21 April, Wednesday – Journeys’ End

21 Apr – Memorial for St. Anselm, bishop & doctor

St. Anselm (1033-1109) was born of Italian nobility. After a childhood devoted to piety and study, he wanted to enter religious life, but his father prevented it, and Anselm became rather worldly for several years. Upon his mother’s death, Anselm argued with his father, fled to France, and became a Benedictine monk at Bec, Normandy. He studied under, and succeeded Lanfranc as abbot, before later becoming Archbishop of Canterbury.

Anselm was a theological writer and counsellor to Pope Gregory VII, Pope Urban II, and William the Conqueror. He opposed slavery and obtained English legislation prohibiting the sale of men. He fought King William Rufus’ encroachment on ecclesiastical rights and the independences of the Church, and was exiled. He resolved theological doubts of the Italo-Greek bishops at the Council of Bari in 1098. He strongly supported celibate clergy. King Henry I invited him to return to England, but they disputed over investitures, and Anselm was again exiled in 1106.

He was one of the great philosophers and theologians of the Middle Ages, and was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1720 by Pope Clement XI.

No one will have any other desire in heaven than what God wills; and the desire of one will be the desire of all; and the desire of all and of each one will also be the desire of God.” – St. Anselm, Opera Omnis, Letter 112

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Acts 8:1-8
Jn 6:35-40

Whoever sees the Son and believes in him

Two years ago, a combination of factors led me to seriously contemplate the concept of death, particularly what awaits us afterwards. I had left my full-time job for more than a year, giving me increased mental ‘bandwidth’ to dwell on these big questions in life. Coupled with my observation of my mom’s journey into old age and her gradual deterioration into a physically weaker version of her former self, I could not help but ponder our mortality. Naturally, along with it, came a serious examination, or shall I say re-examination, of the church’s teachings about eternal life with our Father in heaven. Maybe I lacked trust in God, and/or I was not reading the gospel through the eyes of love and faith, but I struggled with doubts about our fate at the end of our pilgrimage in this world.

Post-resurrection, the apostles and followers of Christ wasted no time in setting up a Christ-centred community to spread His word. Did they fully understand His teachings at that time? I am not sure that they had all the head knowledge, but they definitely had the heart, and of course the Spirit was in them. Collectively, they sought to emulate their Lord and master in His ministry, knowing that they had a mission to spread the message of salvation, and that their own salvation awaited them at their journeys’ end.

After I told a priest about my struggles with the faith, he shared that he struggled with his own doubts for a few decades, and encouraged me to persevere in reading scripture. I think reading scripture is not sufficient though. I would have to continue to sustain a life of service in the Lord, and see His face through love for my neighbours, in whatever ways I can.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that in times of struggles, doubts and crises of faith, the Spirit may give us the hope we need.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the grace of redemption and opportunities to try again.

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