All though during Roman occupation, England had converted to Christianity, following the Roman withdrawal, Anglo-Saxon paganism was forced on the populace. It is against this background that Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to re-Christianize England beginning in Kent in southeastern England. The ruler of Kent was King Ethelberht, who had married a Christian French princess, Bertha. Although Bertha restored an ancient Roman church, the king and his subjects remained pagan. Scholars disagree as to whether Bertha or Ethelberht (following Bertha’s urging) requested a missionary from Gregory. Bede, an 8th-century monk, recorded that Pope Gregory saw fair-haired Saxon slaves in the Roman slave market, and he was inspired to convert them. After Augustine established a mission in Bertha’s church, King Ethelberht was baptized on Whitsunday, 597. Following the king’s conversion, Augustine wrote that over 10,000 Christians were baptized. Augustine was named the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 601. Although Gregory planned to move Augustine’s archiepiscopal see to London, the move from Canterbury never occurred. Although there are many quotes attributed to Augustine, one of my favorites is “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” Augustine died on May 26, 604, which is his feast day.
~ Dr. Gil Haas