by Cardinal Orlando Beltran Quevedo, O.M.I, Archbishop-Emeritus of Cotabato
Some Notes on St. Augustine of Canterbury
1. Born in Italy in the 6th century, St. Augustine was probably from an aristocratic family. He was a Benedictine monk who became the 1st Archbishop of Canterbury in 597. He is considered the "Apostle to the English" and a founder of the English Church.
2. A brief background to St, Augustine's mission -- Britannia had been converted to Christianity before the Roman legions withdrew in 410. After they withdrew, Anglo-Saxon pagan tribes settled in the south, while the north remained Christian, under the influence of Irish missionaries. In 595, Pope Gregory I (later a Saint) decided to send a mission to convert the Anglo-Saxons.
3. The Pope chose Augustine, the Prior of the Abbey of St. Andrew in Rome, to head the mission. Pope Gregory had been a monk in the Abbey, under Augustine. They planned to sail to the Kingdom of Kent, whose Queen Bertha was a Christian, married to the pagan King Aethelbert. The Pope sought help for the mission from the Frankish kings, some of whom were relatives of Queen Bertha.
4. To head the mission, Augustine had the necessary theological and administrative competence. The mission consisted of about 42 people, many of whom were monks. After leaving Rome, the group faced daunting challenges and wanted to return. But Pope Gregory told them to push on.
5. In 597, the mission landed in Kent. Soon after, King Aethelbert was baptized. Large numbers of his subjects were also converted. The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Kent was gradually changing from paganism to Christianity.
6. Meanwhile, Augustine was consecrated Bishop in Arles, Gaul (France). He established his episcopal See in Canterbury. He founded a monastery which later became St. Augustine's Abbey.
7. In 601, Pope Gregory sent more missionaries. They brought the Pallium for Augustine's consecration as Archbishop. The Pope instructed Augustine to consecrate 12 suffragan bishops. However, at a meeting with Archbishop Augustine, the British Bishops refused to recognize him as their Archbishop. This was probably because Augustine did not fully understand the history and traditions of the British church, whose Bishops were suspicious of the Roman connection and background of Augustine.
8. At the time of Augustine's death in 605, the mission to Britannia barely extended beyond Kent. But it was Augustine who was 1st sent to convert the Anglo-Saxons. Their descendants became the decisive influence in Christianity in Britannia.
9. Archbishop Augustine died on 26 May 605. His remains were enshrined and venerated within St. Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury. Sadly, during Henry VII's English Reformation in the 16th century, that establshed Anglicanism in England, St. Augustine's shrine was destroyed and his relics were lost. His shrine was re-established in the Church of St. Augustine in Ramsgate, Kent, close to the mission's landing site.
10. Prayer -- 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, God, forever and ever. Amen (Collect for the Mass of St. Augustine of Canterbury).
Prayers, stay safe, God bless!