May 26: St Augustine of Canterbury OSB, Apostle of England, Class III
St Augustine (d 604) and forty monk companions were famously dispatched to convert England by Pope St Gregory the Great, who had become aware of the decline of Britain into paganism (it had after all been christianized in the Roman era) after seeing some Angles in the slavemarket.
St Augustine only got part way on his journey before getting cold feet, persuaded of the difficulties of operating in a land whose language he did not speak. St Gregory urged him onwards though, and the monks proved effective re-evangelizers, assisted by the fact that that the King of Kent had married a Christian princess and had allowed her freedom of worship.
The monks converted the locals by their preaching and example according to St Bede:
"…they began to emulate the life of the apostles and the primitive Church. They were constantly at prayer; they fasted and kept vigils; they preached the word of life to whomsoever they could….Before long a number of heathen, admiring the simplicity of their holy lives and the comfort of their heavenly message, believed and were baptized..."
St Augustine established schools and monasteries, and set about organising the missionary effort more broadly in England. His life was marked by miracles, and he was quickly acclaimed as a saint on his death.
St Augustine pray for us.