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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/107

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AUGUSTINE


S3


AUGUSTINE


tine and his companions seem to ha\e established â– without delay the ordinary routine of the Benedictine rule as practised at the close of the sixth centurj'; and to it they seem to have added in a quiet way the apos- I folic ministry of preaching. The church dedicated to St. Martin in the eastern part of the city which had been set apart for the convenience of Bishop Luidhard and Queen Bertha's followers many years before was also thrown open to them until the king should permit a more highly organized attempt at evangelization. The e\ndent sincerity of the missionaries , their single- mindedness, their courage under trial, and, above all, the disinterested character of Augustine himself and the unworldly note of his doctrine made a profound impression on the mind of the king. He asked to be instructed and his baptism was appointed to take place at Pentecost. Whether the queen and her Prankish bishop had any real hand in the process of this comparatively sudden conversion, it is impossible to say. St. Gregory's letter ^^Titten to Bertha her- self, when the news of the king's baptism had reached Rome, would lead us to infer, that, while httle or nothing had been done before Augustine's arrival, afterwards there was an endeavour on the part of the queen to make up for past remissness. The pope writes: "Et quoniam, Deo volente. aptum nunc tempus est, agite, ut di\'ina gratia co-operante, cum augmento possitis quod neglect um est reparare". [Greg., Epp., XI (indie, iv), 29.] The remissness does seem to have been atoned for, when we take into account the Christian acti\-ity associated with the names of this royal pair during the next few months. -Ethelberht's conversion naturally gave a great im- petus to the enterprise of Augustine and his com- panions. Augustine himself determined to act at once upon the pro\'isionaI instructions he had re- ceived from Pope Gregory. He crossed over to Gaul and sought episcopal consecration at the hands of Virgilius, the Metropolitan of Aries. Returning al- most immediately to Kent, he made preparations for that more active and open form of propaganda for which ^Ethelberht's public baptism had prepared a way. It is characteristic of the spirit which actuated Augustine and his companions that no attempt was made to secure converts on a large scale by the em- plojTnent of force. Bede tells us that it was part of the king's uniform policy "to compel no man to embrace Christianity" (H. E., I, xx\-i) and we know from more than one of his extant letters what the pope thought of a method so strangely at variance with the teaching of the Gospels. On Cliristmas Day, 597. more than ten thousand persons were baptized by the first "Archbishop of the English". The great ceremony probably took place in the waters of the Swale, not far from the mouth of the Medway. News of these extraordinary events was at once dispatched to the pope, who WTote in turn to express his joy to his friend Eulogius, Bishop of Alexandria, to Augustine himself, and to the king and queen. (Epp. , VIII, xxx; XI, xxviii; ibid., Ixvi; Bede, H. E., I, xxxi, xxxii.) Augustine's message to Gregorj' was carried by LawTcnce the Presbyter, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, and Peter one of the original colony of missionarj' monks. They were instructed to ask for more Gospel labourers, and, if we may trust Bede's account in this particular and the curious group of letters embodied in his narrative, they bore with them a list of diibia, or questions, bearing upon several points of discipline and ritual with regard to which Augustine awaited the pope's answer.

The genuineness of the document or libellits, as Bede calls it (H. E., II, i), in which the pope is alleged to have answered the doubts of the new archbishop has not been seriously called in question; though scholars have felt the force of the objection which St. Boniface, writing in the second quarter of the eighth centurj', urges, viz. that no trace of it could be found in


the official collection of St. Gregory's correspondence preserved in the registry of the Roman Church. (Haddan and Stubbs, IH, 336; Dudden, "Gregory the Great", II, 130, note; Mason, "Mission of St. Augustine", preface, pp. \-iii and ix; Duchesne, "Orig- ines ", 3d ed., p. 99, note.) It contains nine responsa, the most important of which are those that touch upon local differences of ritual, the question of juris- diction, and the perpetually recurring problem of marriage relationships. "Why ' ', Augustine had asked "since the faith is one, should there be different usages in different churches; one way of saj-ing Mass in the Roman Church, for instance, and another in the Church of Gaul?" The pope's reply is, that while "Augustine is not to forget the Cliyrch in which he has been brought up", he is at liberty to adopt from the usage of other Churches whatever is most likely to prove pleasing to Almighty God. "For institu- tions", he adds, "are not to be loved for the sake of places; but places, rather, for the sake of institu- tions". With regard to the delicate question of juris- diction Augustine is informed that he is to exercise no authority over the churches of Gaul; but that "all the bishops of Britain are entrusted to him, to the end that the unlearned maj^ be instructed, the waver- ing strengthened by persuasion and the perverse corrected with authority". [Greg., Epp., XI (indie, iv), 64; Bede, H. E., I, xx\'ii.] Augustine seized the first convenient opportunity to carry out the graver pro\nsions of this last enactment. He had already received the pallium on the return of Peter and Law- rence from Rome in 601. The original band of mis- sionaries had also been reinforced by fresh recruits, among whom "the first and most distinguished", as Bede notes, "were Mellitus, Justus, Paulinus, and Ruffinianus". Of these Ruffinianus was afterwards chosen abbot of the monastery established by Augus- tine in honour of St. Peter outside the eastern walls of the Kentish capital, ilellitus became the first English Bishop of London; Justus was appointed to the new see of Rochester, and Paulinus became Metro- politan of York.

^Ethelberht, as Bretwalda, allowed his wider territory to be mapped out into dioceses, and ex- erted him.self in Augustine's behalf to bring about a meeting with the Celtic bishops of South- ern Britain. The conference took place in Malmes- bury, on the borders of Wessex, not far from the Severn, at a spot long described in popular legend as Austin's Oak. (Bede, H. E., II, ii.) Nothing came of this attempt to introduce ecclesiastical uniformity. Augustine seems to have been willing enough to yield certain points; but on three important issues he would not compromise. He insisted on an unconditional surrender on the Easter controversy; on the mode of administering the Sacrament of Baptism; and on the duty of taking active measures in concert with him for the evangelization of the Saxon conquerors. The Celtic bishops refused to yield, and the meeting was broken up. A second conference was afterwards planned at which only seven of the British bishops convened. They were accompanied this time by a group of their "most learned men" headed by Dinoth. the abbot of the celebrated monasterj' of Bangor-is- coed. The result was, if anj-thing, more discouraging than before. Accusations of unworthy motives were freely bandied on both sides. Augustine's Roman regard for form, together with his punctiliousness for personal precedence as Pope Gregory's representa- tive, gave umbrage to the Celts. They denounced the Archbishop for his pride, and retired behind their mountains. As they were on the point of withdraw- ing, they heard the only angrj- threat that is recorded of the saint : " If ye will not have peace with the breth- ren, ye shall have war from your enemies; and if ye will not preach the way of life to the English, ye shall suffer the punislmient of death at their hands".