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St. Ansfrid, May 3

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Biographical selection:

Ansfrid, Count of Brabant, followed a military career under Emperors Otto III and St. Henry. He married a noble lady, with whom he had one daughter. Afterwards, the couple agreed to live together as brother and sister in perfect chastity. The Count founded an abbey at Heiligenberg in the Diocese of Liège and the Countess expended her fortune founding and building a Convent at Thorn. Later the noble lady with her daughter took the religious veil, and both lived lives of great holiness.

In 974 Ansfrid lay down his weapons, which he had wielded in memorable campaigns, over the altar of Our Lady, solemnly proclaiming these words:
“Until today I have combatted for temporal glory in the defense of the poor, widows and orphans. Henceforth I place myself under the protection of the Virgin Mary and I will fight unceasingly for the conquest of souls, the glory of God and my own salvation.”
In 994 he was named Bishop of Utrecht. From time to time he would take leave of his work in the Diocese to make a retreat at one of the monasteries he had founded. He died May 3, 1010, and it was not long before he received the homage due him for his saintly life.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

The transition in the life of St. Ansfrid from the state of warrior to that of ecclesiastic is beautiful. The unity one sees in both states in which his life was divided is also beautiful. On one hand he was a knight errant fighting on behalf of the poor, widows and orphans for the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, as a Bishop he was also a fighter, but a fighter with a higher aim, i.e., the salvation of souls. You can see that the attitude of St. Ansfrid, affirmed by the unity of a life lived in a continuous combat in both the spiritual and temporal spheres, is quite the opposite of the pacifist attitude of our days.

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St. Ansfrid was a knight-errant defending the poor, widows and orphans

For this pacifist mentality, any combat - be it an ideological or material war - is evil in itself. Men should not fight among themselves because at depth there is no discordance in ideas. Everything should be resolved by a dialogue. For this reason the fight is always an evil.

The life of St. Ansfrid shows us the opposite. When he left the state of warrior, he did not declare that he was denying that life or that he thought it was opposed to Catholic ideals. His life is a confirmation of the notion that war is the normal condition of men on earth. Obviously war is an evil, but it is a necessary evil that can be justified in view of a higher good. Therefore, there are things that are more valuable than peace, and peace can be sacrificed for them. On one hand, when one has to break the peace, he laments the fact because he loves peace. But on the other hand, he goes into combat with joy because he understands that it is a way to serve God in order to achieve a higher good. Therefore he loves the fight and war. Both war and the fight share the dignity of the higher good for which they are made.

Thus St. Ansfrid entered into ecclesiastical life with this spirit:

I am not leaving my condition of warrior. I will continue to combat on a higher level, which is the doctrinal and spiritual level. The fight for the poor, widows and orphans that were part of my life as a warrior in the temporal sphere will be transformed in the fight for the interests of the eternal life. But I will continue to fight because I like being a combatant. I am the same as a Bishop as I was before as a warrior, because in this life everything is war. Everything is war because the devil exists, evil exists, original sin exists. As a consequence the good must maintain a permanent attitude of militancy. I am proud of this attitude.”

St. Ansfrid is a saint canonized by the Catholic Church, which means that he practiced the virtue of charity in a heroic way. The revolutionaries like to say that this virtue is incompatible with militancy, be it ideological or concrete. However, when the Church points to the life of St. Ansfrid as a model, she is inviting us to imitate him. A saint is a living realization of the teachings of Our Lord in the Gospel.

The life of St. Ansfrid should reinforce in us the notion of the militant character of the Church. It should encourage us to have a militant spirit and enjoy the fight for a superior cause, which is the cause of Our Lady. His life also should give us the certainty that Catholic doctrine is secure as a rock, completely different from the pacifist confusion that is being spread everywhere. Pacifism is a weapon of the Revolution to disarm the human spirit, to anesthetize it, and to make man easier to be conquered. Therefore, we live in a time of vigilance, fight, and faith.


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Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Saint of the Day features highlights from the lives of saints based on comments made by the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Following the example of St. John Bosco who used to make similar talks for the boys of his College, each evening it was Prof. Plinio’s custom to make a short commentary on the lives of the next day’s saint in a meeting for youth in order to encourage them in the practice of virtue and love for the Catholic Church. TIA thought that its readers could profit from these valuable commentaries.

The texts of both the biographical data and the comments come from personal notes taken by Atila S. Guimarães from 1964 to 1995. Given the fact that the source is a personal notebook, it is possible that at times the biographic notes transcribed here will not rigorously follow the original text read by Prof. Plinio. The commentaries have also been adapted and translated for TIA’s site.

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