Today the church remembers Augustine, First Archbishop of Canterbury, 605.Augustine and a group of monks were sent to Britain by Pope Gregory (see March 12) in 597. Three centuries prior to this, Christianity had been introduced to the British Isles during the Roman occupation (see June 22 and March 1 and 17). However, when the Roman forces withdrew, the pagan Anglo-Saxons invaded the isles and forced the Christians to flee into the hills and forests of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, or to face a tenuous existence in England. Augustine found that his task was not only to convert the Anglo-Saxons but also to re-establish contacts between the British (or Celtic) and Roman churches. Now, Augustine seems to have been a rather timid and reticent fellow who had accepted this assignment with something less than enthusiasm. He did not speak the Anglo-Saxon tongue and was terrified at the prospect of confronting these notorious savages. He was relieved and delighted upon landing in Britain to find that the Anglo-Saxon queen, Bertha, was already a Christian and that the king was not unfriendly. The latter, King Ethelbert, eventually was converted and in time most of his subjects followed suit. Augustine established his cathedral at Canterbury in Kent. This was destined to become the most important bishopric in England and the mother diocese of the Anglican Communion. Archbishops of Canterbury are still said to hold the Chair of Augustine. We thank you, God, for the life and witness of Augustine, and for the English Church he strengthened. Amen.
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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.