MCCA

St. Augustine of Canterbury

An Italian Benedictine monk who became the “Apostle of the English,” Saint Augustine of Canterbury is honored by the Catholic Church on May 27.

Under the direction of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Augustine founded the famous See of Canterbury and preached the Catholic faith to the country's Anglo-Saxon pagans during the late sixth and early seventh centuries.

He is not be confused with the earlier St. Augustine of Hippo, the famous author of the “Confessions” and “City of God.”

Augustine's date of birth cannot be established, nor are any details of his early life known. Most likely born in Rome, to a noble family, he entered monastic life as a young man. The community he joined had been recently founded by a Benedictine monk named Gregory, who would go on to become Pope and eventually be known as St. Gregory the Great. The friendship between Gregory and Augustine had great historical consequences, as it was the Pope who would eventually send his fellow monk to evangelize England.

Around 595, five years into his 14-year pontificate, Pope Gregory set to work on a plan for the conversion of the English people. The Catholic faith had already been preached and accepted among England's original Celtic inhabitants, in earlier times; but from the mid-fifth century onward, the country was dominated by Anglo-Saxon invaders who did not accept Christianity, and were not converted by the small number of isolated Celtic Christian holdouts. Thus, England largely had to be evangelized anew.

For this task the Pope chose a group of around forty monks – including Augustine, who was to represent the delegation and communicate on its behalf. Though he was not explicitly chosen as its leader at that time, that was the role he ended up taking on with Gregory’s support. The group left for England in June 596, but some of the missionaries lost their nerve after hearing fearsome reports about the Anglo-Saxons. Augustine ended up returning to Rome, where he got further advice and support from the Pope.

Persuaded to continue on their way, the missionary-monks reached their port of departure and set sail for England in spring of 597. After arriving they gained an audience with King Ethelbert of Kent, a pagan ruler whose Frankish wife Queen Bertha was a Christian. Speaking with the king through an interpreter, Augustine gave a powerful and straightforward presentation of the Gospel message, speaking of Christ’s redemption of the world and his offer of eternal life.

Ethelbert would later convert, and eventually even be canonized as a saint. But his initial response to Augustine’s preaching was only mildly positive: he would receive the missionaries with hospitality, and permit them to evangelize without any restriction. Despite his early ambivalence, however, the king became a generous patron of the monks. They made their home in Canterbury, after dramatically entering the city in procession with the Cross and an image of Christ.

The Canterbury community lived according to the Rule of St. Benedict, as they had in Italy, but they also preached in the surrounding area in accordance with their mission. Augustine and his companions succeeded in converting King Ethelbert himself, while Queen Bertha also became more zealous in her practice of the faith after her husband’s baptism. Augustine traveled to Gaul, where he was consecrated as a bishop for the English Church. By Christmas of 597, over ten thousand people were actively seeking baptism from the missionaries.

Through his written correspondence, Pope Gregory continued to guide the work of Augustine – the first Archbishop of Canterbury – and the other Catholic missionaries. The great Pope, and the “Apostle of England,” would both die during the same year, 604.

Though Augustine had not managed to sort out some disagreements with the native Celtic bishops, he had given the faith a firm foothold among the Anglo-Saxons. Canterbury would continue on for centuries as the ranking see of English Catholicism, until its fall into schism during the 16th century.


Acts 16:11-15

11 Setting sail therefore from Tro'as, we made a direct voyage to Sam'othrace, and the following day to Ne-ap'olis,
12 and from there to Philip'pi, which is the leading city of the district of Macedo'nia, and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days;
13 and on the sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.
14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyati'ra, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul.
15 And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.


John 15:26--16:4

26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;
27 and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.
1 "I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away.
2 They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
3 And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me.
4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them. "I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.


Psalms 149:1-6, 9

1 Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful!
2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker, let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King!
3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with timbrel and lyre!
4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.
5 Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands,
9 to execute on them the judgment written! This is glory for all his faithful ones. Praise the LORD!


Lord, may the Spirit empower us in our weakness

Monday 27th May 2019
6th Week of Easter
Acts 16:11-15; Ps. 150(149):1-2,3-4,5-6,9;
Jn. 15:26-16:4 (Ps Wk II)


The Holy Spirit is God’s Easter gift to us. The Spirit reminds us we are but the Breath of God from the moment of our Creation (Gen. 2:7).

Rowan Williams says the Church is not a noun, it is a verb. It is a “becoming”. Each of us becomes more and more enfleshed into God as God became flesh for our sake. This is our destiny.

At each Eucharist we are reminded that we are remembered: we are in communion (remade) with God and with one another, in spite of our differences, brokenness, crookedness and whatever mishaps we have stumbled into.

At such times the Holy Spirit becomes our advocate — a Helper in all events. There are times we can get overwhelmed by the nonsensical and silly ways of the world we live in. This is the time we need to stand firm in our witness to God as our Creator, Father. When we face difficult times, we may be tempted to compromise God’s standards to the world’s standards. Like Lydia, in the Acts, we listen to the Truth and accept to follow in the new way of the Gospel, which is God’s Word for us.

Lord, may the Spirit empower us in our weakness to remain ever true to Your voice.