Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Saint of the Week -- Augustine of Canterbury

Not to be confused with Augustine, Bishop of Hippo and author of The Confessions and City of God. This Augustine was sent to Britain by Pope Gregory in 595 to restore the Christian Church in Kent. (Christianity had continued in western Britain even after the fall of Rome, under the influence of Celtic monks in Ireland. The existing Christians in Britain seem not to have been impressed by Augustine and his missionary journey.)

Augustine and a missionary team arrived on the southeast coast of Britain in 597 (they had tried to return to Rome, daunted by their travels, but Gregory wouldn't let them come back). Aethelbert, King of the Saxons, had married a Christian woman, Bertha, and she was allowed to practice her faith. The missionaries were allowed to establish themselves and they began converting the Saxons at a notable clip.

They established a church in Canterbury, England. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury and the succession of archbishops has continued in an unbroken line down to Rowan Williams, our current archbishop of Canterbury.

Despite their hesitations, despite their homesickness, Augustine and his team succeeded. It is good to think about their example and how God works through us even when we are not inclined to do that work.

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