An Abbot’s Prayer

Saint Anselm’s Prayer by a Bishop or Abbot to the Patron Saint of his Church

St N, Holy N, Blessed N,
one of the glorious apostles of God,
one of the blessed friends of God,
this sinner, this needy one, this one of yours,
although unworthy, although incapable,
although so unsuitable a substitute,
again and again comes back to you,
doubtful, ignorant, anxious about your people,
your congregation, and about his own peril.

Obviously I am a useless person,
adorned with no good works,
but darkened by a profound ignorance,
deformed by countless vices, burdened by huge sins.
I, I say, whom God and you after God,
either ordered or permitted (I know not which)
to be called abbot of this church under your patronage,
under your leadership, constituted under your name;
anxious about myself and those committed to me,
I beg to consult you, I pray you to listen,
and I expect you through all to work on my behalf.
For I am called master, but I do not know it is so;
I am named shepherd, but I deny that it is so;
they say that I am abbot, but I am not.

For they see me seated where the abbot sits,
but I see that I do not do the works that an abbot does.
They behold me preceded like an abbot,
but I do not behold that I live like an abbot.
They show me honour like an abbot,
but I do not show them the way of life of an abbot.
Scarcely have I led the life of a good layman,
and yet they expect me to live like a monk.

What have I done, a little man,
a creeping and decaying thing,
what have I done, to what have I presumed,
to what have I consented?
But you, God, and you, N, his apostle,
what have you done?
For you have done this,
either by commanding it or by permitting it.
So it is you, who have in some way done this thing,
who must act – you by praying, and you by giving
so that what you have done
may hold back neither me nor others,
but may lead forward me and many others.

You have made an ignorant doctor, a blind leader,
an erring ruler:
teach the doctor you have established,
guide the leader you have appointed,
govern the ruler that you have approved.

I beg you,
teach me what I am to teach,
lead me in the way that I am to lead,
rule me so that I may rule others.
Or rather, teach them, and me through them,
lead them, and me with them,
rule them, and me among them.

Jesus, good shepherd, they are not mine but yours,
for I am not mine but yours.
I am yours, Lord, and they are yours,
because by your wisdom you have created
both them and me,
and by your death you have redeemed us.
So we are yours, good Lord, we are yours,
whom you have made with such wisdom
and bought so dearly.
Then if you commend them to me, Lord,
you do not therefore desert me or them.

You commend them to me:
I commend myself and them to you.
Yours is the flock, Lord, and yours is the shepherd.
Be shepherd of both your flock and shepherd.
Lord, by the merits of blessed N, your friend,
favourably hear the prayer of your sinner.
Lord, let him care for us,
whom you have given us as an advocate.

We know he prays for us,
and by him we daily entreat your help.
Through him we obtain your grace,
and through him we daily implore your majesty.
We confess that he is our advocate, Lord,
and by him we know you to be our Saviour.

Do not let our deserts prevail over his merits, Lord,
but blot out our sins by his prayer.
And you, O holy and blessed N, you are my advocate;
be my intercessor to God.
I pray you, entreat him,
I beg you, beseech him.
Offer him my prayer,
and bring his favourable answer back to me.

I intimate to him through you my sufferings,
and through you he gives back to me his consolation.
Show him my peril, and show me his aid.
For I have undertaken to rule the church of God under you,
I who can scarcely begin to rule my own soul.
For myself therefore I am timid,
and for others I am forced to be solicitous.

Weighed down by a weight of sins,
I am ordered to relieve others,
bowed down by a weight of crimes, I must put others right.
So holy, blessed and good N, recognize me
as in some kind of way your deputy,
and always go before me with your counsel,
and follow me with your help,
ruling me, and the flock committed to me.

For they are committed more to you than to me,
and those who are committed to me
are not taken away from you,
but I am the more greatly committed to you.
So what is enjoined upon me about them
do you perform for me and for them.
Do on my behalf what is enjoined upon me
to do in your place.

Act, sir, act for me,
for you see that I have neither the knowledge nor the ability
to act in your place.
Rather, act not for me but for yourself,
for this pertains first and more greatly to you than me,
and if it pertains to me, it is after and under you.
So you, sir, have more obligation, more knowledge,
and more power than I have,
so act more powerfully than me.
Let me not be weighed down, sir,
by anxiety about their care,
for I am weighed down quite enough
with the pack of my own sins.
Let me not be weighed down by them,
for I am too much weighed down by myself.
Let them not weigh upon me,
but neither let me be a burden to them,
nor let my sins impede them,
nor my evil deeds do them harm.

Let not my wrong-doing block the way of those
who ought to benefit by my well-doing.
Let them not be held back by me, sir,
by whom they ought to be led forward.
Let me not delay them whom I ought to urge on.
For my sins are more than sufficient for me;
do not let them be a drag on others.
It is too much for me if my sins damn me;
do not let them involve others with me.

But you, O apostle of God,
you can raise up me and them.
Carry me and them, excuse me and them!
Help us all, rule and protect us all,
so that I may rejoice in their salvation with me,
and they in mine with them,
so that with you, his blessed apostle,
we may always praise our good Lord Jesus Christ,
who is the blessed God, for ever and ever. Amen, Amen.