Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Saints of Summer: Augustine of Canterbury

Today we begin again the celebration of the Saints of Summer. We won't cover every saint -- there are too many -- but from time-to-time on this blog we will observe a saint day. Some of these figures are well-known, others obscure, and all of them remarkable.

We begin, appropriately enough, with today's feast of Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury (not to be confused with Augustine of Hippo who lived 200 years earlier). Augustine, a Benedictine monk, was sent by Pope Gregory the Great in 595 to bring Christianity to the English, and specifically to convert Anglo-Saxon King Ethelberht to the faith. It helped immeasurably that Ethelberht's queen, Bertha of Paris, was already a Christian, and Augustine was a Gaul. Augustine came ashore near Dover, and a few miles inland at Canterbury he found the king, who converted.

King Ethelberht allowed Augustine to preach and convert his subjects, and thus Canterbury became the locus of Christianity in England. Augustine died in 604, barely nine years into his mission to England. Not long after, Augustine was made a saint, and the town of Canterbury became the holy destination of English pilgrims. Canterbury to this day remains the symbolic center of Anglicanism and the root stock of the Episcopal Church.
Collect for Augustine, First Archbishop of Canterbury
O Lord our God, by your Son Jesus Christ you called your apostles and sent them forth to preach the Gospel to the nations; We bless your holy Name for your servant Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, whose labors in propagating your Church among the English people we commemorate today; and we pray that all whom you call and send may do your will, and bide your time, and see your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

No comments: