Ambling along the bumpy, filthy cobblestone streets of Rome on a misty morning, Pope Gregory heard the rattling and clanking of chains, and the cruel screeching spewed forth from the traders. He witnessed the tears on the distraught, melancholy faces of the people on the blocks. The pope knew he had arrived in the fetid slave market.
The pope was stunned by something he saw: three slave boys, whose hair and skin were almost pure white. The intrigued, but bewildered pope sternly asked the slave traders from where the children came.
“They came from the island of Britain,” scoffed the traders. “They are called Anglo-Saxons.”
“No one should have to be a slave,” snapped the pope crossly, rebuking the slave traders for participating in the fatal business. “I’ll buy all three.”
He took the fatigued children home and kindly asked them about their land and their religion. Sadly, they didn’t know anything about God or the Bible.
Pope Gregory, who was downhearted, wanted to send missionaries to Southern England and asked Augustine to lead the massive effort. He and 40 monks, who were resolved to extol the virtues of Christianity, sailed to Britain. Upon arrival, they saw the king, who asked them why they were there.
“We are Christians,” Augustine intrepidly said, “and we’re here to tell your people about the Lord.”
The king generously acknowledged that they could live in Canterbury and preach. Many Anglo-Saxons were converted. In fact, on Christmas 597, Augustine baptized thousands. The pope sent more monks, who built churches all over Southern England. The pope also made the tenacious Augustine the Archbishop of Canterbury. Consequently, he is known as the Apostle of England.