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Saint Anselm of Lucca

(died 1086 A.D.)


Anselm has two meanings. In French, the name Anselm means “One Who Follows a Nobleman.” In the Germanic languages, the name means “Divine Helmet.” Lucca is Italian for “Light.”


Saint Anselm of Lucca insisted on holiness in those who were supposed to be following God closely.

Anselm was born in Mantua, Italy, about one thousand and thirty years after Jesus was born. He developed a strong faith and became a priest. When Anselm was 37 years old, his uncle, Pope Alexander II, asked him to be the bishop of Lucca, Italy and sent him to Rome to be made bishop by the Emperor.

Anselm disagreed with this custom of having the emperor, and not a representative of the Church, consecrate the bishop. He believed that worldly authority should not have any authority over religious matters. So he refused to accept this investiture and was made bishop by the next Pope. However, the Pope insisted that Anselm accept the bishop’s ring and crozier from the emperor which he did reluctantly. Feeling uncomfortable over this, Anselm left his diocese and became a monk, but the Pope called him back to take his responsibility as Bishop.


Anselm worked to bring a greater degree of holiness to the clergy by having them live, pray, and work together rather than each one living alone and being able to do whatever he wanted. Some of the clergy revolted and eventually drove Anselm from the city where he had been living. He went to live in the city where the empress lived and became her spiritual director. From there he continued to try to bring the clergy to greater discipline and self-control.


Anselm spent several hours a day in prayer. He ate very little and poor food. When he offered Mass, he would begin to weep at the love and sacrifice of God. He knew most of the Bible by heart and could discuss passages easily and apply theology to them. Anselm also wrote prayers for the Mass and an explanation of the Psalms. He always felt God close by.


Anselm tried to end the custom of the wealthy nobles granting property to clergy in exchange for their loyalty. Priests who wanted o serve God so they could get property were not acting the way Jesus taught. The next Pope made Anselm his representative to stop this evil practice in Italy. Anselm was working at this when he died.

Anselm teaches us to serve God humbly and with love. We should expect nothing but God’s grace if we serve God well.

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