But Pope Gregory had other plans for Augustine. In the year 595, Pope Gregory chose Augustine for a special role; to bring the Catholic Church to England. Now, Augustine had to leave his life of comfort and take on a dangerous mission to an unknown land.
He set off with a group of 40 other missionaries on horseback, along with books, relics and a few clothes. It was long and perilous journey of 844 miles. On the way, Augustine heard many stories of how terrible England was and how uncivilised the people were. The weary travellers were so afraid that when they reached France, they were too scared to go on. Augustine decided to turn back and return to Rome.
But Pope Gregory wrote letters to Augustine, encouraging him to be brave and carry on and reach England because the people needed him.
Eventually, in the Spring of 597, the group arrived on the shores of the isle of Thanet. They were greeted by Ethelbert of Kent and Queen Bertha, personally, who welcomed them. They invited Augustine to the capital city, Canterbury and said he could establish his church there. Ethelbert told Augustine he was free to convert as many people as he could persuade to the truth of the Gospel.
The king gave him a little church building called St. Martin’s and so Augustine began preaching and teaching the local people. Augustine was successful and he sent news back to Pope Gregory in Rome about how well it was going.
One day, to his surprise, Augustine was overjoyed that Ethelbert asked him to baptise him in the Christian faith. And once the king converted, many of his people too wanted to become Christians. And so on Christmas Day in 597, 10,000 people were baptised as followers of Jesus.
This news reached Rome and Pope Gregory made Augustine the first Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the new Catholic church in England, in communion with the Bishop of Rome.
Augustine stayed in England and became a wise and clever Bishop. He never returned to Rome and died in 604.
He sowed the seeds of Christianity in the British Isles and became known as ‘the Apostle of England.’ His bravery and commitment as a missionary disciple of Jesus is a shining example to us all to spread the good news wherever we go.
We are proud that he is the patron saint of our school. We celebrate the feast day of St. Augustine of Canterbury each year with a special Mass and fun activities on 26th May each year.