SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_augustin_de_cantorbery.html
C’est cet homme qui a fait de Cantorbéry le centre spirituel de l’Angleterre
Aliénor Goudet - Publié le 27/05/21
Pourtant heureux de son rôle de prieur au monastère de Saint-André de Rome, Augustin reçoit soudainement une mission du Pape. Celle d’aller évangéliser la Grande-Bretagne. Cette mission va donner racine au célèbre archevêché de Cantorbéry.
Grande-Bretagne, 597. Lorsque Augustin quitte enfin la demeure d’Ethelbert, roi du Kent, un long soupir de soulagement lui échappe. Ses quarante compagnons moines se précipitent vers lui pour qu’il leur donne le verdict.
– N’ayez crainte, mes frères, leur dit-il. Le roi nous permet de rester.
Bien que païen et méfiant à l’égard des chrétiens, Ethelbert a permis aux envoyés du pape de s’installer dans le Kent. Sans doute grâce à son épouse, la reine Berthe, fille du roi de Paris et fervente chrétienne. On les emmène alors vers le lieu que le roi leur a offert. Sur le chemin, Augustin laisse ses pensées retourner dans le temps.
La grande mission d’un petit prieur
Quelle a été sa surprise lorsque le pape Grégoire I lui-même est venu le trouver pour lui confier l’évangélisation des Anglo-Saxons. Lui, petit prieur qui s’apprêtait à passer le reste de sa vie au calme dans son monastère ? Le saint pontife lui avait alors assuré que ses connaissances bibliques et ses compétences d’administrateur étaient requises. Le Seigneur avait donc une mission pour lui. Et par la grâce de Dieu, ce voyage de Rome à la Grande Bretagne s’est déroulé sans trop des périls.
Leur guide tire Augustin de sa rêverie lorsqu’ils atteignent enfin les lieux. Le bâtiment que le roi leur a offert est un vestige abandonné de l’occupation romaine. Un bon ménage ne serait pas de trop, mais l’endroit est parfait ! De suite, les moines se mettent au travail.
Très vite, sous la direction d’Augustin, la petite communauté prend racine. Les moines qui suivent la règle de saint Benoît deviennent vite indépendants. Le bâtiment est transformé en l’église Saint-Martin, devenant ainsi la première église de Grande Bretagne. Augustin et ses frères prennent également bien soin d’appliquer l’Evangile qu’ils prêchent auprès des habitants du Kent. Ils soignent les malades, aident à la récolte et nourrissent les pauvres tout en prêchant les valeurs du Christ. Tout ça sous l’œil bienveillant d’Augustin.
Un échec pas total
Mais le contact avec le reste des Anglo-saxons n’est pas aussi facile. Les peuples païens sont dangereusement attachés à leurs traditions. Quant à ceux qui ont été christianisés au IIIe siècle, ils se sont repliés dans leurs petites communautés, coupé du reste du monde chrétien. Par conséquent, de nombreux de petits clergés se sont formés sans liens entre eux ou avec Rome. Les contacter demande énormément de patience et de lettres à l’envoyé du pape. Augustin passe de longues heures à rédiger sur son bureau.
Le travail acharné d’Augustin et de ses compagnons ne passe pas inaperçus. Impressionné par le savoir et la serviabilité des moines, le roi Ethelbert demande le baptême moins d’un an après leur arrivée. L’influence du souverain fait que le Kent et les provinces sous son règne ne tardent pas à se convertir. Selon les écrits du pape Grégoire I, la mission d’Augustin entraine la conversion de plus de 10.000 bretons.
Alors qu’on érige le monastère bénédictin Saints-Pierre-et-Paul, Augustin s’applique à unifier l’Angleterre. Il rassemble les évêques bretons et leur prêche l’importance de l’unité de l’Église.
– Travaillons ensemble à l’annonce de l’Évangile de Jésus-Christ et préservons l’unité catholique.
Malheureusement, outre les régions dépendantes d’Ethelbert, son appel reste sans réponse. Même les renforts que lui envoie le pape ne parviennent pas à convaincre tous les bretons. Il faudra encore du temps avant l’unification de la Grande Bretagne sous la bannière du Christ.
Le premier archevêque de Cantorbéry s’éteint le 26 mai 604. Mais même sans avoir vu l’Angleterre convertie de son vivant, c’est lui qui a érigé le lieu qui deviendra la capitale de la chrétienté en Angleterre.
Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique
Dom Pius Parsch, le Guide dans l’année liturgique
SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/28-05-St-Augustin-de-Cantorbery#nh1
St. Augustine of Canterbury
First Archbishop of Canterbury, Apostle of the English; date of birth unknown; d. 26 May, 604. Symbols: cope,pallium, and mitre as Bishop of Canterbury, and pastoral staff and gospels as missionary. Nothing is known of his youth except that he was probably a Roman of the better class, and that early in life he become a monk in the famous monastery of St. Andrew erected by St. Gregory out of his own patrimony on the Cælian Hill. It was thus amid the religious intimacies of the Benedictine Rule and in the bracing atmosphere of a recentfoundation that the character of the future missionary was formed. Chance is said to have furnished the opportunity for the enterprise which was destined to link his name for all time with that of his friend andpatron, St. Gregory, as the "true beginner" of one of the most important Churches in Christendom and the medium by which the authority of the Roman See was established over men of the English-speaking race. It is unnecessary to dwell here upon Bede's well-known version of Gregory's casual encounter with English slaves in the Roman market place (H.E., II, i), which is treated under GREGORY THE GREAT.
Bede, Hist. Eccl. I and II; Paulus Diaconus, Johannes Diaconus, and St. Gall MSS., Lives of St. Gregory in P.L., LXXV; Epistlae Gregorii, ibid.; Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum, ibid., LXXI; Goscelin, Life of St. Gregory in Acta SS., May, VI, 370 sqq.; Wm. Thorne, Chron. Abbat. S. Aug. in Twysden's Decem Scriptores (London, 1652), pp 1758-2202; Haddan and Stubbs, Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents relating to Great Britain and Ireland (Oxford, 1869-1873, 3 vols.); Mason (ed.), The Mission of St. Augustine according to the Original Documents (Cambridge, 1897); Dudden, Gregory the Great, His Place in the History of Thought (London, New York, Bombay, 1905); St Gallen MS., ed, Gasquet (1904);Stanley, Memorials of Canterbury (London, 1855, 1906); Bassenge, Die Sendung Augustins zur Bekehrung d. Angelsachsen (Leipzig, 1890); Brou, St. Augustin de Canterbury et ses Compagnons (Paris, 1897); Lévèque, St Augustin de Canterbury, in Rev. des Quest. Hist. (1899), xxi, 353-423; Martielli, Récits des fêtes célébrées a l'occ. du 13e centenaire de l'arrivée de St. Aug. en Angleterre (Paris, 1899)
Copyright © 2020 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
ST. AUGUSTINE, B. C.,
APOSTLE OF THE ENGLISH.
[From Bede, b. 1, c. 23, &c., and the Letters and Life of St. Gregory.] A.D. 604.
BUTLER'S LIVES OF THE SAINTS
THE Saxons, English, and Jutes, pagan Germans, who in this island began in 454 to expel the old Britons into the mountainous part of the country, had reigned here about one hundred and fifty years, when God was pleased to open their eyes to the light of the gospel. St. Gregory the Great, before his pontificate, had desired to become himself their apostle ; but was hindered by the people of Rome, who would by no means suffer him to leave that city. This undertaking, however, he had very much at heart, and never ceased to recommend to God the souls of this infidel nation. When he was placed in the apostolic chair, he immediately turned his thoughts towards this abandoned part of the vineyard, and resolved to send thither a select number of zealous labourers. For this great work none seemed better qualified than Augustine, then Prior of St. Gregory's monastery, dedicated to St. Andrew in Rome. Him, therefore, the pope appointed superior of this mission, allotting him several assistants who were Roman monks. The powers of hell trembled at the sight of this little troop, which marched against them, armed only with the cross, by which they had been stripped of their empire over men. Zeal and obedience gave these saints courage, and they set out with joy upon an expedition, of which the prize was to be either the conquest of a new nation to Christ, or the crown of martyrdom for themselves. But the devils found means to throw a stumbling-block in their way. St. Gregory had recommended them to several French bishops on their road, of whom they were to learn the circumstances of their undertaking, and prepare themselves accordingly. But when the missionaries were advanced several days' journey, probably as far as Aix, in Provence, certain persons, with many of those to whom they were addressed, exaggerated to them the ferocity of the English people, the difference of manners, the difficulty of the language, the dangers of the sea, and other such obstacles, in such a manner that they deliberated whether it was prudent to proceed; the result of which consultation was, that Augustine should be deputed back to St. Gregory to lay before him these difficulties, and to beg leave for them to return to Rome. The pope, well apprized of the artifices of the devil, saw in these retardments themselves greater motives of confidence in God ; for where the enemy is most active, and obstacles seem greatest in the divine service, there we have reason to conclude that the work is of the greater importance; and that the success will be the more glorious. Souls are never prepared for an eminent virtue and the brightest crowns but by passing; through great trials. This, though often immediately owing to the malice of the devil, is permitted by God, and is an effect of his all-wise providence to raise the fervour of his servants for the exceeding increase of their virtue. St. Gregory, therefore, sent Augustine back with a letter of encouragement to the rest of the missionaries, representing to them the cowardice of abandoning a good work when it is begun; exhorting them not to listen to evil suggestions of railing men, and expressing his desire of the happiness of bearing them company, and sharing in their labours, had it been possible. The temptation being removed, the apostolic labourers pursued their journey with great alacrity, and, taking some Frenchmen for interpreters along with them, landed in the Isle of Thanet, on the east side of Kent, in the year 596, being, with their interpreters, near forty persons. From this place St. Augustine sent to Ethelbert, the powerful King of Kent, signifying that he was come from Rome, and brought him a most happy message, with an assured divine promise of a kingdom which would never have an end. The king ordered them to remain in that island, where he took care they should be furnished with all necessaries, whilst he deliberated what to do. This great prince held in subjection all the other English kings who commanded on this side the Humber; nor was he a stranger to the Christian religion; for his queen, Bertha a daughter of Caribert, King of Paris, was a Christian, and had with her, Luidhard, Bishop of Senlis, for her director and almoner. After some days, the king went in person to the isle, but sat in the open air to admit Augustine to his presence; for he had a superstitious notion that if he came with any magical spell, this would have an effect upon him under the cover of a house, but could have none in the open fields. The religious men came to him in procession, "carrying for their banner a silver cross, and an image of our Saviour painted on a board; and singing the litany as they walked, made humble prayer for themselves, and for the souls of those to whom they came." Being admitted into the presence of the king, they announced to him the word of life. His majesty listened attentively; but answered, that their words and promises indeed were fair, but new, and to him uncertain. However, that since they were come a great way for his sake, they should not be molested, nor hindered from preaching to his subjects. He also appointed them necessary subsistence, and a dwelling-place in Canterbury, the capital city of his dominions. They came thither in procession, singing, and imitated the lives of the apostles, serving God in prayer, watching, and fasting; despising the things of this world, as persons who belonged to another, and ready to suffer or die for the faith which they preached. There stood near the city an old church of St. Martin, left by the Britons. In this was the queen accustomed to perform her devotions, and in it the apostolic preachers began to meet, sing, say mass, preach, and baptize, till the king being converted, they had license to repair and build churches every where. Several among the people were converted, and received the holy sacrament of regeneration; and in a short time the king himself, whose conversion was followed by innumerable others.
Bede says that St. Augustine after this went back to Arles to Etherius, bishop of that city, from whose hands he received the episcopal consecration; but for Etherius we must read Virgilius, who was at that time Archbishop of Arles, Etherius being Bishop of Lyons. The reason why he went so far, seems to have been because the Archbishop of Arles was not only primate, but apostolic legate in Gaul; and Augustine probably wanted his advice in many things. The saint had baptized the king, and was himself ordained bishop before October, 597, within the space of one year ; for the letter of St. Gregory to encourage the missionaries in France to proceed, was dated on the 10th of August, 596. In 598 the same pope wrote to Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria, that Augustine had been ordained bishop, with his license, by the German prelates ; so he calls the French, because they came from Germany. He adds, "In the last solemnity of our Lord's nativity, more than ten thousand of the English nation were baptized by this our brother and fellow-bishop."
St. Augustine, immediately after his return into Britain, sent Laurence and Peter to Rome to solicit a supply of more labourers, and they brought over several excellent disciples of Pope Gregory ; among whom were Mellitus, the first bishop of London, Justus, the first bishop of Rochester, Paulinus, the first archbishop of York, and Rufinian us, the third abbot of Augustine's. "With this colony of new missionaries, the holy pope sent all things in general for the divine worship and the service of the church, viz. : sacred vessels, altar-cloths, ornaments for churches, and vestments for priests and clerks, relics of the holy apostles and martyrs, and many books," as Bede writes (Bede, Hist. b. 1, c. 29). St. Augustine wrote frequently to St. Gregory, whom he consulted in the least difficulties which occurred in his ministry ; which shows the tenderness of his conscience; for in many things which he might have decided by his own learning and prudence, he desired to render his conscience more secure by the advice and decision of his chief pastor. The same pope wrote to the Abbot Mellitus (Ib. c. 30), directing the idols to be destroyed, and their temples to be changed into Christian churches, by purifying and sprinkling them with holy water, and erecting altars, and placing relics in them; thus employing the spoils of Egypt to the service of the living God. He permits the celebration of wakes on the anniversary feasts of the dedication of the churches, and on the solemnities of the martyrs, to be encouraged among the people, the more easily to withdraw them from their heathenish riotous festivals.
The good King Ethelbert laboured himself in promoting the conversion of his subjects during the twenty remaining years of his life ; he enacted wholesome laws, abolished the idols, and shut up their temples throughout his dominions. He thought he had gained a kingdom when he saw one of his subjects embrace the faith, and looked upon himself as king only that he might make the King of kings be served by others. He built Christ-church, the cathedral in Canterbury, upon the same spot where had formerly stood a heathenish temple. He also founded the Abbey of SS. Peter and Paul without the walls of that city, since called St. Angustine's, the Church of St. Andrew in Rochester, &c. He brought over to the faith Sebert, the pious King of the East Saxons, and Redwald, King of the East Angles, though the latter, Samaritan-like, worshipped Christ with his idols. Ethelbert reigned fifty-six years, and departed to our Lord in 616. He was buried in the Abbey-church of SS. Peter and Paul, which himself had founded. He had been baptized in the Church of St. Pancras, which St. Augustine had dedicated, and which had been a pagan temple, on that very spot where he built soon after Christ-church, as is mentioned in an old mauscript preserved in the library of Trinity Hall, in Cambridge, quoted by Spelman (Conc. Brit. t. i. ) and Tyrrel. St. Ethelbert is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on the 24th of February.
St. Gregory, in the year 600, sent, with many noble presents, a letter of congratulation and excellent advice to King Ethel- bert. He in the same year sent to St. Augustine the archiepiscopal pall, with authority to ordain twelve bishops, who should be subject to his metropolitan see; ordering that when the northern English should have embraced the faith, he should ordain a bishop of York who should like-wise be a metropolitan with twelve suffragan bishops.But particular circumstances afterwards required some alterations in the execution of this order. The fame of many miracles wrought by St. Augustine in the conversion of the English having reached Rome, St. Gregory wrote to him (Bede, b. 1, c. 31), exhorting him to beware of the temptation of pride or vain-glory, in the great miracles and heavenly gifts which God showed in the nation which he had chosen. "Wherefore," says he, " amidst those things which you exteriorly perform, always interiorly judge yourself, and thoroughly understand both what you are yourself, and how great a grace is given in that nation for the conversion of which you have even received the gift of working miracles. And if you remember that you have ever at any time offended your Creator either by word or deed, always have that before your eyes, to the end that the remembrance of your guilt may crush the vanity rising in your heart. And whatever you shall receive or have received in relation to the working of miracles, esteem the same not as conferred on you, but on those for whose salvation it hath been given you." He observes to him, that when the disciples returned with joy and said to our Lord, "In thy name be the devils subject unto us," they presently received a rebuke; rejoice not in this, but "rather that your names are written in heaven."
St. Augustine ordained St. Mellitus Bishop of the East Saxons in London, and St. Justus Bishop of Rochester ; and seeing the faith now spread wide on every side, he took upon him, by virtue of his metropolitan and legatine authority, which the pope had conferred upon him over all the bishops of Britain, to make a general visitation of his province. He desired very much to see the ancient Britons, whom the English had driven into the mountains of Wales, reclaimed from certain abuses which had crept in among them, to assist him in his labours in converting the English.
But malice and, an implacable hatred against that nation blinded their understandings and hardened their hearts. However, being on the confines of the Wiccians and West-Saxons, that is, on the edge of Worcestershire, not far from Wales, he invited the British bishops and doctors to a conference. They met him at a place which was called at the time when Bede wrote, Augustine's Oak. The zealous apostle employed both entreaties and exhortations, and required of them three things : First, that they should assist him in preaching the gospel to the pagan English ; secondly, that they should observe Easter at the due time ; and, thirdly, that they should agree with the universal church in the manner of administering baptism. But they obstinately refused to comply with his desires. Whereupon St. Augustine proposed, by a divine impulse, that a sick or impotent person should be brought in, and that their tradition should be followed, as agreeable to God, by whose prayer he should be cured. The condition was accepted, though very unwillingly; and a blind man was brought, and presented first to the British priests, but found no benefit by their prayers or other endeavours. Then Augustine bowed his knees to God, praying that by restoring the sight to this blind man, he would make his spiritual light shine on the souls of many. Upon which the blind man immediately recovered his sight, and the Britons confessed that they believed that the doctrine which Augustine preached was the truth ; but said, that without the general consent of their nation they could not quit their ancient rites and customs. Wherefore they desired that a general synod of their country should be held. Accordingly a second more numerous; council was assembled, in which appeared several British bishops (their annals say seven) and many learned men, especially from the monastery of Bangor, which stood in Flintshire, not far from the river Dee ; not in the city of Bangor in Carnarvonshire. A little before they came, they sent. to consult a famous hermit among them, whether they should receive Augustine or reject his admonitions, and retain their ancient usages. He bade them so to contrive it, that Augustine and his company should come first to the place of the synod, and said, that if he should arise when they approached they should look upon him as humble, and should hear and obey him; but if he should not rise to them that were more in number, then they should despise him. They took this ignorant and blind direction, and instead of weighing the justice and equity of the archbishop's demands, his right, and the truth of his doctrine, committed this important decision to a trifling casual circumstance or punctilio. They had before confessed that he taught the truth, and he had convinced them, both by reasons and a miracle, that he only required of them what charity and obedience to the church in points of discipline obliged them to; nevertheless, revenge and malice against the English made them still stand out and have recourse to the most idle pretence. Strong endeavours to do wrong, God usually punishes with success. It so happened that when they entered the place of the synod, Augustine did not rise from his seat ; whether this was done by in-advertence, or because it might be the custom of the countries where he had been not to use those compliments in public places, at least in synods, any more than churches. But whatever was the occasion, nothing could be more unreasonable than the conclusion which the Britons drew from this circumstance. Had the inference been just, the archbishop did not lose his right, nor was his doctrine the less true. His humility and charity were otherwise conspicuous. He was come so far for their sake, and out of humility was accustomed to travel on foot. Nor did he in this conference mention his own dignity or authority ; he seems even to have waved the point of his primacy ; which from his charity we cannot doubt but he would have been glad to have procured leave to resign to their own Archbishop of St. David's, had the Britons been willing on such terms to have conformed to the discipline of the universal church, and lay aside their rancour against the English. However, upon this ridiculous pretence did that nation remain obstinate in their malice, which St. Augustine seeing, he foretold them, that "if they would not preach to the English the way of life, they would fall by their hands under the judgment of death." This prediction was not fulfilled till after the death of St. Augustine, as Bede expressly testifies (Hist. lib. ii. c. 2.), when Ethilfrid, King of the northern English, who were yet pagans, gave the Britons a terrible overthrow near Caer-legion, or Chester, and seeing the monks of Bangor praying at a distance, he cried out after the victory : " If they pray against us, they fight against us by their hostile imprecations." And rushing upon them with his army, he slew twelve hundred of them, or, according to Florence of Worcester, two thousand two hundred. For so numerous was this monastery, that being divided into seven companies, under so many superiors, each division consisted of at least three hundred monks, and whilst some were at work, others were at prayer. Their obstinate refusal of the essential obligation of charity towards the English was a grievous crime, and drew upon them this chastisement ; but we hope the sin extended no further than to some of the superiors. This massacre was predicted by St. Augustine as a divine punishment ; but those who accuse him as an instigator of it are strangers to the spirit and bowels of most tender charity, which the saint bore towards all the world, who knew no other arms against impenitent sinners and persecutors than those of compassion, and tears and prayers for their conversion.
And long before the accomplishment of this threat and prophecy, in 607, St. Augustine was translated to glory, as appears from several circumstances related by Bede himself, though the year of his death is not expressed by that historian, nor in his epitaph, which seems composed before the custom of counting dates by the era of Christ was introduced in this island, though it began to be used at Rome by Dionysius Exiguus, an abbot, in 550.
St. Augustine, whilst yet living, ordained Laurence his successor in the see of Canterbury, not to leave at his death an infant church destitute of a pastor. He died on the 26th of May,—and, as William Thorn says, from a very ancient book of his life, in the same year with St. Gregory, viz.,—604, which Mr. Wharton proves from several other authorities (Anglia Sacra, t. i. p. 89). Goscelin, a monk of Canterbury, in 1096, besides two lives of St. Augustine, compiled a book of his miracles wrought since his death, and a history of the translation of his relics in 1091, which was accompanied with several miracles, to which this author was an eye-witness. This work is given at length by Papebroke on this day. The second Council of Clove-shoe (that is, Cliffe), in Kent, in 747, under Archbishop Cuthbert, Ethelbald, King of Mercia, being present, commanded (Wilkins, Concil. Britan. t. i. p. 97) his festival to be kept a holiday by all the clergy and religious, and the name of St. Augustine to be recited in the Litany immediately after that of St. Gregory. The body of St. Augustine was deposited abroad till the Church of SS. Peter and Paul, near the walls of Canterbury, which King Ethelbert built for the burying-place of the kings and archbishops, was finished, when it was laid in the porch, with this epitaph, which is preserved
by Camden in his Remains (Camden's Remains, p. 350), and by Weever in his Funeral Monuments (Weever's Funeral Monuments, p. 244): " Here rests Lord Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, who being sent hither by the blessed Gregory, Bishop of Rome, and by God upheld by the working of miracles (A Deo operatione miraculorum auffultus), brought King Ethelbert and his nation from idolatry to the faith of Christ ; and having completed the days of his office in peace, died on the seventh day before the calends of June, in the reign of the same king." In the same porch were interred also the six succeeding archbishops—Laurence, Mellitus, Justus, Honorius, Deusdedit, and Theodorus. These in their epitaph are called the seven patriarchs of England. The porch being by that time full, and the custom beginning to allow persons of eminent dignity and sanctity to be buried within churches, St. Brithwald, the eighth archbishop, was interred in the church of this abbey in 731; and near him his successor, St. Tatwin. Weever says, besides the first archbishops and the kings of Kent, thousands of others were here interred ; but by the demolition of this monastery "not one bone at this time remains near another, nor one stone almost on another, the tract of this most goodly foundation no where appearing." One side of the walls of King Ethelbert's Tower, the gates, houses, and some ruins of the out-buildings, are still standing ; but the site of the abbey cannot be traced, and the ground is a cherry orchard. This was the great abbey which some time after changed the name of SS. Peter and Paul for that of St. Augustine's. But the remains of our saint were afterwards removed hence into the north porch of the Cathedral of Christchurch, within the city ; and en the 6th of September, 1091, leaving in that place some part of the ashes and lesser bones, Abbot Wido translated the remainder into the church, where they lay for some time in a strong urn in the wall under the east window. In 1221 the head was put into a rich shrine, ornamented with gold and precious stones ; the rest of the bones lay in a marble tomb, enriched with fine carvings and engravings, till the dissolution.
Cuthbert, the eleventh archbishop, was the first person buried in Christchurch, in 759, since which time it had been the usual burying-place of the archbishops, till the change of religion ; for none of the Protestant archbishops have hitherto been there interred. In the Cathedral of Christchurch were the shrines of St. Thomas, St. Wilfride (whose relics were translated from Rippon by Odo), St. Dunstan, St. Elphege, St. Anselm, St. Odo, St. Blaise, bishop, St. Owen, Archbishop of Rouen, St. Salvius, bishop, St. Woolgam, St. Swithun, &c. Battely (Antiquities of Canterbury) and Dr. Brown Willis (T. t. p. 39) justify the monks of Christchurch from the crimes laid to their charge at the dissolution, but say the riches of their church were their crime. Also the ingenious Mr. Wharton, under the name of Antony Harmer, in his Specimen of Errors in Bishop Burnet's History of the Reformation, p. 48, takes notice, that whereas the monks of Christchurch in Canterbury and those of Battel Abbey were principally charged with enormous irregularities at the dissolution of abbeys, their innocence in both places, especially the former, is notorious from several evident circumstances. Christchurch at Canterbury was rated at the dissolution at two thousand three hundred and eighty-seven pounds per annum ; St. Augustine's, in the same place, at one thousand four hundred and thirteen pounds according to Dugdale.
SOURCE : http://jesus-passion.com/saint_augustine_of_canterbury_butler%27s_lives.htm
St. Augustine of Canterbury
In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them— Pope St. Gregory the Great —only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless.
Augustine again set out and this time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester.
Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors
Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Truly Augustine of Canterbury can be called the “Apostle of England.”
SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/st-augustine-of-canterbury/
Augustine (Austin) of Canterbury B (RM)
Born in Rome; died on May 26, 604-607; feast day formerly May 26.
(26 maggio: A Canterbury in Inghilterra, deposizione di sant’Agostino, vescovo, la cui memoria si celebra domani)
Partito da Roma alla testa di quaranta monaci nel 597, fece tappa nell'isola di Lerino. Le notizie sul temperamento bellicoso dei Sassoni lo spaventarono al punto che se ne tornò a Roma a pregare il papa di mutargli programma. Per incoraggiarlo, Gregorio lo nominò abate e poco dopo, quasi ad invogliarlo al passo decisivo, appena giunto in Gallia, lo fece consacrare vescovo. Il viaggio procedette ugualmente a brevi tappe. Finalmente, con l'arrivo della primavera, presero il largo e raggiunsero l'isola britannica di Thenet, dove il re in persona, spintovi dalla buona consorte, andò ad incontrarli.
I missionari avanzavano verso il corteo regale in processione al canto delle litanie, secondo il rituale appena introdotto a Roma. Fu per tutti una felice sorpresa. Il re accompagnò i monaci fino alla residenza già fissata, a Canterbury, a mezza strada tra Londra e il mare, dove sorse la celebre abbazia che prenderà il nome di Agostino, cuore e sacrario del cristianesimo inglese. L'opera missionaria dei monaci ebbe un esito insperato, poiché lo stesso re domandò il battesimo, spingendo col suo esempio migliaia di sudditi ad abbracciare la religione cristiana.
A Roma la notizia venne accolta con gioia dal papa, che espresse la sua soddisfazione nelle lettere scritte ad Agostino e alla regina. Insieme con un gruppo di nuovi collaboratori, il santo pontefice inviò ad Agostino il pallio e la nomina ad arcivescovo primate d'Inghilterra, ma al tempo stesso lo ammoniva paternamente a non insuperbirsi per i successi ottenuti e per l'onore che l'alta carica gli conferiva. Seguendo le indicazioni del papa per la ripartizione in territori ecclesiastici, Agostino eresse altre due sedi vescovili, quella di Londra e quella di Rochester, consacrando vescovi Mellito e Giusto. Il santo missionario morì il 26 maggio del 604 e fu sepolto a Canterbury nella chiesa che porta il suo nome.
Autore: Piero Bargellini
Pronunciare il proprio sì al Signore significa anche
accettare di essere inviati là dove non si vorrebbe andare, se a chiedertelo è
il Papa in persona. Lo sa bene Agostino, che passa così dalla sua vita
tranquilla di priore del Monastero benedettino di Sant’Andrea al Celio, a Roma,
a intraprendere un lungo viaggio verso terre sconosciute e per di più ostili.
Ma Agostino ha fatto, tra gli altri, il voto dell’obbedienza.
Lo stato delle cose, al di là del mare
Non era dei migliori il contesto della Britannia tra il quinto e sesto secolo.
Precedentemente cristianizzata dai missionari celti peninsulari che avevano
fatto un ottimo lavoro con i Bretoni, questi erano stati poi cacciati
dall’arrivo di Sassoni, Angli e Juti, popoli germanici pagani che iniziano a invadere
questo territorio a partire dal 596. I Bretoni, rifugiatisi tra le montagne del
Galles, erano a loro volta ricaduti nell’idolatria. Tuttavia il re juto del
Kent, Etelberto, che era riuscito a estendere la sua influenza nell’Essex, nel
Sussex e nell’Est Anglia – tutte terre assoggettate dai Sassoni – non si mostra
ostile al cristianesimo, tanto da sposare Berta, una principessa cristiana
figlia del re di Parigi, e acconsente perfino alla richiesta di lei di
costruire una chiesa cristiana nel Kent. Papa San Gregorio Magno, dunque,
capisce che i tempi sono maturi per una nuova evangelizzazione di queste terre.
Rimasto colpito dalla bellezza e dalla mitezza di alcuni schiavi angli portati
a Roma, tanto da averli paragonati ad angeli, concepisce l’idea di creare in
Inghilterra una nuova Chiesa dipendente da quella di Roma, come già era quella
francese, e di usare proprio la Francia come trampolino di lancio.
Inizia il viaggio: la tappa francese
Per portare a termine questo incarico, il Pontefice decide di mettere a capo di
40 monaci il benedettino Agostino, che all’epoca è priore del convento sul
Celio a Roma. Non è certamente il coraggio la sua principale caratteristica, ma
sicuramente lo sono l’umiltà e la docilità: infatti dice subito di sì. La
spedizione parte nel 597 e fa tappa in Francia, nell’isola di Lérins. Qui i
monaci, accolti nei monasteri della zona, ascoltano i racconti spaventosi di
ogni nefandezza commessa dalle popolazioni in cui stavano per immergersi, tanto
che Agostino ha paura, torna immediatamente dal Papa e lo scongiura di
cambiargli incarico. San Gregorio Magno non molla: per incoraggiarlo lo nomina
abate e appena questi torna in Gallia lo consacra anche arcivescovo di Arles. Finalmente
il viaggio riprende e i monaci sbarcano in Inghilterra, sull’isola di Thenet.
L’evangelizzazione della Britannia
Ad accogliere la comunità di monaci ci sono il re del Kent e la consorte,
cristiana, che li accompagnano fino a Canterbury, città a metà tra Londa e il
mare, scelta come luogo di partenza della nuova missione: portare la Parola di
Dio tra gli Angli. All’inizio la resistenza della gente è tanta, perciò
Agostino sceglie una via di evangelizzazione più morbida, disponibile ad
accogliere alcune tra le più radicate tradizioni pagane. Sarà un successo. In
appena un anno sono oltre diecimila i Sassoni battezzati, praticamente l’intero
regno del Kent, compreso il re (che un giorno sarà Santo) che ora appoggia
Agostino apertamente. Il Papa, per ringraziarlo, nel 601 gli manda il pallio e
lo costituisce Metropolita d’Inghilterra. Prima di riposare per l’eternità,
Agostino riesce a consacrare altre due sedi vescovili oltre a quella di
Canterbury: Londra e Rochester, i cui presbiteri sono rispettivamente Mellito e
Giusto. Alla sua morte, nel 604, viene seppellito a Canterbury, nella chiesa
che ora porta il suo nome ed è venerato da cattolici e anglicani.
Fonte : Vatican News