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Is the England that St Augustine converted still Christian?

Today we celebrate the man who converted the Anglo-Saxons, neither a multiculturalist nor a cultural imperialist

By on Monday, 27 May 2013

St Augustine, who completed, rather than replaced, Anglo-Saxon culture

St Augustine, who completed, rather than replaced, Anglo-Saxon culture

Today, being the feast of St Augustine of Canterbury, is a good day for us English-speaking Catholics to remember our origins as a community. One can read about the saint at the Universalis website (a wonderful resource by the way), which can be found here.  This tells us the story of the way the English Mission was inspired in the heart of Pope St Gregory the Great by the sight of English children for sale in the Roman slave market. It is good to know that the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons was a Papal initiative.

It is said that the monk Augustine came to Kent with very clear instructions to respect local customs. If that is so, it is no more than what the Catholic Church still does in Africa and other mission lands. This concept is named “inculturation” and the underlying theology is that Christ comes not to abolish cultures but to complete them. This theology is given elegant expression by St Thomas Aquinas at several points in his Summa where he says, in these or similar words: gratia naturam supponit et perfecit eam. In English: grace presupposes nature and brings it to perfection. In other words, to be converted is to grow as a human being; it does not mean having to abandon previous beliefs in their entirety and to start over; though some previous beliefs will have to be corrected or extirpated, if they contradict the Gospel.

Nowadays missionaries are criticised by the politically correct as religious and cultural imperialists. This reveals that the politically correct know few missionaries or have seen few of them in action. But let us be honest about these things. St Augustine of Canterbury was no multiculturalist. Being from Rome, he would, I am guessing here, like his namesake of Hippo, and like St Gregory, have had a firm belief in the civilising power of romanitas. If he travelled with a Bible, and a breviary and a Roman missal, I bet he also had room for a copy of Virgil too. But, and this is the key point, one can be equipped with all three and still not be opposed to all that is good and true in the other cultures one encounters. Bible, Missal and breviary will find a fit of some sort with any culture on earth – as they did in Kent at the beginning of the seventh century. For the Christian proclamation is one whose meaning is not exhausted by geographical distance or the passage of time. (And the same is true of Virgil, by the way.)

We can ask ourselves today whether the Britain that Augustine was sent to convert is still a Christian country. That it was once seems to me beyond doubt, though where we would locate the high-watermark of Britain’s Christianity, I am not sure. Equally beyond doubt is that we now live with an ebbing tide. That has been the case for at least a hundred and fifty years. Matthew Arnold was right when he heard the receding of the sea of faith on Dover beach.  Where did it all go wrong? What can we do about it? These are still hard questions. But one thing is surely beyond question: the deChristianisation of Britain is a disaster for all, believers and unbelievers alike. Nature abhors a vacuum. Into that vacuum will rush other creeds and ideologies, many of which will be downright silly, and some of which will be sinister. Now more than ever, we need to pray for the reChristianisation of the English-speaking peoples.

  • Peter

    I repeat. It is impossible to do anything good in the name of Satan or whatever you wish to call him. Jesus said Satan cannot cast out Satan. Satan cannot contradict himself. He cannot permit his evil to be weakened by good.

  • Benedict Carter

    ROFL

    In your dreams only.

  • scary goat

    Do you ever actually have anything useful to contribute?

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Submit to Islam

    No — it is a false religion.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    one of these three Gods

    This is a straightforward blasphemy and lie — there is only one God.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    There are parallels between your way of thinking and the way that certain traditional Catholics think

    Cripes, it’s a dialogue of the deaf … :-(

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    There are no parallels between the trinitarian paganism that you call catholicism and Islam. The first leads to Hell

    This is an objectively evil blasphemy.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    What a load of blasphemous rubbish.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    So your prophet was an anti-Catholic then — what a surprise !!! (not)

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Possibly the arch-troll phil up to his usual satanic tricks again…

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Jesus was a Muslim

    Satanic lies such as this one do not come from God.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord
  • scary goat

    Or quite possibly a dialogue with himself.

  • Peter

    Will the real Peter please stand up.

  • Reclaim The Cordoba Mosque

    please stand up

  • Peter

    Just testing

  • Reclaim The Cordoba Mosque

    Maaa aaaa aaaaa

  • Jabbapapa

    Ok now lets try a registered name

  • JabbaPapa

    Ooops..spelt it wrong

  • scary goat

    Ok lets see what happens now

  • scary goat

    Ok, so still none the wiser…..unless CH wants to tell us what really happened.

  • Benedict Carter

    For those who are wondering what inanity went on today on this thread, your correspondent can report as follows:

    Peter today for whatever reason (one doesn’t want to enquire too closely) invented a Muslim character (Cordoba) with whom he then held a conversation, got his disqus logins mixed up and started a “dialogue” between himself and … himself!

    Monty Python described this strange event in this way:

    “In the red corner, from Reigate in Mozambique, Colin ‘Bomber’ Harris! And in the blue corner, also from Reigate in Mozambique, Colin ‘Bomber’ Harris!”

    (Later)

    “And Colin ‘Bomber’ Harris has knocked himself out, and so is the winner!”

  • scary goat

    LOL….it was very bizarre….much more so at the time than it appears now. While the conversation was actually going on “Peter” and “Reclaim” were swapping names in front of our very eyes.

  • scary goat

    Well that depends on how you view things, I suppose. I’m not very sure how “Peter” views things any more after the rest of this thread today. :-s

  • $24570317

    You people are unbelievable.

  • scary goat

    Wow…..am I being insulted by JB? All is well with the world :-)

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    It’s “phil” — using the posting name of someone that he wishes to attack is one of his tactics ; he did it with me as well, BTW — EDIT oh, and I see he’s at it again.

    Yep — the satanic arch-troll “phil” at his evil little trickery again.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Probably “phil” again, scary.

  • scary goat

    Jabba, those odd bits and pieces just above here were me testing to see what happens. I don’t know what happened yesterday. It was quite obvious that Peter and Reclaim were one person. But which person? That’s another question.