Today’s Saint

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April 21 | Physical Needs

Saint Anselm

A.D. 1033–1109

As human beings, our legitimate needs are best understood in relation to each of the four aspects of the human person—physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. These needs exist not only in these different areas but also on different levels.

When thinking about our physical needs, it is helpful to remember that our bodies are glorious creations and should be honored and respected.

Saint Anselm had to learn this lesson the hard way. 

Born in northern Italy to an aristocratic family, Anselm was expected to take up his father’s position as a nobleman. His mother, however, sensed something special about the young man, and taught him all she knew about the Christian faith. By the age of fifteen, Anselm wished to enter the monastery, but his father angrily opposed him. When Anselm went to the Benedictine monastery and asked to join, the abbot refused, saying he needed his father’s consent.

Our minds, bodies, and spirits are deeply connected, and when Anselm suffered in his mind and spirit from this refusal, his body soon followed. He was plunged into serious illness. When he finally recovered, he decided to give up his spiritual pursuits and instead live a life of pleasure-seeking. But not only did his physical health continue to suffer, but his emotional, intellectual and spiritual health suffered too.

Finally, after the death of his mother, Anselm came to his wits again. He entered the Benedictine monastery without needing anyone else’s consent—he was now twenty-seven. His rhythm of life as a Benedictine monk aligned with the natural cycles of rest and activity. He performed physical labor every day, shared communal meals with the other monks that were simple and nutritious, and had daily times of prayer when he could rest in God. And he got enough sleep. Saint Anselm was attending to his physical needs, which then empowered him to fulfill his emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs.

Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and regular sleep are three of the easiest ways to increase our passion, energy, and enthusiasm for life. They are among our simplest legitimate needs and contribute massively to the well-being of the whole person. Physical wellbeing is the foundation upon which we build our lives. 

Unless we attend to our legitimate needs in relation to the physical aspect of our being, our capacity in all other areas of our life will be reduced.

Are you attending to your legitimate physical needs?


I will care for my physical needs.

This reflection is brought to you from book title.

Patron Saint of: Theologians and Philosophers

Symbols: A Ship

Feast Day Shared By: Saint Apollonius and Saint Conrad of Parzham

Canonized: October 4, 1494

Canonized By: Pope Alexander VI

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