Tomorrow, May 27, is the feast day of St. Augustine of Canterbury, a saint who’s worth knowing something about. He was born in Rome sometime in the 5thcentury and died in Canterbury, England, in 605 AD. He is called the apostle to the English and the Anglo-Saxons. His remains are interred outside the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Canterbury.
While still living in Rome, Augustine became a monk in the Benedictine tradition and was eventually elected as Abbot of St. Andrew’s Abbey. In the year 597, Pope St. Gregory the Great send St. Augustine and 40 of his monks to evangelize the British Isles. This was a terrifying assignment. The Roman Empire first established a presence in the British Isles 55 BC when Julius Ceasar invaded and conquered the Celtics tribes in the southern part of England, but he was not able to establish a permanent colony there. That wouldn’t happen for another 98 years, when Claudius Ceasar invaded with a large Roman army. Although the Romans were never able to completely conquer the British Isles, the did control most of England and Wales for over 300 years, until about the early 400s, when the Romans were forced to pull back. So, when St. Augustine traveled to Britain it had been over 150 years since the Romans had left Britain, and the rumors of the barbaric celtic tribes that had taken over caused St. Augustine to turn back.
When he got back to Rome, however, Pope St. Gregory the Great convinced St. Augustine that he had to go and bring the Gospel to the English, and so he set out again. St. Augustine succeeded in converting King Aethelberht and many thousands of his people, reestablishing the communication between the people of Britain and the rest of western Europe, and establishing the Catholic Church in England. He would soon be ordained as the first bishop and then archbishop of Canterbury. In his 8 years in Canterbury, he worked to spread the Gospel, bring about conversions, and strengthen the bonds between the England and the Roman Church, in union with the Pope. He’s been venerated as a saint for well over 1000 years and is the patron saint of England.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.