The conversion of the Anglo-Saxons was the brightest ornament of that great pope's reign; or at least it is that which the Church seems to prize above all the rest, for to this day, three hundr ed years after the great revolt, St. Gregory is still described in the Roman Martyrology as he "who brought the English to the true faith." Of St. Augustine himself, the chief lieutenant of the papacy in its conquest of England, but little is known. His life and his virtues are overshadowed by his mission. That mission dates from the abortive schemes of St. Gregory while still a monk, and ends with the death of the last Italian archbishop of Canterbury. It is that period which I have included in my sketch. Perhaps it was rash of me to undertake the task; for Montalelnbert has already told the same story, and he is a bold man who would invite comparison with the glowing pages of The Monks of the West. Yet the critical value of that work has been denied: I think with justice. The passionate soul of the orator not unnaturally chafes at the restrictions imposed upon the student of history, though the historian who fears to pall by the dulness of his own pages may well envy the tender but stirring narrative of Montalembert. So I have sought to tell again in my own way what Montalembert has told so well already. Moreover the occasion seemed favourable, for while France was holding festival at Rheims in memory of the conversion of Clovis, on the other side of the Channel Catholics and Protestants alike were thinking of St. Augustine and the baptism of Ethelbert. English Catholics are about to hold their commemoration of that event on the very ground where the saint is believed to have landed with his monks. The Anglicans have already held theirs. The occasion happily concurred with the celebration of the diamond jubilee of the queen's reign; and nearly two hundred Protestant bishops gathered in synod from every part of the British empire, They had held such meetings before, and it was easy to anticipate that those prelates would have a difficulty in finding a common ground for debate in which their differences should not too much obtrude. We knew they would discuss reunion, and they could not wholly ignore the appeal of the holy see. Could they fail to draw a comparison in their own minds between pope Gregory who sent England the faith, and pope Leo who invites her to reunion? Could they fail to recognize that at an interval of thirteen centuries there breathes in the utterances of Leo the same spirit that inspired the action of Gregory? "Father, that they may be one!"
Father Brou SJ, Brother Hermenegild TOSF, Paperback, ISBN 10: 1495957489, ISBN 13: 9781495957482