It was in the year 597 that Pope Gregory the Great sent Saint Augustine and a group of Benedictine monks from Rome to convert the English. After a rocky start to his mission, Augustine’s work began to bear fruit and he established Canterbury as the first diocese in England, and from there Christianity spread throughout the whole country.
England remained solidly Catholic until the time of Henry VIII who broke England away from the authority of the Church in Rome, after Pope Clement VII refused to accept Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Henry and his minions resolved to ensure this separation between Rome and the new protestant church in England by the most certain means possible. This they accomplished by changing the liturgy, because they knew that worship and Faith are inseparable. Changing the way people worship will change what they believe.
The Anglican reformers removed references in the Mass to ‘sacrifice’, saying it was necessary to emphasize the ‘preaching of the word’. They belittled devotion to the saints as childish, and said it was a disgrace that churches should be richly adorned; and so they desecrated them. The monasteries were dissolved and religious life disappeared within a few decades, as did the charitable care of the poor and the sick.
Saint Augustine of Canterbury sowed the good seed of Faith that resulted in a nation being Catholic for 1000 years. Henry VIII and his cronies sowed the bad seed of revolution, disguised under the mask of reform. The result was that the British Empire, which might have taken Catholicism to a third of the entire world, took the errors of Protestantism instead.
Saint Augustine can rightly be called the Apostle of England and we ask his continued intercession and protection for those who remain true to the faith of our fathers.