Tag Archives: St Augustine of Canterbury

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

Augustine of CanterburyIn places like England the Christian origins of the country are keenly recalled and lived when the Church celebrates a feast day like that of Saint Augustine of Canterbury who is known as the apostle to England. Augustine, a Benedictine monk was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to re-evangelize south-eastern England, which had reverted to paganism in the fifth and sixth centuries. Like Paul and Silas in today’s reading at Mass, we can see the grace of conversion in the unexpected: I am sure Augustine had no idea what he was going to find in England –but we know the outcome: many came to know Jesus Christ as Savior. Perhaps today we can be surprised by the Lord working in our life and how he uses us to bring others to Him.

The Roman Missal for use in England has this prayer for Mass:

Almighty God, who by the mission of the Bishop Saint Augustine of Canterbury called the English people into the wondrous light of the Gospel, grant through his intercession, we pray, that faithful to that same Gospel proclaimed we may strive to make known your truth and build up your Church on the foundations he laid.

In the USA the two Benedictine communities that come to mind who have dedicated their oratories to the memory of Saint Augustine of Canterbury are the monks of Marmion Abbey (Aurora, IL) where they abbey church to Augustine and the monks of St Louis Abbey where the Latin Mass chapel is dedicated to both Sts Gregory AND Augustine. Blessings to both monastic communities.

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

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The “Apostle of the English,” Saint Augustine of Canterbury is the one most credited for proclaiming the Gospel and organizing the Church in England in late sixth and early seventh centuries, a mission given to him by Pope Saint Gregory the Great.

We know little of Augustine’s birth or of his early life. Scholars think, however, he was as a Roman, in fact, a member of a noble family. The vocation he followed was to the monastic life  under the Rule of Saint Benedict. Augustine’s Benedictine life was lived in a recently for formed colony of monks under Gregory, later pope, saint, and doctor of the Church.

What know of Augustine’s mission is in light of Pope Gregory’s missionary impulse for the deeper conversion of the Anglo-saxons. Data tells us that in around 595, five years into Gregory’s 14-year pontificate, Augustine was sent, with about 40 monks, to England to develop a plan for evangelization. Even though the gospel had been planted in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, the faith was weak or not well taught and so it was thought that the people needed to be evangelized anew. The mission was given in June 596 but the monks didn’t end up leaving until the spring of 597. In time, Augustine‘s talents surfaced and was nominated the superior and then archbishop.

Through the preaching of the monks, King Ethelbert would later convert, and eventually even be canonized; his wife Bertha became exemplary in the practice of the faith.

Augustine and Gregory both died in 604.

Saint Augustine, pray for Great Britain, and us.

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John Brahill elected 5th abbot of Marmion Abbey

John Brahill.jpgFather John Baptist Brahill, 61, was elected by his confreres of Marmion Abbey (Aurora, IL) to the 5th abbot. Abbot John succeeds Abbot Vincent de Paul Battaille who has served Marmion’s abbot for the last 18 years.

The newly elected abbot of Marmion Abbey is a 1967 graduate of Marmion Academy and has been a member of the Benedictine community since 1978 and a priest since 1982.

A little more than a year ago Abbot John returned to Marmion Abbey after serving for many years (1992-2009) as prior of San Jose Priory in Guatemala. Most recently he has served as the master of novices and as the liaison for Abbey Farms.

Abbot John will serve an indefinite term as abbot. The election was confirmed by Abbot Peter Eberle, the Abbot President of the Swiss-American Congregation. He’ll receive the abbatial blessing from the Bishop of Rockford, Thomas G. Doran, at some point in the future.

Abbot Vincent has oversee many significant projects at Marmion including the building of the abbey church (St Augustine of Canterbury), various renovation projects at the same and at the Academy. Likewise the community has grown with a number of vocations.

Marmion was settled by monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in 1933. The monks of operated a military acdaemy, staffed a few parishes and founded a community of monks in Guatamala at the request of Pope John XXIII who asked religious communities to sacrifice 10% of their community to do missionary work. Since 1965, Guatemala’s San Jose Priory educates high school seminarians in the Benedictine spirit.

You may be familiar with the name Marmion, the 19/20th century abbot who is now known as Blessed Columba Marmion. Marmion lived in the years of 1858-1923. Of Irish and French heritage the young Marmion was first ordained a secular priest for the Dublin Archdiocese before becoming a Benedictine monk at the Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium. His gifts recognized Marmion was a founder and later appointed prior of Mont Cesar (Louvain) and later elected abbot of Maredsous 1909, a position he held until his death.

For me, this is amazing series of events because a saintly abbot whose cause for canonization was not begun until 1957 and yet not 10 years after his death Marmion caught the eye of a monk of Saint Meinrad enough to name a monastic foundation for. Now we ask the Lord raise Blessed Columba to sainthood.

You may be interested in viewing the Abbey’s vocation video: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Fidelity to the Monastic Way of Life, Stability, Obedience and Monastic Priesthood.

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

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Father, by the preaching of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, You led the people of England to the gospel. May the fruits of his work continue in Your Church.

One of the benefits of being in Rome these days is to be where things began. In this case, seeing where we believe Pope Saint Gregory the Great sent Augustine from to Canterbury, England as a monk, bishop and missionary. Augustine died in 604.

It was also fitting that the Mass I attended today was celebrated by the English monk and professor of Liturgy at Sant’Anselmo, Father Paul Gunter. The Mass prayers came alive with the English accent!

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

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O God, Who by the preaching and wondrous deeds of blessed
Augustine, Thy Confessor and Bishop, did vouchsafe to enlighten the English
nation with the light of true faith; grant that his intercession the
  of the erring may return to
the unity of Thy truth, and that we may be one mind in doing Thy holy will.


Saint Augustine of Canterbury (d. 604), was the first bishop
of Canterbury, sent by Pope Saint Gregory the Great to evangelize the pagan
English peoples.

Saint Augustine had been a monk of Saint Gregory’s monastery
on the Caelian Hill in Rome. In 595/596  he was sent to England first as the abbot of a group of
monks. He established himself at Canterbury, the capital of the then powerful
Kingdom of Kent, and in time baptized King Ethelbert.

Augustine is credited for laying the very foundation of the Ecclesia Anglicana because of his pastoral vision. That he was a close associate to Gregory the Great one thinks that the friendship had some role in the former’s zeal for the Kingdom. Augustine’s method of evangelizing England was not notable: he sent missionaries to all parts of England –how else would you preach the Gospel. But what was notable was his establishing Benedictine monastic life there, especially adjacent to the cathedral. So, looking at English ecclesial life you will notice the pattern of cathedrals have abbeys attached to them.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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