Today, May 27, we celebrate the feast of *Saint Augustine of Canterbury* called the “Apostle of England,” and the eventual first Archbishop of Canterbury.
He is not be confused with the earlier St. Augustine of Hippo, the famous author of the “Confessions” and “City of God.” The work of Saint Augustine of Canterbury is widely regarded as the birth of conversion in England, beginning the slow process of conversion of Celtic tradition and reconciliation with Rome.
He served as Prior of a Benedictine monastery of monks in Rome, during the papacy of Pope Saint Gregory the Great. In 596, Saint Augustine was, sent by the pope, with a delegation to England to preach the Gospel.
News of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons, and their treatment of Catholics, was
widespread, but with encouragement—and out of obedience—Augustine undertook this difficult and potentially dangerous mission, but not before returning to the Pope and seeking reassurance.
The time was favorable for a mission since the ruler of the whole of southern England, Ethelbert of Kent, although a pagan, had married a Christian wife.
Eventually, impressed with the community under the direction of Saint Augustine, King Ethelbert converted and was baptized. Despite the fact that the king did not force his subjects to become Christian, and instead instituted a policy of religious choice, many of his subjects converted to Catholicism. Augustine, following his initial success in England, travelled to France, where he was consecrated as a bishop, and subsequently returned to Canterbury to establish a vigorous community of religious life.
With him he brought a priceless collection of illuminated manuscripts, still present and preserved today. He re-consecrated and rebuilt a church at Canterbury, and founded the monastery of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Outside the Walls He is further credited with founding the King’s School at Canterbury, the world’s oldest school.
Augustine was only in England for eight years before he died in 605 and is called the “Apostle of England.”
*St. Augustine of Canterbury, pray for us*.
O God, who by the preaching of the Bishop Saint Augustine of Canterbury led the English peoples to the Gospel, grant, we pray, that the fruits of his labors may remain ever abundant in your Church.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen