St. Anselm’s Prayer to His Founder

On this feast of a truly great bishop and doctor (and patron of my school), a prayer he composed to the founder of his order.  This is how a saint sees himself and the work he has to do:

Holy and blessed Benedict, the grace of heaven has made you rich with such full blessing of goodness not only in order to raise you to the glory you desire, to the rest of the blessed, to a seat in heaven, but that many others be drawn to that same blessedness, wondering at your life, stirred by your kind admonitions, instructed by your gentle doctrine, called on by your miracles.  Benedict, blessed of God, whom God has blessed with such wide benediction, to you I flee, in anguish of soul.  I fling myself down before you with all humility of mind possible; I pour forth my prayer to you with all the fervor possible; and implore your help with all the desire possible; for my need is too great; I cannot bear it.

For I profess to lead a life of continual turning to God, as I promised by taking the name and habit of a monk; but my long life cries out against me and my conscience convicts me, as a liar to God, to angels, and to men.  Holy Father Benedict hear what I ask of you; and I beg you  not to be scandalized by so many faults and such deceit, but hear what I acknowledge before you, and have more pity on my sorrows than I deserve.

At least, peerless leader among the great armies of Christ, you have pledged me to serve under your leadership,  however feeble a soldier; you have placed me under your tutorship, however ignorant a pupil; I have vowed to live according to your Rule, however carnal a monk.  My perverse heart is dry and as cold as a stone when it comes to deploring the sins I have committed; but when it comes to resisting occasions of sin it is indeed pliant and soon defiled.  My depraved mind is swift and untiring to study what is useless and vile; but even to think of what is for its good makes it weary and stupid.  My blind and distorted soul is swift and prompt to throw itself into vices and wallow in them, but how slowly and with what difficulty do I even call to mind the virtues.  It would take too long, dearest Father, to recall each thing separately.  It would be too long a story to tell of all the gluttony, sloth, inconstancy, impatience, vainglory, detraction, disobedience, and all the other sins which my wretched soul commits, deriding me each day.  Sometimes my sins drag me here and there, mocking at this wretched and tattered little man; and at other times they come in a mob and trample me underfoot in triumph, and triumph that they can trample me underfoot.

See then, blessed Benedict, how bravely fights this soldier who is under your leadership; see how much progress your pupil is making in your school; see what a marvelous monk this is, dead to sin and the desires of the flesh, fervent and living only for virtue! No, you see rather a false monk, lost to all virtue, dominated by a crowd of vices, burdened with a weight of sin.

For shame!  Shameless monk that I am!  How dare I call myself a soldier of Christ and a disciple of St. Benedict?  False to my profession, how have I the effrontery to let people see me with the tonsure and habit of profession when I do not live the life?  Alas, ‘anguish closes me on every side,’ for if I deny my sovereign king, my good teacher and my profession, it is death to me; but if I profess myself a soldier, scholar, monk, my life argues that I am a liar and I am judged thereby.  Faint within me, my spirit; be appalled, my heart; break forth and cry, O my soul.

Jesus, good Lord, consider my affliction and my trouble and forgive me all my sins.  Hear, O Lord, do not cast me off or forsake me, but lead me and help me to do your will, so that my life may attest what my heart and mouth confess so freely.  Hear the voice of my prayer, my King and my God, by the merits and intercession of holy Benedict, your dear friend, my master, and my leader.

And you, my good leader, my gentle master, my dear father, blessed Benedict–I pray and beseech you, by the mercy you have shown others and by the mercy that God has shown to you, have compassion on me in my misery, for I rejoice with you in your bliss.  Help me!  I beg you to be my protector.  Dig me out from the mass of sin that buries me, free me from the ropes of sin that bind me, loose me from the wickedness that entangles me.  Lift up him who is cast down, strengthen the wavering, prepare the helpless with spiritual weapons of virtue, lead and protect him who is fighting in the battle.  Bring me to the victory and lead me to the crown.

Do this, advocate of monks, of that charity which you were anxious for us to take as our rule of life.  Make it your care that we may be sufficiently willing and effectively able to do whatever we ought; so that both you, on account of our discipleship, and we, on account of your leadership, may glory before the face of God who lives and reigns for ever and ever.


O False Monk, ora pro nobis falsis Christianis.


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