Summary: The Church is Incarnational, and must have both a sacred and secular existence, and yet must not become subservient to the state, whether kings or democratically elected tyrants who would make us do evil.
St. Anselm Day
April 21, 2011
If today’s lesson from Acts chapter 6 has any historical meaning at all, it is a confirmation that there have always been little fissures forming in the living stones that make up the Church. Early in our history, Greek-speaking converts to Judaism were attracted to the story of Christ, the sacraments of the Church, and the living out daily of the moral teachings of Jesus. Earlier in Acts we saw that the Church was temporarily enriched by the inflow of goods from the new adherents to the Way, like Barnabas, and so there were resources to care for the widows and orphans of the community. However, the newer Greek converts and their indigent women and children threatened to keep the apostles so busy with caregiving that they began to neglect the Word and sacraments. Hence the murmuring and the Spirit-inspired founding of the order of deacons from among the Jewish-Greek disciples of Jesus.
The Church is in the world, but not of the world. That Incarnational existence has always brought it into conflict, because, fundamentally, Satan hates the Incarnation. So when the Church tries to bring secular society into submission to Christ, there will be conflict. St. Anselm was an academic–he was later named doctor of the Church–and a truly great theologian and spiritual writer. But when he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, he was thrust into one of the great controversies of the Middle Ages called lay investiture. At that time, kings claimed the right to appoint the bishops of the Church in their kingdom. So the question arose–to whom are the bishops accountable? If the Pope allowed the kings to appoint the bishops, then the Church is doing homage to the state, and the unity of the Church must be compromised. So the Popes of that day forbade the kings to appoint bishops. Anselm was pitted against Henry I of England, who was trying to bring his kingdom into some order after the chaotic reign of a homosexual successor to William the Conqueror. Henry claimed the right to appoint all the officials, including the bishops of the Church. Anselm, following the guidance of the Pope, went into exile rather than submit to an unjust law.
Anselm might be a patron for the American bishops today. We have nominally Catholic authorities trying to force the bishops to accept an immoral mandate to pay for sterilizing our people–our employees. The bishops, so far, have all stood in opposition to this unjust regulation. Today, let us offer prayers for these so-called Catholics who are making the Church do evil. Let’s pray for strength for our bishops and conversion for those who would force us to do wrong.