Friday, May 27, 2011

Hail, Saintly Apostle to the Anglo-Saxons

                                                       St. Augustine of Canterbury

Today is the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury (died 604 AD).

St. Augustine was Prior of St. Andrew's Monastery in Rome when he was chosen by Pope St. Gregory the Great to re-evangelize Britain, where barbarian invasions had eradicated the Faith except in remoter areas of the British Islands.  According to the famous story, Pope St. Gregory was moved to take this step after having seen fair-headed slaves for sale in the Roman markets.  Pope St. Gregory inquired who these people were, and upon hearing that they were Angles, replied "Non sunt Angli, sed Angeli  (they are not Angles, but Angels)."
St. Augustine travelled to England with 30 monks and met with almost immediate success when Ethelbert, the King of Kent, who was already married to a Catholic princess named Bertha, presently converted.  Thousands of Ethelbert's subjects soon followed his example.  St. Augustine had less success persuading Celtic bishops in Britain to submit to his authority, and it would take many decades before Roman usage was firmly established.

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