By Ian Wilson (Rated G)
Nothing is known of the youth of the Apostle to the English. What we do know is that he was born sometime in the sixth century and was probably upper-class Roman. He was close friends with Pope Gregory the Great, and his mission to Britain was by the Pope’s specific request.
The Pope, you see, had met certain young men from England in the Forum. According to the historian Bede, they were slaves brought to Rome for sale, but other sources claim they were free men, come to Rome of their own free will, probably for trade. Whoever they were, Pope Gregory realized that these youths knew nothing of the Christian faith, and greatly desired to bring Christianity to English people. For this task he assigned Augustine of Canterbury.
Augustine and his monks therefore traveled northward, where they encountered many tales of the savagery of the English. This greatly distressed the missionaries, to the point that they returned to Rome to consult with Pope Gregory. The Pope, taking pity on his friend, lifted Augustine’s spirits. Thus encouraged, Augustine and his monks traveled to Britain to bring the gospel to a lost nation.
They arrived in Kent, where they were warmly received by King Aethelberht and his Christian wife, Queen Bertha. It seemed their fears were groundless. Through his fervent preaching and stoic attitude under difficulties, Augustine won over King Aethelberht to the Christian faith and baptized him. Aethelberht, full of zeal, allowed his whole kingdom to be mapped out into dioceses and the gospel be preached throughout the whole of England.
St. Augustine of Canterbury died, we are told, in the year 604, the same year as his friend Gregory, and was buried near his seat in Kent.
May we all be as bold in proclaiming the gospel as Augustine.