This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February 2 -- Feast of Saint Laurence of Canterbury

And then Peter showed up and whipped the stercus out of me.
If you associate anyone with the conversion of Saxon England, it is probably St. Augustine of Canterbury.  He's not the same Augustine as the Bishop of Hippo, the guy with the pears and the girlfriends; this is the guy Gregory the Great sent because the kids in the Roman slave market were "non Angli sed Angeli."  But my point is not that Augustine went to Britain (albeit somewhat reluctantly); it is that a dozen others went with him. 

Among the dozen was a priest named Laurence.  Contrary to canon law, Augustine consecrated Laurence as his successor before he (Augie) died.  Had this gone down in Italy or (God forbid) North Africa, it would have ignited a controversy that would culminate in a council, or maybe even a schism.  Since it happened in the wild mists at the ends of the earth (Britain), no one wanted to fuss too much. 

Laurence tried unsuccessfully to reconcile the Celtic practices to the Latin Church practices.  The proper way to cut a monk's tonsure and the correct calculation of Easter were key points to be resolved.  Sadly, Laurence's contribution was no more than to call attention to the problem; the synod of Whitby, held about forty years after his death, would finally resolve the matter in favor of the Latin practices. 

Laurence was a little more successful at stemming the ebb of Christianity following the death of King Aethelwald.  Archbishop Augustine and King Aethelbehrt had paganism on the run, but the king's death brought his pagan son Eadbald to the throne.  The pagans rose up and drove out the Christians all over Kent.  Laurence himself might have fled if Saint Simon Peter the Apostle himself had not appeared to chastise him.  Well, chastise is putting it mildly.  Peter scourged the stercus out of him. 

Laurence might have been able to chalk this up as a bad dream, a spiritual vision, or  an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato, to quote Mr. Dickens.  He might have, except for the bloody whip marks all up and down his trunk.  When St. Pete takes to beating you, he doesn't skimp on the whup-ass.  The marks were bad enough that Laurence presented them to Pagan King Eadbald, who promptly became Christian King Eadbald once again, thus rescuing the Augustinian mission to Saxon Britain. 

Laurence may not get the play that Augustine does, but he did save the whole project from collapse, and that's a feat that's not to be beat(en). 

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