Friday, May 27, 2016

Pugin and St. Augustine of Canterbury

St. Bede the Venerable, St. Philip Neri, and now St. Augustine of Canterbury, there has been quite a sequence of English or English related saints this week. In The Catholic Herald, Father Marcus Holden discusses the revival of St. Augustine's Ramsgate, the shrine church designed and built by A.W.G. Pugin:

Pugin’s church of St Augustine in Ramsgate became a shrine in 2012. It is now the official place to honour the coming of Christianity from Rome to the Anglo-Saxon people with the mission of St Augustine.

In a stunning location overlooking the sea, the shrine is near to where St Augustine first landed in AD 597. Augustus Pugin moved to this place and built his own “ideal” church (and was buried there) precisely because “blessed Austen had landed nearby”. He called it “the cradle of Catholicism in England”.

Pugin desired a rebirth of Catholic culture in the place where it had been first conceived. When Archbishop Peter Smith inaugurated the new shrine he was filling a gap of 474 years since the last great shrine of St Augustine had been destroyed in Canterbury. This significant act has inspired thousands of pilgrims to visit ever since.

Shrines are powerhouses of the new evangelisation. At St Augustine’s, the majority of our visitors are not Catholic and yet they too enjoy the experience. Beauty reaches everyone. Heritage is a forgotten tool for sharing the faith in a gentle, non-intrusive manner.

At present we are welcoming more than 10,000 visitors each year and that number is increasing. The shrine celebrates liturgy to a very high standard in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. Artists and historians are making important contributions. Last year we also launched with Explore Kent a signed walking route called “the Way of St Augustine”. It connects Canterbury to Ramsgate, following the route that the saint took after preaching to King Ethelbert.

More about St. Augustine of Canterbury from the shrine Pugin built:

Augustine of England was a Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597. He is considered the “Apostle to the English” and a founder of the English Church. Augustine was the prior of the monastery of St Andrew in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great chose him in 595 to lead a mission, usually known as the Gregorian mission, to convert the English from paganism. The Anglo-Saxons had invaded and settled on the island of Britannia one hundred and fifty years before. In 597, Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet. At a meeting at Ebbesfleet with King Ethelbert, the principal ruler of the Anglo-Saxons, Augustine first proclaimed the gospel to the English. Augustine and his group of forty monks were invited back to Canterbury and through their holy lives, miracles and preaching converted 10,000 souls. King Ethelbert was also baptised and allowed the monks to establish a Cathedral church and a Monastery. There began the long and fruitful Christian history of the English people. From Augustine’s foundation missionaries were sent to establish the Christian faith in London, Rochester and York. He probably died on 26th May 604 and was soon revered as a saint. Many centuries of devotion followed. In 1534 his shrine at Canterbury was destroyed only to be restored on 1st March 2012 on the Isle of Thanet near to where he first landed, at Pugin’s Church of St Augustine, Ramsgate.

St. Augustine of Canterbury, pray for us!

(Image credit: Wikipedia Commons, public domain).

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