St. Augustine of Canterbury
St Augustine of Canterbury was born in the early 6th century and it isspeculated that he was born in Italy. It is also speculated that he diedin England on the 26th of May 604. He was a monk who later went tobecome the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597. He is thefounder of the English church.
Road to England
Initially, St Augustine was the prior of a monastery based in Rome untilPope Gregory the Great chose him to lead the Gregorian mission in 596.St Augustine had a group of about 40 companions, some of them who weremonks. This was a mission to Britain to Christianize King Æthelberht andhis Kingdom. This king had married a Christian princess who was expectedto have some influence over her husband.
The task of the mission was a huge one and they felt that they were notgoing to succeed. At one point he returned to Rome to ask for the papalpermission to return, the pope, however, did not give in but instead, hesend him back with letters to encourage the other missionaries,
His Works in Canterbury
They reached Æthelberht main town of Canterbury in 597 and managed toconvert him from Anglo-Saxon paganism to Christianity. The King gavethem land and allowed them to preach freely. St Augustine wasconsecrated as a bishop and he converted a lot of the King’s subjects.
Soon after his arrival in Canterbury, St Augustine founded the monasteryof Saint Peter and Paul which later became St Augustine’s Abbey. At onepoint he was expected to move to London but that move never happened.
After St Augustine had established his episcopal see in Canterbury, heconverted a lot of people to Christianity. Gregory claimed that morethan 10 000 Christians had been baptized in one of his letters.
St Augustine also reconsecrated a building that had been used for paganworship so that it can be used for worship by Christians.
Gregory also instructed St Augustine on some matters such as theconsecration of temples for Christian use and the moving of feasts tothe days celebrating Christian martyrs. Throughout his missionary work,St Augustine got most of his guidance from Gregory.
St Augustine arranged the concentration of his successor, Laurence ofCanterbury who was also a member of his team on the Gregorian mission.
Relations with the Native Bishops
In 601, Pope Gregory sent more missionaries to Canterbury as well asgifts for the church. In spite of all the great work by St Augustine,the attempts to persuade the native British bishops to submit to StAugustine were unfruitful.
Unfortunately, St Augustine failed to extend his authority to theChristians in Wales and Dumnonia to the west. This was because thenatives viewed Augustine with uncertainty and this was worsened when StAugustine did not rise from his seat when the British bishops wereentering during one of the meetings. This in turn resulted in thebishops not recognizing him as their archbishop.
There were also differences between St Augustine and the British churchand these also contributed towards the limitations in him beingaccepted. Differences included the observance of Easter, tonsure andapproaches to ascetism and missionary endeavors.
There were also some political dimensions involved since St Augustine’sefforts were sponsored by the king. This also contributed to the otherbishops not accepting him.
His way of doing things introduced a more active missionary style intothe British Isles.
There is a shrine at St Augustine’s, Ramsgate that is kept in his honor.His feast day is 27 May. He was canonized in 1303 and he is known as thepatron saint of brewers, printers and theologians.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Augustine of Canterbury
- St Augustine once had a mass baptism where he baptized thousands
of people on Christmas day in 597.
- The pope once wrote a letter to the king complimenting St
Augustine’s knowledge of the bible.
- St Augustine regularly wrote letters to the pope requesting
- St Augustine is the founder of The King’s School in Canterbury
which is the oldest existing school.
- He is believed to have been from a well off family.
Prayer to St. Augustine of Canterbury
O Lord our God,by your Son Jesus Christ you called your apostles and sent them forth topreach the Gospel to the nations:We bless your holy name for your servant Augustine, first Archbishop ofCanterbury, whose labors in propagating your Church among the Englishpeople we commemorate today;and we pray that all whom you call and send may do your will, and bideyour time, and see your glory;through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and theHoly Spirit, one God, forever and ever.Amen.