SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY

May28 Saint Augustine of Canterbury was the Prior of the Monastery of St Andrew in Rome, when he was chosen by Saint Gregory the Great to lead a contingent of 40 Monks to England to evangelise that country, which was deeply pagan. Saint Palladius and Saint Germain d'Auxerre had done much good work there in the fifth century, but the pagans had destroyed many churches and persecuted the Christians to the point where there were very few left.

During their journey to England, they heard stories of the barbarism of the pagans, and were afraid and wished to turn back. But Saint Gregory urged them on, saying "The greater your hardship, the greater your crown."

Landing at Ebbsfleet they sent their translators on ahead to meet the King and to announce to him the Good News of all ages, with its promise of eternal heavenly joy and happiness.

They met with the Saxon King Ethelbert who had reigned for the past 36 years, under a great Oak tree at Minster in the present day County of Kent.

He was ready to hear their Good News, since his wife Bertha was a Christian, and in fact was a granddaughter of Saint Clothilde and Clovis. After a few days of deliberation, he told them only that he would allow them to practice their religion in peace. He gave them a residence in Canterbury, and assisted them in their needs.

Their good example gradually drew people to them, and on Pentecost day in the year 597AD, the King was baptised, became a Christian, and many of his people and nobles followed his example.

Gradually the faith spread far and wide. St Augustine set out on a visitation of many parts of England, to spread the faith further. He failed in the west, but was successful north and south.

He died after eight years of labour in the Lord's Vineyard, but his monks continued his evangelical work.

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