lundi 28 mai 2012

Saint AUGUSTIN (AUSTIN) de CANTORBÉRY (CANTERBURY), moine bénédictin, évêque et confesseur


SAINT AUGUSTIN de CANTORBÉRY

Moine bénédictin et archevêque de Cantorbéry

(+ 605)

Aux Ve et VIe siècles, l'île de la Grande-Bretagne évangélisée dès les premiers siècles du christianisme, était retombée dans le paganisme à la suite de l'invasion des Saxons. Le jeune roi de ce temps, Ethelbert, épousa Berthe, princesse chrétienne, fille de Caribert Ier, roi de Paris et petit-fils de Clovis.

Berthe consentit à ce mariage à la condition d'avoir sa chapelle et de pouvoir observer librement les préceptes et les pratiques de sa foi avec l'aide et l'appui d'un évêque gallo-franc. L'âme du roi de Kent subissait la salutaire influence de sa pieuse épouse qui le préparait sans le savoir à recevoir le don de la foi. Le pape Grégoire le Grand jugea le moment opportun pour tenter l'évangélisation de l'Angleterre qu'il souhaitait depuis longtemps. Pour réaliser cet important projet, le souverain pontife choisit le moine Augustin alors prieur du monastère de St-André à Rome.

On ne sait absolument rien de la vie de saint Augustin de Cantorbéry avant le jour solennel du printemps 596, où pour obéir aux ordres du pape saint Grégoire le Grand qui avait été son abbé dans le passé, il dut s'arracher à la vie paisible de son abbaye avec quarante de ses moines pour devenir missionnaire.

A Lérins, première étape des moines missionnaires, ce qu'on leur rapporta de la cruauté des Saxons effraya tellement les compagnons d'Augustin, qu'ils le prièrent de solliciter leur rappel du pape. Augustin dut retourner à Rome pour supplier saint Grégoire de dispenser ses moines d'un voyage si pénible, si périlleux et si inutile. Le souverain pontife renvoya Augustin avec une lettre où il prescrivait aux missionnaires de reconnaître désormais le prieur de St-André pour leur abbé et de lui obéir en tout. Il leur recommanda surtout de ne pas se laisser terrifier par tous les racontars et les encouragea à souffrir généreusement pour la gloire de Dieu et le salut des âmes. Ainsi stimulés, les religieux reprirent courage, se remirent en route et débarquèrent sur la plage méridionale de la Grande-Bretagne.

Le roi Ethelbert n'autorisa pas les moines romains à venir le rencontrer dans la cité de Cantorbéry qui lui servait de résidence, mais au bout de quelques jours, il s'en alla lui-même visiter les nouveaux venus. Au bruit de son approche, les missionnaires, avec saint Augustin à leur tête, s'avancèrent processionnellement au-devant du roi, en chantant des litanies. Ethelbert n'abandonna pas tout de suite les croyances de ses ancêtres. Cependant, il établit libéralement les missionnaires à Cantorbéry, capitale de son royaume, leur assignant une demeure qui s'appelle encore Stable Gate: la porte de l'Hôtellerie, et ordonna qu'on leur fournit toutes les choses nécessaires à la vie.

Vivant de la vie des Apôtres dans la primitive Eglise, saint Augustin et ses compagnons étaient assidus à l'oraison, aux vigiles et aux jeûnes. Ils prêchaient la parole de vie à tous ceux qu'ils abordaient, se comportant en tout selon la sainte doctrine qu'ils propageaient, prêts à tout souffrir et à mourir pour la vérité. L'innocence et la simplicité de leur vie, la céleste douceur de leur enseignement, parurent des arguments invincibles aux Saxons qui embrassèrent le christianisme en grand nombre.

Charmé comme tant d'autres par la pureté de la vie de ces hommes, séduit par les promesses dont plus d'un miracle attestait la vérité, le noble et vaillant Ethelbert demanda lui aussi le baptême qu'il reçut des mains de saint Augustin. Sa conversion amena celle d'une grande partie de ses sujets. Comme le saint pape Grégoire le Grand lui recommanda de le faire, le roi proscrivit le culte des idoles, renversa leurs temples et établit de bonnes moeurs par ses exhortations, mais encore plus par son propre exemple.

En 1597, étant désormais à la tête d'une chrétienté florissante, saint Augustin de Cantorbéry se rendit à Arles, afin d'y recevoir la consécration épiscopale, selon le désir du pape saint Grégoire. De retour parmi ses ouailles, à la Noël de la même année, dix mille Saxons se présentèrent pour recevoir le baptême.

De plus en plus pénétré de respect et de dévouement pour la sainte foi, le roi abandonna son propre palais de Cantorbéry au nouvel archevêque. A côté de cette royale demeure, on construisit une basilique destinée à devenir la métropole de l'Angleterre. Saint Augustin en devint le premier archevêque et le premier abbé. En le nommant primat d'Angleterre, le pape saint Grégoire le Grand lui envoya douze nouveaux auxiliaires, porteurs de reliques et de vases sacrés, de vêtements sacerdotaux, de parements d'autels et de livres destinés à former une bibliothèque ecclésiastique.

Le souverain pontife conféra aussi au nouveau prélat le droit de porter le pallium en célébrant la messe, pour le récompenser d'avoir formé la nouvelle Eglise d'Angleterre par ses inlassables travaux apostoliques. Cet honneur insigne devait passer à tous ses successeurs sur le siège archiépiscopal d'Angleterre. Le pape lui donna également le pouvoir d'ordonner d'autres évêques afin de constituer une hiérarchie régulière dans ce nouveau pays catholique. Il le constitua aussi métropolitain des douze évêchés qu'il lui ordonna d'ériger dans l'Angleterre méridionale.

Les sept dernières années de sa vie furent employées à parcourir le pays des Saxons de l'Ouest. Même après sa consécration archiépiscopale, saint Augustin voyageait en véritable missionnaire, toujours à pied et sans bagage, entremêlant les bienfaits et les prodiges à ses prédications. Rebelles à la grâce, les Saxons de l'Ouest refusèrent d'entendre Augustin et ses compagnons, les accablèrent d'avanies et d'outrages et allèrent jusqu'à attenter à leur vie afin de les éloigner.

Au début de l'an 605, deux mois après la mort de saint Grégoire le Grand, son ami et son père, saint Augustin, fondateur de l'Eglise anglo-saxonne, alla recueillir le fruit de ses multiples travaux. Avant de mourir, il nomma son successeur sur le siège de Cantorbéry. Selon la coutume de Rome, le grand missionnaire fut enterré sur le bord de la voie publique, près du grand chemin romain qui conduisait de Cantorbéry à la mer, dans l'église inachevée du célèbre monastère qui allait prendre et garder son nom.

Boll., Paris, éd. 1874, tome 6, p. 193-199 -- Marteau de Langle de Cary, 1959, tome II, p. 277-279 -- l'Abbé J. Sabouret, édition 1922, p. 199-200

SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_augustin_de_cantorbery.html

Saint Augustin de Cantorbéry, évêque et confesseur

A Cantorbéry, déposition de saint Augustin, premier évêque de cette ville, le 26 mai 604 ou 605. Culte local immédiat. Le concile de Cloveshoë décrète en 747 son natale jour férié et l’inscription de son nom dans les litanies après celui de saint Grégoire le Grand.

Diffusion du culte dans le nord de la France à partir du XIe siècle.

Léon XIII introduit la fête sous le rite double à la date du 28 mai en 1882.

Leçons des Matines avant 1960

Quatrième leçon. L’an cinq cent quatre-vingt-dix-sept, Augustin, moine du monastère de Latran à Rome, fut envoyé par Grégoire le Grand en Angleterre, avec environ quarante moines de sa communauté, pour convertir au Christ les populations de cette contrée. Il y avait alors dans le pays de Kent un roi très puissant, nommé Ethelbert. Ayant appris le motif de l’arrivée d’Augustin, il l’invita à venir avec ses compagnons à Cantorbéry, capitale de son royaume, et lui accorda de bonne grâce l’autorisation d’y demeurer et d’y prêcher le Christ. Le Saint bâtit donc près de Cantorbéry un oratoire où il résida quelque temps, et où ses compagnons et lui menèrent à l’envi un genre de vie tout apostolique.

Cinquième leçon. L’exemple de sa vie, joint à la prédication de la céleste doctrine que confirmaient de nombreux miracles, gagna les insulaires, puis amena à embrasser le christianisme la plupart d’entre eux et finalement le roi lui-même, qui reçut le baptême, ainsi qu’un nombre considérable des gens de son entourage ; ces faits comblèrent de joie la reine Berthe, qui était chrétienne. Il arriva qu’un jour de Noël Augustin baptisa plus de dix mille Anglais dans les eaux d’une rivière qui coule à York, et l’on rapporte que tous ceux qui se trouvaient atteints de quelque maladie recouvrèrent la santé du corps, en même temps qu’ils recevaient le salut de l’âme. Ordonné Évêque par l’ordre de Grégoire, Augustin établit son siège à Cantorbéry dans l’église du Sauveur qu’il avait élevée, et y plaça des moines pour seconder ses travaux ; il construisit dans un faubourg le monastère de Saint-Pierre, qui porta même plus tard le nom d’Augustin. Ce même Pape Grégoire lui accorda l’usage du pallium, avec le pouvoir d’établir en Angleterre la hiérarchie ecclésiastique. Il lui envoya aussi de nouveaux ouvriers apostoliques, parmi lesquels Méliton, Just, Paulin et Rufin.

Sixième leçon. Les affaires de son Église étant réglées, Augustin réunit en synode les Évêques et les docteurs des anciens Bretons, depuis longtemps en désaccord avec l’Église romaine par rapport à la célébration de la fête de Pâques et à d’autres questions de rite. Mais comme il ne parvenait à les ramener à l’unité, ni par l’autorité du siège apostolique ni par des miracles, un esprit prophétique l’inspirant, il leur prédit leur perte. Enfin, après avoir accompli de nombreux travaux pour le Christ et d’éclatants prodiges, après avoir préposé Méliton à l’Église de Londres, Just à celle de Rochester, il désigna Laurent pour son successeur, et partit pour le ciel, le sept des calendes de juin, sous le règne d’Ethelbert. Il fut enterré au monastère de Saint-Pierre, qui devint le lieu de sépulture des Archevêques de Cantorbéry et de plusieurs rois. Les Anglais lui rendirent un culte fervent, et le souverain Pontife Léon XILI a étendu son Office et sa Messe à l’Église universelle.


Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique

Quatre cents ans étaient à peine écoulés, depuis le départ d’Éleuthère pour la patrie céleste, qu’un second apôtre de la grande île britannique s’élevait de ce monde, au même jour, vers la gloire éternelle. La rencontre de ces deux pontifes sur le cycle est particulièrement touchante, en même temps qu’elle nous révèle la prévoyance divine qui règle le départ de chacun de nous, en sorte que le jour et l’heure en sont fixés avec une sagesse admirable. Plus d’une fois nous avons reconnu avec évidence ces coïncidences merveilleuses qui forment un des principaux caractères du cycle liturgique. Aujourd’hui, quel admirable spectacle dans ce premier archevêque de Cantorbéry, saluant sur son lit de mort le jour où le saint pape à qui l’Angleterre doit la première prédication de l’Évangile, monta dans les cieux, et se réunissant à lui dans un même triomphe ! Mais aussi qui n’y reconnaîtrait un gage de la prédilection dont le ciel a favorisé cette contrée longtemps fidèle, et devenue depuis hostile à sa véritable gloire ?

L’œuvre de saint Éleuthère avait péri en grande partie dans l’invasion des Saxons et des Angles, et une nouvelle prédication de l’Évangile était devenue nécessaire. Rome y pourvut comme la première fois. Saint Grégoire le Grand conçut cette noble pensée ; il eût désiré assumer sur lui-même les fatigues de l’apostolat dans cette contrée redevenue infidèle ; un instinct divin lui révélait qu’il était destiné à devenir le père de ces insulaires, dont il avait vu quelques-uns exposés comme esclaves sur les marchés de Rome. Mais du moins il fallait à Grégoire des apôtres capables d’entreprendre ce labeur auquel il ne lui était pas donné de se livrer en personne. Il les trouva dans le cloître bénédictin, où lui-même avait abrité sa vie durant plusieurs années. Rome alors vit partir Augustin à la tête de quarante moines se dirigeant vers l’île des Bretons, sous l’étendard de la croix.

Ainsi la nouvelle race qui peuplait cette île recevait à son tour la foi par les mains d’un pape ; des moines étaient ses initiateurs à la doctrine du salut. La parole d’Augustin et de ses compagnons germa sur ce sol privilégié. Il lui fallut, sans doute, du temps pour s’étendre à l’île tout entière ; mais ni Rome, ni l’ordre monastique n’abandonnèrent l’œuvre commencée ; les débris de l’ancien christianisme breton finirent par s’unir aux nouvelles recrues, et l’Angleterre mérita d’être appelée longtemps l’île des saints.

Les gestes de l’apostolat d’Augustin dans cette île ravissent la pensée. Le débarquement des missionnaires romains qui s’avancent sur cette terre infidèle en chantant la Litanie ; l’accueil pacifique et même bienveillant que leur fait dès l’abord le roi Ethelbert ; l’influence de la reine Berthe, française et chrétienne, sur l’établissement de la foi chez les Saxons ; le baptême de dix mille néophytes dans les eaux d’un fleuve au jour de Noël, la fondation de l’Église primatiale de Cantorbéry, l’une des plus illustres de la chrétienté par la sainteté et la grandeur de ses évêques : toutes ces merveilles montrent dans l’évangélisation de l’Angleterre un des traits les plus marqués de la bienveillance céleste sur un peuple. Le caractère d’Augustin, calme et plein de mansuétude, son attrait pour la contemplation au milieu de tant de labeurs, répandent un charme de plus sur ce magnifique épisode de l’histoire de l’Église ; mais on a le cœur serré quand on vient à songer qu’une nation prévenue de telles grâces est devenue infidèle à sa mission, et qu’elle a tourné contre Rome, sa mère, contre l’institut monastique auquel elle est tant redevable, toutes les fureurs d’une haine parricide et tous les efforts d’une politique sans entrailles.

Nous plaçons ici cette Hymne qui a été approuvée par le Saint-Siège, en l’honneur de l’apôtre de l’Angleterre.

HYMNE.

Ile féconde des saints, célèbre ton apôtre, exalte dans tes pieux concerts le fils de Grégoire.

Rendue fertile par ses labeurs, tu donnas une moisson abondante ; et longtemps les fleurs de sainteté qui couvraient ton sol répandirent sur toi un éclat supérieur.

Suivi d’une troupe de quarante moines, il débarqua sur tes rivages, ô terre des Anglais ! Il portait l’étendard du Christ ; messager de la paix, il venait en apporter les gages.

Bientôt la croix est plantée sur ton sol comme un éclatant trophée, la parole du salut se répand de toutes parts ; et un roi barbare reçoit lui-même la foi d’un cœur docile.

La nation renonce à ses coutumes sauvages ; elle se plonge dans les eaux sanctifiées d’un fleuve, et renaît à la vie de l’âme le jour même où le Soleil de justice se leva sur le monde.

O Pasteur auguste, du haut du ciel, gouverne toujours tes fils ; ramène dans les bras de la mère désolée l’ingrat troupeau qui s’est éloigné d’elle.

Heureuse Trinité, qui envoyez sans cesse sur votre vigne la rosée de la grâce, daignez faire renaître l’antique foi, afin qu’elle fleurisse comme aux anciens jours.

Amen.

Vous êtes, ô Jésus ressuscité, la vie des peuples, comme vous êtes la vie de nos âmes. Vous appelez les nations à vous connaître, à vous aimer et à vous servir ; car « elles vous ont été données en héritage [1] », et vous les possédez tour à tour. Votre amour vous inclina de bonne heure vers cette île de l’Occident que, du haut de la croix du Calvaire, votre regard divin considérait avec miséricorde. Dès le deuxième siècle, votre bonté dirigea vers elle les premiers envoyés de la parole ; et voici qu’à la fin du sixième, Augustin, votre apôtre, délégué par Grégoire, votre vicaire, vient au secours d’une nouvelle race païenne qui s’est rendue maîtresse de cette île appelée à de si hautes destinées.

Vous avez régné glorieusement sur cette région, ô Christ ! Vous lui avez donné des pontifes, des docteurs, des rois, des moines, des vierges, dont les vertus et les services ont porté au loin la renommée de l’Ile des saints ; et la grande part d’honneur dans une si noble conquête revient aujourd’hui à Augustin, votre disciple et votre héraut. Votre empire a duré longtemps, ô Jésus, sur ce peuple dont la foi fut célèbre dans le monde entier ; mais, hélas ! des jours funestes sont venus, et l’Angleterre n’a plus voulu que vous régniez sur elle [2], et elle a contribué à égarer d’autres nations soumises à son influence. Elle vous a haï dans votre vicaire, elle a répudié la plus grande partie des vérités que vous avez enseignées aux hommes, elle a éteint la foi, pour y substituer une raison indépendante qui a produit dans son sein toutes les erreurs. Dans sa rage hérétique, elle a foulé aux pieds et brûlé les reliques des saints qui étaient sa gloire, elle a anéanti l’ordre monastique auquel elle devait le bienfait du christianisme, elle s’est baignée dans le sang des martyrs, encourageant l’apostasie et poursuivant comme le plus grand des crimes la fidélité à l’antique foi.

En retour, elle s’est livrée avec passion au culte de la matière, à l’orgueil de ses flottes et de ses colonies ; elle voudrait tenir le monde entier sous sa loi. Mais le Seigneur renversera un jour ce colosse de puissance et de richesse. La petite pierre détachée de la montagne l’atteindra à ses pieds d’argile, et les peuples seront étonnés du peu de solidité qu’avait cet empire géant qui s’était cru immortel. L’Angleterre n’appartient plus à votre empire, ô Jésus ! Elle s’en est séparée en rompant le lien de communion qui l’unit si longtemps à votre unique Église. Vous avez attendu son retour, et elle ne revient pas ; sa prospérité est le scandale des faibles, et c’est pour cela que sa chute, que l’on peut déjà prévoir, sera lamentable et sans retour.

En attendant cette épreuve terrible que votre justice fera subir à l’île coupable, votre miséricorde, ô Jésus, glane dans son sein des milliers d’âmes, heureuses de voir la lumière, et remplies pour la vérité qui leur apparaît, d’un amour d’autant plus ardent, qu’elles en avaient été plus longtemps privées. Vous vous créez un peuple nouveau au sein même de l’infidélité, et chaque année la moisson est abondante. Poursuivez votre œuvre miséricordieuse, afin qu’au jour suprême ces restes d’Israël proclament, au milieu des désastres de Babylone, l’immortelle vie de cette Église dont les nations qu’elle a nourries ne sauraient se séparer impunément.

Saint apôtre de l’Angleterre, Augustin, votre mission n’est donc pas terminée. Le Seigneur a résolu de compléter le nombre de ses élus, en glanant parmi l’ivraie qui couvre le champ que vos mains ont ensemencé. Venez en aide au labeur des nouveaux envoyés du Père de famille. Par votre intercession, obtenez ces grâces qui éclairent les esprits et changent les cœurs. Révélez à tant d’aveugles que l’Épouse de Jésus est « unique », comme il l’appelle lui-même [3] ; que la foi de Grégoire et d’Augustin n’a pas cessé d’être la foi de l’Église catholique, et que trois siècles de possession ne sauraient créer un droit à l’hérésie sur une terre qu’elle n’a conquise que par la séduction et la violence, et qui garde toujours le sceau ineffaçable de la catholicité.

[1] Psalm. II.

[2] Luc. XIX, 14.

[3] Cant. VI, 8.


Bhx Cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum

Cette fête fut introduite dans le calendrier par Léon XIII, et, dans l’intention de ce grand Pontife, elle était comme un cri d’immense amour et un tendre appel de l’Église Mère à cette glorieuse île Britannique jadis si féconde en saints. Saint Augustin était un moine romain, et il fut envoyé en Angleterre par saint Grégoire le Grand, avec quarante de ses compagnons, pour convertir ce royaume à la foi. Le succès surpassa de beaucoup l’attente du Pape, car Dieu authentiqua la prédication d’Augustin par un si grand nombre de miracles qu’on semblait revenu au temps des Apôtres. Le roi de Kent, Ethelbert, accompagné des grands de sa cour, reçut le baptême des mains du Saint qui, un jour de Noël, baptisa dans un fleuve des milliers de personnes. A ceux qui étaient malades, les ondes baptismales donnèrent la santé du—corps en même temps que celle de l’âme. Sur l’ordre de saint Grégoire, Augustin fut consacré premier évêque des Anglais par Virgile d’Arles. Revenu ensuite dans la Grande-Bretagne, il consacra des évêques pour d’autres sièges, et il établit sa chaire primatiale à Cantorbéry où il érigea aussi un célèbre monastère. Il mourut le 26 mai 609 et reçut immédiatement le culte des saints.

De même que durant sa vie saint Grégoire avait partagé la consolation de son disciple Augustin lors de la régénération chrétienne de tout ce florissant royaume, après sa mort il fut aussi associé à ses mérites, et c’est surtout par les Anglais qu’il fut proclamé l’Apôtre de l’Angleterre ; ce titre honorifique se trouve même dans l’épigraphe tombale de saint Grégoire :

AD • CHRISTVM • ANGLOS • CONVERTIT • PIETATE • MAGISTRA

ADQVIRENS • FIDEI • AGMINA • GENTE • NOVA

Les Anglais attribuent aussi la gloire de leur conversion au patriarche saint Benoît dont la Règle fut introduite chez eux par Augustin et ses compagnons. Voici comment s’exprime à ce sujet saint Aldhelm : Huius (Benedicti) alumnorum numéro glomeramus ovantes … A quo iam nobis baptismi gratia fluxit Atque Magistrorum (Augustin et les 40 moines) veneranda caterva cucurrit. La lecture de l’Apôtre est tirée de la Ire Épître aux Thessaloniciens (II, 2-9). Saint Paul rappelle en quelles circonstances il avait commencé sa prédication dans leur ville ; quel avait été son infatigable labeur durant ces premiers jours, la pureté de sa doctrine et enfin son désintéressement puisqu’il avait renoncé à recevoir des fidèles même ce modeste entretien corporel auquel d’ailleurs le prédicateur évangélique a droit. Une si grande pureté d’intention et un labeur si difficile ne doivent pourtant pas être inutiles ; c’est pourquoi il faut que les fidèles gardent avec un grand zèle ce dépôt de foi catholique qui leur fut confié jadis.

Le répons-graduel est tiré du psaume : « Je revêtirai ses prêtres de salut, et ses saints exulteront dans la joie. ». « Là je ferai paraître la puissance de David, et je tiendrai allumé un flambeau devant mon Oint. »

Ces splendides promesses messianiques sont appliquées par l’Église aux saints Pontifes, en tant qu’ils participent à la dignité du sacerdoce du Christ. Ce sacerdoce catholique sera pour beaucoup comme un vêtement de salut éternel, car ils assureront leur prédestination par la fidélité avec laquelle ils correspondront à leur vocation. Et que comporte donc cette vocation sacerdotale ? La vertu commune ne suffit pas ; une seule chose est requise : sainteté, et sainteté éminente.

La lecture évangélique, en la fête de ce grand apôtre de l’Angleterre, ne peut être autre que celle qui se présente lors de la solennité des premiers compagnons des apôtres : Marc, Luc, Tite, etc.

La prédication d’Augustin, comme celle des premiers Apôtres à qui Jésus, dans l’Évangile de ce jour, ordonne de faire des miracles et de guérir les malades, fut authentiquée par le Seigneur par de nombreux prodiges. La renommée de ceux-ci parvint jusqu’à saint Grégoire à Rome et on aime voir le très humble Pontife, écrivant à son disciple, l’exhorter à conserver la vertu d’humilité malgré la grandeur des miracles qu’il opérait [4].

Les deux collectes avant l’anaphore et après la Communion sont les suivantes :

Sur les oblations. — « Nous vous offrons, Seigneur, le Sacrifice en la fête du bienheureux pontife Augustin, vous suppliant de faire que les brebis séparées retournent l’unité de la foi et participent ainsi à ce banquet de salut. » Claire allusion à la conversion, tant désirée par l’Église, de l’Angleterre à la foi de ses pères, et à l’invalidité de l’Eucharistie et des Ordinations chez les Anglicans.

Après la Communion. — « Après avoir participé à la Victime du salut, nous vous prions, par les mérites de votre bienheureux pontife Augustin, de permettre que cette même Hostie vous soit offerte toujours et partout. » — La pensée est empruntée à Malachie, mais l’allusion concerne la grande île Britannique.

Nous ne saurions nous séparer aujourd’hui de saint Augustin sans évoquer la scène suggestive et impressionnante de son premier atterrissage en Angleterre. Tandis que les Barbares mettaient sens dessus dessous l’Italie, brûlaient les églises et massacraient les évêques, Grégoire le Grand décide un coup audacieux. Il envoie ses pacifiques troupes conquérantes dans la lointaine Bretagne, là où les Césars eux-mêmes n’avaient jamais pu établir solidement les aigles romaines. Le groupe psalmodiant des quarante moines missionnaires pose donc, courageux, le pied sur le sol anglais, et en prenant possession au nom de l’Église catholique, il se met en ordre de procession. Le pieux cortège est précédé d’une croix d’argent et d’une image du Divin Sauveur suivies par Augustin et les moines, qui chantent cette belle prière romaine de la procession des Robigalia : Deprecamur te, Domine, in omni misericordia tua, ut auferatur furor tuus et ira tua a civitate ista et de domo sancta tua, quia peccavimus tibi.

Y eut-il jamais conquête plus pacifique que celle-là ?

[4] Registr. xi, Ep. 28. P. L., LXXVII, col. 1138.


Dom Pius Parsch, le Guide dans l’année liturgique

Pour le retour des Anglicans.

Saint Augustin. — Jour de mort : 26 mai 604. — Tombeau : dans le monastère Saint Pierre, à Cantorbéry. Image : On le représente en Bénédictin et en évêque. Vie : Le saint était moine au monastère de Saint-André, près du Latran, à Rome. Le pape saint Grégoire 1er le chargea, en 597, avec 40 compagnons, d’aller évangéliser les Anglo-Saxons. Le roi Ethelbert l’accueillit amicalement et lui permit de s’établir dans le voisinage de Cantorbéry. Bientôt, il put baptiser le roi et 10.000 de ses sujets. Augustin fut alors nommé par le pape primat d’Angleterre et reçut le pallium. Il mourut le 26 mai 604 et fut enterré dans le monastère de Saint-Pierre, qui fut désormais le lieu de sépulture des évêques de Cantorbéry.

Pratique : Nous avons devant les yeux, aujourd’hui, l’Apôtre de l’Angleterre. Malheureusement, ce pays est en grande partie, aujourd’hui, séparé de l’unité de l’Église, tout en gardant toujours des sentiments religieux profonds. Les Anglicans ont, par exemple, un bréviaire laïc avec la récitation quotidienne des psaumes et la lecture de la bible ; ils ont un idéal liturgique semblable au nôtre. L’oraison du jour demande que ce peuple religieux revienne à l’unité de l’Église.

La messe (Sacerdotes) est composée en partie de textes du commun et en partie de textes propres. Nous avons devant nous l’évêque (Intr., Grad., Alléluia) et le missionnaire (Ép. et Évang.). L’Évangile est celui des saints missionnaires qui sont les successeurs des 72 disciples que le Seigneur envoie devant lui. L’Épître est très belle. Saint Paul y décrit, d’une manière touchante, en s’adressant aux Thessaloniciens, ses travaux, pastoraux. Avec les paroles de l’Apôtre, saint Augustin décrit son zèle pour les âmes : « Vous le savez, nous avons été pour chacun de vous comme est un père pour ses enfants, vous priant, vous exhortant et vous adjurant ». L’évêque Augustin a été le serviteur vigilant que le Seigneur au moment de la mort a trouvé veillant Qu’il en soit ainsi pour nous aujourd’hui et à l’heure de notre mort !

SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/28-05-St-Augustin-de-Cantorbery#nh1

Saint Augustin de Cantorbéry

Le saint Pape Grégoire le Grand avait toute sa vie rêvé de s'en aller porter l'Évangile en Angleterre mais, attaché au service du Pape Pélage dont il fut le successeur, il ne put y aller. Monté sur le trône pontifical (590), il choisit, pour cette mission, Augustin, prieur du monastère Saint-André, dont on ne sait rien avant son départ pour l'Angleterre.

Comme l'affirment Tertullien et Origène, la Grande-Bretagne avait jadis été christianisée, mais les invasions saxonnes avaient repoussé les chrétiens (Bretons) en Cornouailles et dans le Pays de Galles sans que l'on pût espérer la conversion des envahisseurs, jusqu'à ce que le jeune roi du Kent, Ethelbert, chef de la confédération des royaumes saxons, épousât une princesse catholique, Berthe, fille de Caribert I° Roi de Paris.

Au printemps 596, à la tête d'une quarantaine de moines missionnaires, Augustin s'en alla au monastère de Lérins pour étudier la langue et les mœurs des Saxons. Les descriptions furent si horribles que la peur prit le pas sur le zèle et que les missionnaires renvoyèrent leur chef à Rome pour qu'il obtînt du Pape d'être déchargé de cette impossible mission.

Grégoire le Grand accueillit fraîchement Augustin et pendant le temps où il le retint auprès de lui, souffla le chaud et le froid, maniant tour à tour les menaces et les encouragements jusqu'à ce qu'il acceptât de repartir. On lui conféra la dignité abbatiale et, dûment nanti de lettres pour les évêques, les princes et la reine Brunehaut, on le renvoya en Gaule.

Merveilleusement accueilli par l'évêque d'Arles qui était alors le légat pontifical pour la Gaule, Augustin retourna chercher ses moines qu'il installa en Arles. L'Archevêque leur fournit des professeurs enthousiastes de saxon et les envoya à travers la Gaule en leur faisant remonter le Rhône. Ils étaient à Autun pendant l'hiver puis ils longèrent la Loire, passèrent à Orléans, à Tours et s'embarquèrent à l'embouchure de la Loire pour débarquer à l'île de Thanet (proche de Ramsgate), au printemps 597.

A peine touché le sol du Royaume du Kent, au chant des litanies, les missionnaires formèrent une procession devant Augustin, crosse en main et mitre en tête. Ainsi arrivé devant le roi Ethelbert, Augustin fit son premier sermon, écouté avec bienveillance ; il n'obtint pas encore la conversion du Roi mais l'autorisation de prêcher et de construire sous la protection de la Reine.

Les résultats ne se firent guère attendre puisque, dès la Pentecôte 597, on inaugura la cathédrale de Cantorbéry (capitale du Royaume) où le Roi lui-même s'installa parmi les fidèles enthousiasmés par les pompes et les chants de la liturgie romaine.

L'Église du Kent étant constituée, selon les ordres du Pape Grégoire, Augustin s'en retourna en Arles où l'évêque lui donna la consécration épiscopale.

Au comble de la joie, enthousiaste, le Pape envoya vers l'Angleterre courrier sur courrier et conçut un vaste plan d'organisation ecclésiastique qu'on mit quelques siècles à réaliser.

De nouveaux moines furent dépêchés dans le Kent et l'on commença l'évangélisation de l'Essex. Or, si Augustin, évêque de Cantorbéry et primat d'Angleterre, réussit à merveille chez les païens Saxons, il eut contre lui l'antique église celtique qui refusait de le reconnaître et d'adopter les coutumes et les usages romains.

Ayant posé les solides bases du catholicisme romain en Grande Bretagne, Augustin mourut en son archevêché le 26 mai 604.

SOURCE : http://missel.free.fr/Sanctoral/05/27.php

Saint Augustin de Cantorbéry

Évêque (✝ 604)

Augustin était prieur du monastère de Saint-André du Mont Coelius, l'une des sept collines de Rome quand le pape saint Grégoire le Grand vint le soustraire à la paix du cloître. Le pape se souciait fort du salut des Anglo-Saxons, ces barbares païens qui avaient envahi le brumeux pays des Bretons et que ces Bretons refusaient d'évangéliser. Pour eux, ils étaient leurs occupants envahisseurs. Avec quarante compagnons, moines comme lui, saint Augustin est envoyé par le pape en Angleterre, avec une escale à Lérins, une à Paris et d'autres encore, car la route est longue de Rome à Cantorbery. La mission romaine reçoit l'appui d'Ethelbert, roi du Kent dont la femme est chrétienne. Il les installe à Cantorbery. La ferveur et l'éloquence des moines romains impressionnent le roi qui demande, à son tour, le baptême. Saint Augustin échoua par contre auprès des Celtes chrétiens du pays de Galles par manque de tact selon saint Bède le Vénérable. Lorsqu'il convoqua leurs évêques pour les amener à le reconnaître comme primat nommé par le pape et à adopter la liturgie romaine, il crut bon de rester sur son siège au lieu d'aller à leur rencontre. Les clercs bretons, irrités par l'ingérence de ces moines romains dans leur pays, repartirent sans rien céder. Saint Augustin continua d'opérer de nombreuses conversions chez les Anglais et fonda le siège de Cantorbery dont il devient l'évêque. Il se dépense alors pour asseoir la jeune Église d'Angleterre et multiplie les tentatives pour réconcilier les chrétiens bretons et anglais. Il y faudra cent ans.

(…)

Mémoire de saint Augustin, évêque de Cantorbéry en Angleterre. Envoyé avec d’autres moines romains par le pape saint Grégoire le Grand pour annoncer l’Évangile au peuple des Angles, il fut accueilli avec bienveillance par le roi du Kent, Éthelbert, et imitant la vie apostolique de l’Église primitive, il convertit à la foi chrétienne le roi lui-même et beaucoup de son peuple, et établit plusieurs sièges épiscopaux sur cette terre. Il mourut le 26 mai, vers 604.

Martyrologe romain

SOURCE : http://nominis.cef.fr/contenus/saint/1228/Saint-Augustin-de-Cantorbery.html


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.


Some five years after his elevation to the Roman See (590) Gregory began to look about him for ways and means to carry out the dream of his earlier days. He naturally turned to the community he had ruled more than a decade of years before in the monastery on the Cælian Hill. Out of these he selected a company of about forty and designated Augustine, at that time Prior of St. Andrew's, to be their representative and spokesman. The appointment, as will appear later on, seems to have been of a somewhat indeterminate character; but from this time forward until his death in 604 it is to Augustine as "strengthened by the confirmation of theblessed Father Gregory (roboratus confirmatione beati patris Gregorii, Bede, H. E., I, xxv) that English, as distinguished from British, Christianity owes its primary inspiration.

The event which afforded Pope Gregory the opportunity he had so long desired of carrying out his greatmissionary plan in favour of the English happened in the year 595 or 596. A rumour had reached Rome that thepagan inhabitants of Britain were ready to embrace the Faith in great numbers, if only preachers could be found to instruct them. The first plan which seems to have occurred to the pontiff was to take measures for the purchase of English captive boys of seventeen years of age and upwards. These he would have brought up in the Catholic Faith with idea of ordaining them and sending them back in due time as apostles to their own people. He according wrote to Candidus, a presbyter entrusted with the administration of a small estate belonging to the patrimony of the Roman Church in Gaul, asking him to secure revenues and set them aside for this purpose. (Greg., Epp., VI, vii in Migne, P.L., LXXVII.) It is possible, not only to determine approximately the dates of these events, but also to indicate the particular quarter of Britain from which the rumour had come. Aethelberht became King of Kent in 559 or 560, and in less than twenty years he succeeded in establishing an overlordship that extended from the boulders of the country of the West Saxons eastward to the sea and as far north as the Humber and the Trent. The Saxons of Middlesex and of Essex, together with the men of East Anglia and of Mercia, were thus brought to acknowledge him at Bretwalda, and he acquired a political importance which began to be felt by the Frankish princes on the other side of the Channel. Charibert of Paris gave him his daughter Bertha in marriage, stipulating, as part of the nuptial agreement, that she should be allowed the free exercise of her religion. The condition was accepted (Bede, H. E., I, xxv) andLuidhard, a Frankish bishop, accompanied the princess to her new home in Canterbury, where the ruined churchof St. Martin, situated a short distance beyond the walls, and dating from Roman-British times, was set apart for her use (Bede, H. E., I, xxvi). The date of this marriage, so important in its results to the future fortunes of Western Christianity, is of course largely a matter of conjecture; but from the evidence furnished by one or two scattered remarks in St. Gregory's letters (Epp., VI) and from the circumstances which attended the emergence of the kingdom of the Jutes to a position of prominence in the Britain of this period, we may safely assume that it had taken place fully twenty years before the plan of sending Augustine and his companions suggested itself to the pope.

The pope was obliged to complain of the lack of episcopal zeal among Aethelberht Christian neighbours. Whether we are to understand the phrase ex vicinis (Greg., Epp., VI) as referring to Gaulish prelates or to theCeltic bishops of northern and western Britain, the fact remains that neither Bertha's piety, nor Luidhard's preaching, nor Aethelberht's toleration, nor the supposedly robust faith of British or Gaulish neighbouring peoples was found adequate to so obvious an opportunity until a Roman pontiff, distracted with the cares of a world supposed to be hastening to its eclipse, first exhorted forty Benedictines of Italian blood to the enterprise. The itinerary seem to have been speedily, if vaguely, prepared; the little company set out upon their long journey in the month of June, 596. They were armed with letters to the bishops and Christianprinces of the countries through which they were likely to pass, and they were further instructed to provide themselves with Frankish interpreters before setting foot in Britain itself. Discouragement, however, appears early to have overtaken them on their way. Tales of the uncouth islanders to whom they were going chilled their enthusiasm, and some of their number actually proposed that they should draw back. Augustine so far compromised with the waverers that he agreed to return in person to Pope Gregory and lay before him plainly the difficulties which they might be compelled to encounter. The band of missionaries waited for him in the neighbourhood of Aix-en-Provence. Pope Gregory, however, raised the drooping spirits of Augustine and sent him back without delay to his faint-hearted brethren, armed with more precise, and as it appeared, more convincing authority.

Augustine was named abbot of the missionaries (Bede, H. E., I, xxiii) and was furnished with fresh letters in which the pope made kindly acknowledgment of the aid thus far offered by Protasius, Bishop of Aix-en-Provence, by Stephen, Abbot of Lérins, and by a wealthy lay official of patrician rank called Arigius [Greg., Epp., VI (indic. xiv) num. 52 sqq.;sc. 3,4,5 of the Benedictine series]. Augustine must have reached Aix on his return journey some time in August; for Gregory's message of encouragement to the party bears the date of July the twenty-third, 596. Whatever may have been the real source of the passing discouragement no more delays are recorded. The missionaries pushed on through Gaul, passing up through the valley of the Rhone toArles on their way to Vienne and Autun, and thence northward, by one of several alternatives routes which it is impossible now to fix with accuracy, until they come to Paris. Here, in all probability, they passed the winter months; and here, too, as is not unlikely, considering the relations that existed between the family of the reigning house and that of Kent, they secured the services of the local presbyters suggested as interpreters in the pope's letters to Theodoric and Theodebert and to Brunichilda, Queen of the Franks.

In the spring of the following year they were ready to embark. The name of the port at which they took ship has not been recorded. Boulogne was at that time a place of some mercantile importance; and it is not improbable that they directed their steps thither to find a suitable vessel in which they could complete the last and not least hazardous portion of their journey. All that we know for certain is that they landed somewhere on the Isle of Thanet (Bede, H. E., I, xxv) and that they waited there in obedience to KingAethelberht orders until arrangements could be made for a formal interview. The king replied to their messengers that he would come in person from Canterbury, which was less than a dozen miles away. It is not easy to decide at this date between the four rival spots, each of which has claimed the distinction of being the place upon which St. Augustine and his companions first set foot. The Boarded Groin, Stonar, Ebbsfleet, and Richborough — last named, if the present course of the Stour has not altered in thirteen hundred years, then forming part of the mainland — each has its defenders. The curious in such matters may consult the special literature on the subject cited at the close of this article. The promised interview between the king and the missionaries took place within a few days. It was held in the open air, sub divo, says Bede (Bede, H.E., I, xxv), on a level spot, probably under a spreading oak in deference to the king's dread of Augustine's possible incantations. His fear, however, was dispelled by the native grace of manner and the kindly personality of his chief guest who addressed him through an interpreter. The message told "how the compassionate Jesus hadredeemed a world of sin by His own agony and opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all who would believe" (Aelfric, ap. Haddan and Stubbs, III, ii). The king's answer, while gracious in its friendliness, was curiouslyprophetic of the religious after-temper of his race. "Your words and promised are very fair" he is said to have replied, "but as they are new to us and of uncertain import, I cannot assent to them and give up what I have long held in common with the whole English nation. But since you have come as strangers from so great a distance, and, as I take it, are anxious to have us also share in what you conceive to be both excellent andtrue, we will not interfere with you, but receive you, rather, in kindly hospitality and take care to provide what may be necessary for your support. Moreover, we make no objection to your winning as many converts as you can to your creed". (Bede, H.E., I, xxv.)

The king more than made good his words. He invited the missionaries to take up their abode in the royal capital of Canterbury, then a barbarous and half-ruined metropolis, built by the Kentish folk upon the site of the old Roman military town of Durovernum. In spite of the squalid character of the city, the monks must have made an impressive picture as they drew near the abode "over against the King.' Street facing the north", a detail preserved in William Thorne's (c. 1397) "Chronicle of the Abbots of St. Augustine's Canterbury," p. 1759, assigned them for a dwelling. The striking circumstances of their approach seem to have lingered long in popular remembrance; for Bede, writing fully a century and a third after the event, is at pains to describe how they came in characteristic Roman fashion (more suo) bearing "the holy cross together with a picture of the Sovereign King, Our Lord Jesus Christ and chanting in unison this litany", as they advanced: "We beseech thee, O Lord, in the fulness of thy pity that Thine anger and Thy holy wrath be turned away from this city and from Thy holy house, because we have sinned: Alleluia!" It was an anthem out of one of the many "Rogation"litanies then beginning to be familiar in the churches of Gaul and possibly not unknown also at Rome. (Martène, "De antiquis Ecclesiae ritibus", 1764, III, 189; Bede, "H.E.", II, xx; Joanes Diac., "De Vita Gregorii", II, 17 in Migne, P.L., LXXXV; Duchesne's ed., "Liber Pontificalis", II, 12.) The building set apart for their use must have been fairly large to afford shelter to a community numbering fully forty. It stood in the Stable Gate, not far from the ruins of an old heathen temple; and the tradition in Thorn's day was that the parish church of St. Alphage approximately marked the site (Chr. Aug. Abb., 1759). Here Augustine and his companions seemed to have established without delay the ordinary routine of the Benedictine rule as practiced at the close of the sixth century; and to it they seem to have added in a quiet way the apostolic ministry of preaching. The church dedicated to St. Martin in the eastern part of the city which had been set apart for the convenience of Bishop Luidhard and Queen Bertha's followers many years before was also thrown open to them until the king should permit a more highly organized attempt at evangelization.

The evident sincerity of the missionaries, their single-mindedness, their courage under trial, and, above all, the disinterested character of Augustine himself and the unworldly note of his doctrine made a profound impression on the mind of the king. He asked to be instructed and his baptism was appointed to take place atPentecost. Whether the queen and her Frankish bishop had any real hand in the process of this comparatively sudden conversion, it is impossible to say. St. Gregory's letter written to Bertha herself, when the news of the king's baptism had reached Rome, would lead us to infer, that, while little or nothing had been done beforeAugustine's arrival, afterwards there was an endeavor on the part of the queen to make up for past remissness. The pope writes: "Et quoniam, Deo volente, aptum nunc tempus est, agate, ut divina gratia co-operante, cum augmento possitis quod neglectum est reparare". [Greg. Epp., XI (indic., iv), 29.] The remissness does seem to have been atoned for, when we take into account the Christian activity associated with the names of this royal pair during the next few months. Aethelberht's conversion naturally gave a great impetus to the enterprise of Augustine and his companions. Augustine himself determined to act at once upon the provisional instruction he had received from Pope Gregory. He crossed over to Gaul and sought episcopalconsecration at the hands of Virgilius, the Metropolitan of Arles. Returning almost immediately to Kent, he made preparations for that more active and open form of propaganda for which Aethelberht's baptism had prepared a way. It is characteristic of the spirit which actuated Augustine and his companions that no attempt was made to secure converts on a large scale by the employment of force. Bede tells us that it was part of the king's uniform policy "to compel no man to embrace Christianity" (H. E., I, xxvi) and we know from more than one of his extant letters what the pope though of a method so strangely at variance with the teaching of theGospels. On Christmas Day, 597, more than ten thousand persons were baptized by the first "Archbishop of the English". The great ceremony probably took place in the waters of the Swale, not far from the mouth of the Medway. News of these extraordinary events was at once dispatched to the pope, who wrote in turn to express his joy to his friend Eulogius, Bishop of Alexandria, to Augustine himself, and to the king and queen. (Epp., VIII, xxx; XI, xxviii; ibid., lxvi; Bede, H. E., I, xxxi, xxxii.) Augustine's message to Gregory was carried by Lawrence the Presbyter, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, and Peter one of the original colony ofmissionary monks. They were instructed to ask for more Gospel labourers, and, if we may trust Bede's account in this particular and the curious group of letters embodied in his narrative, they bore with them a list ofdubia, or questions, bearing upon several points of discipline and ritual with regard to which Augustineawaited the pope's answer.

The genuineness of the document or libellus, as Bede calls it (H.E., II, i), in which the pope is alleged to have answered the doubts of the new archbishop has not been seriously called in question; though scholars have felt the force of the objection which St. Boniface, writing in the second quarter of the eighth century, urges,vis, that no trace of it could be found in the official collection of St. Gregory's correspondence preserved in the registry of the Roman Church.(Haddan and Stubbs, III, 336; Dudden, "Gregory the Great", II, 130, note;Mason, "Mission of St. Augustine", preface, pp. viii and ix; Duchesne, "Origines", 3d ed., p. 99, note.) It contains nine responsa, the most important of which are those that touch upon the local differences of ritual, the question of jurisdiction, and the perpetually recurring problem of marriage relationships. "Why", Augustinehad asked "since the faith is one, should there be different usages in different churches; one way of sayingMass in the Roman Church, for instance, and another in the Church of Gaul?" The pope's reply is, that while "Augustine is not to forget the Church in which he has been brought up", he is at liberty to adopt from the usage of other Churches whatever is most likely to prove pleasing to Almighty God. "For institutions", he adds, "are not to be loved for the sake of places; but places, rather, for the sake of institutions". With regard to the delicate question of jurisdiction Augustine is informed that he is to exercise no authority over the churches ofGaul; but that "all the bishops of Britain are entrusted to him, to the end that the unlearned may be instructed, the wavering strengthened by persuasion and the perverse corrected with authority". [Greg., Epp., XI (indic., iv), 64; Bede, H. E., I, xxvii.] Augustine seized the first convenient opportunity to carry out the graver provisions of this last enactment. He had already received the pallium on the return of Peter andLawrence from Rome in 601. The original band of missionaries had also been reinforced by fresh recruits, among whom "the first and most distinguished" as Bede notes, "were Mellitus, Justus, Paulinus, andRuffinianus". Of these Ruffinianus was afterwards chosen abbot of the monastery established by Augustine inhonour of St. Peter outside the eastern walls of the Kentish capital. Mellitus became the first English Bishopof London; Justus was appointed to the new see of Rochester, and Paulinus became the Metropolitan of York.

Aethelberht, as Bretwalda, allowed his wider territory to be mapped out into dioceses, and exerted himself inAugustine's behalf to bring about a meeting with the Celtic bishops of Southern Britain. The conference took place in Malmesbury, on the borders of Wessex, not far from the Severn, at a spot long described in popularlegend as Austin's Oak. (Bede, H.E., II, ii.) Nothing came of this attempt to introduce ecclesiasticaluniformity. Augustine seems to have been willing enough to yield certain points; but on three important issues he would not compromise. He insisted on an unconditional surrender on the Easter controversy; on the mode of administering the Sacrament of Baptism; and on the duty of taking active measures in concert with him for the evangelization of the Saxon conquerors. The Celtic bishops refused to yield, and the meeting was broken up. A second conference was afterwards planned at which only seven of the British bishops convened. They were accompanied this time by a group of their "most learned men" headed by Dinoth, the abbot of the celebrated monastery of Bangor-is-coed. The result was, if anything, more discouraging than before. Accusations of unworthy motives were freely bandied on both sides. Augustine's Roman regard for form, together with his punctiliousness for personal precedence as Pope Gregory's representative, gave umbrage to the Celts. They denounced the Archbishop for his pride, and retired behind their mountains. As they were on the point of withdrawing, they heard the only angry threat that is recorded of the saint: "If ye will not have peace with the brethren, ye shall have war from your enemies; and if ye will not preach the way of life to theEnglish, ye shall suffer the punishment of death at their hands". Popular imagination, some ten years afterwards, saw a terrible fulfilment of the prophecy in the butchery of the Bangor monks at the hands of Aethelfrid the Destroyer in the great battle won by him at Chester in 613.

These efforts toward Catholic unity with the Celtic bishops and the constitution of a well-defined hierarchy for the Saxon Church are the last recorded acts of the saint's life. His death fell in the same year says a very early tradition (which can be traced back to Archbishop Theodore's time) as that of his beloved father andpatron, Pope Gregory. Thorn, however, who attempts always to give the Canterbury version of these legends, asserts — somewhat inaccurately, it would appear, if his coincidences be rigorously tested — that it took place in 605. He was buried, in true Roman fashion, outside the walls of the Kentish capital in a grave dug by the side of the great Roman road which then ran from Deal to Canterbury over St. Martin's Hill and near the unfinished abbey church which he had begun in honour of Sts. Peter and Paul and which was afterwards to bededicated to his memory. When the monastery was completed, his relics were translated to a tomb prepared for them in the north porch. A modern hospital is said to occupy the site of his last resting place. [Stanley, "Memorials of Canterbury" (1906), 38.] His feast day in the Roman Calendar is kept on 28 May; but in the proper of the English office it occurs two days earlier, the true anniversary of his death.

Sources

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)

Clifford, Cornelius. "St. Augustine of Canterbury." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company,1907. 27 May 2017 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02081a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Rev. Dave Maher. Dedicated to Rev. Louis McCorkle.


Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02081a.htm

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.



"God, in his promises to hear our prayers, is desirous to bestow Himself upon us; if you find anything better than Him, ask it; but if you ask anything beneath Him, you put an affront upon Him, and hurt yourself by preferring to Him a creature which He framed: Pray in the spirit and sentiment of love, in which the royal prophet said to Him, 'Thou, O Lord, are my portion.' Let others choose to themselves portions among creatures, for my part, You are my portion, You alone I have chosen for my whole inheritance."

 --Saint Austin.

Saint Augustine was a Roman, the prior of Saint Andrew's monastery on the Coelian Hill in Rome. In 596, Pope Saint Gregory the Great sent him with 30-40 of his monks to evangelize the English. By the time they had reached southern France, they were frightened by stories of the brutality of the Anglo-Saxons and the dangerous nature of the Channel crossing and his company wanted to return to civilization.

Augustine sought help from the pope, who sent encouragement. Gregory said, "It is better never to undertake any high enterprise than to abandon it once it has started." He added, "The greater the labor, the greater will be the glory of your eternal reward." Gregory also persuaded some French priests to aid the mission and the group landed near Ebbsfleet near Ramsgate on the isle of Thanet in 597. They were welcomed by King Ethelbert of Kent, then the most sophisticated of the Anglo- Saxon kingdoms. Ethelbert's wife Bertha was the daughter of the king of Paris and already a Christian, which made it much easier for the missionaries to gain a foothold in the land. The king himself was baptized within a year of their arrival. Augustine would later help Ethelbert to write the earliest Anglo-Saxon laws to survive.

Augustine went to France to be consecrated bishop of the English by Saint Virgilius, metropolitan of Arles, and upon his return to England was so successful in making converts that he sent to Rome for more assistance. Among those who responded were Saint Mellitus, Saint Justus, and Saint Paulinus, who brought with them sacred vessels, altar cloths, and books.

Augustine rebuilt a church and laid the foundation for what would become the monastery of Christ Church. On land given to him by the king, he built a Benedictine monastery at Canterbury, called SS. Peter and Paul (later called Saint Augustine's).

He was unable to convince the bishops in Wales and Cornwall to abandon their Celtic rites and adopt the disciplines and practices of Rome. He invited leading ecclesiastics to meet him at Wessex, known as "Augustine's Oak." He urged them to follow Roman rites and to cooperate with him in the evangelization of England, but fidelity to local customs and resentment against their conquerors made them refuse. A second conference, at which Augustine is said to have failed to rise upon the arrival of the ecclesiastics, drove them further apart.

He was never able to extend his authority to the existing Christians in Wales and southwest England (Dumnonia). These Britons were suspicious and wary, Augustine was perhaps insufficiently conciliatory, and the British bishop refused to recognize him as their archbishop.

He spent the rest of his life spreading the word, and he established sees at London and Rochester. He was the first archbishop of Canterbury and was called the "Apostle of the English" (as opposed to Roman Britain), though his comparatively short mission was perforce confined to a limited area. That he was a very conscientious missionary is clear from the pages of Bede, who gives what purports to be the text of Pope Gregory's answers to Augustine's requests for direction on various matters arising out of his mission.

He adapted a gradual course of conversion outlined for him by Pope Saint Gregory. The holy father has asked him not to destroy pagan temples and allowed that innocent pagan rites could be incorporated into Christian feasts, operating under the belief that "He who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps."

Augustine's patience became well known, as is illustrated by an episode that occurred in Dorsetshire, when a town of seafaring people attached fishtales to the backs of the Italians' robes. He was buried in the unfinished church of the monastery that would one day bear his name (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Deanesly, Delaney, White).

In art, Saint Augustine is portrayed as a bishop baptizing the king of Kent (Roeder), in the black habit of the order, with a pen or book (one of his own works), or obtaining by prayer a fountain for baptizing (White).

SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0527.shtml

Sant' Agostino di Canterbury Vescovo


- Memoria Facoltativa

m. 26 maggio 604

Abate benedettino a Roma, fu invitato da San Gregorio Magno ad evangelizzare l'Inghilterra, ricaduta nell'idolatria sotto i Sassoni. Qui fu ricevuto da Etelberto, re di Kent che aveva sposato la cattolica Berta, di origine franca. Etelberto si convertì, aiutò Agostino e gli permise di predicare in piena libertà. Nel Natale successivo al suo arrivo in Inghilterra, più di diecimila Sassoni ricevettero il battesimo. Il Papa inviò altri missionari e nominò arcivescovo e primate d'Inghilterra Agostino, che cercò di riunire la Chiesa bretone a quella sassone senza riuscirci perché troppo forte era il rancore dei bretoni contro gli invasori sassoni. Suo merito però è stato quello di aver convertito quasi tutto il regno di Kent.

Etimologia: Agostino = piccolo venerabile, dal latino

Emblema: Bastone pastorale

Martirologio Romano: Sant’Agostino, vescovo di Canterbury in Inghilterra, che fu mandato dal papa san Gregorio Magno insieme ad altri monaci a predicare la parola di Dio agli Angli: accolto con benevolenza da Edilberto re del Kent, imitò la vita apostolica della Chiesa delle origini, convertì il re e molti altri alla fede cristiana e istituì in questa terra numerose sedi episcopali. Morì il 26 maggio.

(26 maggio: A Canterbury in Inghilterra, deposizione di sant’Agostino, vescovo, la cui memoria si celebra domani)

La Gran Bretagna, evangelizzata fin dai tempi apostolici (il primo missionario a sbarcarvi sarebbe stato, secondo la leggenda, Giuseppe di Arimatea), era ricaduta nell'idolatria in seguito all'invasione dei Sassoni nel quinto e nel sesto secolo. Quando il re del Kent, Etelberto, sposò la principessa cristiana Berta, figlia del re di Parigi, questa domandò che fosse eretta una chiesa e che alcuni sacerdoti cristiani vi celebrassero i santi riti. Appresa la notizia, il papa S. Gregorio Magno giudicò maturi i tempi per l'evangelizzazione dell'isola. La missione fu affidata al priore del monastero benedettino di S. Andrea sul Celio, Agostino, la cui dote precipua non doveva essere il coraggio, ma in compenso era tanto umile e docile.

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

SOURCE : http://www.santiebeati.it/dettaglio/27500