St. Augustine of Canterbury – 27 May

Augustine was the abbot of St. Andrew’s monastery in Rome. Pope Gregory the Great chose him and forty other monks for an important mission. They were to go and preach the Gospel to the people of England. Abbot Augustine and the monks started on their journey. When they reached southern France, people warned them that the English were fierce. The monks felt discouraged. They asked Augustine to go back and obtain the pope’s permission to give up the whole idea. He did, but the pope wanted the monks to go to England just the same. Pope Gregory knew that the people were ready to accept the Christian faith. And so the monks continued their journey. They arrived in England in 597.

The monks were kindly received by King Ethelbert, whose wife was a Christian princess from France. The monks formed a procession when they arrived. They walked along singing psalms. They carried a cross and a picture of our Lord. Many people welcomed the monks’ message. King Ethelbert himself was baptized on Pentecost, 597. That year Abbot Augustine became a bishop.

Augustine often wrote to the pope. And Pope St. Gregory gave him much holy advice. Speaking about the many miracles Augustine worked, the pope said: “You must rejoice with fear and fear with joy for that gift.” He meant that Augustine should be happy that through the miracles the English people were putting faith in the Gospel. But he should be careful not to take credit for the miracles, because they were from God.

At Canterbury, Augustine built a church and a monastery, which became the most important in England. St. Augustine died on May 26, 604, seven years after his arrival in England.