St Ethelbert of Kent

(in England) (entered heaven in 616)

Dear Bert,

Great news about your acceptance into the School of Government Affairs – I happen to know firsthand that they have the best diplomatic training available in the States.  It will be an auspicious first step towards your long-desired goal of serving the Kingdom by infusing Christian values into political affairs. You may want to take today’s saint as a kind of personal patron for your efforts.  

Ethelbert, you remember, was the King of Kent, in England (long before England was a united kingdom), and he had the good fortune to marry the beautiful, virtuous, and Christian daughter of Charibert, King of Paris (long before France was a united Kingdom), whose name was Bertha.  When she arrived on English soil, she brought with her a bishop (St Liudhard), thus fulfilling the one condition of her marriage: that she be allowed to freely practice her Christian faith. She did, and her charm and wisdom made a deep impression on both king and people. No long afterward, St Augustine of Canterbury and his companion monks arrived on the missionary errand they had received from Pope St Gregory the Great, who was concerned for the Church in England since it had been devastated by barbarian invasions.  King Ethelbert received the missionaries nobly, hearing them in a famous meeting that took place under an ancient oak tree on the island of Thanet (he refused to meet them indoors, lest they cast some kind of spell on him – magic, so they believed at the time, didn’t work outside). The king was not converted at once, but he prudently permitted the missionaries to set up shop with Liudhard and freely go about their preaching, as long as they promised not to force anyone to be baptized. Thus began the famous mission of St Augustine, which soon converted the saintly King of Kent, and brought thousands of other English men and women back into the faith.

King Ethelbert went on to establish the most ancient and prestigious churches in the realm, as well as bringing his fellow nobles (King Sabert of the East Saxons and King Redwald of the East Angles, for example) into the Catholic fold.  Throughout his 56-year reign, he strove selflessly to foster prosperity and justice among all his subjects (many of his laws endured for almost a thousand years), and did much more for the advance of the Church by his policy of letting everyone decide for themselves whether or not to be baptized than many of his counterparts on the continent did by administering forced baptism to the masses.  And that, my brave young nephew, is my point. Although it takes more effort, attention, and self-sacrifice to govern by wisdom and in harmony with Christian virtue, the results are always more satisfactory and lasting. Keep that in mind as you climb your way up the diplomatic ladder.

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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