keen on authoritarian methods; he compared young people to small plants that develop better if they are not enclosed in greenhouses and granted them a “healthy” freedom. He was very demanding with himself and with others in monastic observance, but rather than imposing his discipline he strove to have it followed by persuasion. Upon the death of Abbot Herluin, the founder of the Abbey of Bec, Anselm was unanimously elected to succeed him; it was February 1079. In the meantime numerous monks had been summoned to Canterbury to bring to their brethren on the other side of the Channel the renewal that was being brought about on the continent. Their work was so well received that Lanfranc of Pavia, Abbot of Caen, became the new Archbishop of Canterbury. He asked Anselm to spend a certain period with him in order to instruct the monks and to help him in the difficult plight in which his ecclesiastical community had been left after the Norman conquest. Anselm’s stay turned out to be very fruitful; he won such popularity and esteem that when Lanfranc died he was chosen to succeed him in the archiepiscopal See of Canterbury. He received his solemn episcopal consecration in December 1093.”

For more visit Vatican.va

For more from Dr. Matthew Bunson, check out his Discerning Hearts page.

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

1 thought on “DC23 St. Anselm, Part 1 – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson – Discerning Hearts Podcast”

  1. A very deep and heartfelt summary of the lives of the ‘Doctors of the Church’ and an insight into the conditions of their times. A tread runs through all the great saints lives:a profound love and awe of the Catholic faith and God, a deep rooted presence of the Divine, and an overwhelming desire to do the will of the Father. The work of these great saints and their spiritual journey should serve as a’rallying call’ for all lay people to do as much as possible to rekindle love and respect for ‘God and his commandments, most especially given the devastation and death from
    Corona virus, as well as Brexit. Today we could do with men of their character and fortitude to lead us into the promised land of hope and a profound sense of God’s presence in our lives.


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