FULL TEXT: King Ethelbert of Kent – Bishop Schneider’s Homily, 23rd February 2016

Saint Ethelbert, February 23rd 2016, Ramsgate

Today we are celebrating Saint Ethelbert, the first Christian King of the English people, on the one thousand and four hundredth anniversary of his death. This gives us the occasion to be more aware of the inestimable gift of the Catholic faith. At the same time, we can see the extraordinary salutary effects on a whole nation and country during a long and even millennial period when those in civil authority do accept Christ and let Him rule as the only one true king in all domains of the human society.

Christ is the true king over all human race and human society. Only He has the legitimate power over humankind, for He has conquered it by His precious Blood. God Father says to His Only Begotten and Incarnated Son: “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. I will make the nations your heritage” (Ps 2: 7-8) and another Psalm the Holy Spirit speaks about Christ: “May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! ” (Ps 72: 11). Christ the Lamb of God is the only King of kings as the Apocalypses says (cf. Apoc 17: 14; 19: 16). The kingship of Christ refers not only to the heavenly or eternal life, but has to be realized already in the time on earth. If it would not be so, He would not be really the King of kings nor the nations and people on earth would be His heritage, and Christ would be only half a king and the truth of His Incarnation would not embrace all realities of the humanity. To limit the kingship of Christ to the invisible and eternal world, would contradict the numerous and clear affirmations of the Holy Scripture, the constant understanding of the Church throughout two millennia and a mutilation of the full truth of the Incarnation. For the Incarnated God Himself solemnly proclaimed that all power was given him in heaven and on earth (cf. Math 28: 18). Therefore, since the time of the Apostles, every Christian soul who real believes in the Incarnation of the Son of God and in His universal kingship and loves Him ardently, has to proclaim as it did the whole Church always: “Christ must be king, until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Kor 15: 25).

Pope Pius XI said: Christ is called “King, because of the high degree of perfection whereby he excels all creatures. So he is said to reign “in the hearts of men,” both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind. He reigns, too, in the wills of men, for in him the human will was perfectly and entirely obedient to the Holy Will of God, and further by his grace and inspiration he so subjects our free-will as to incite us to the most noble endeavors. He is King of hearts, too, by reason of his “charity which exceeds all knowledge.” And his mercy and kindness which draw all men to him, for never has it been known, nor will it ever be, that man be loved so much and so universally as Jesus Christ. But, if we ponder this matter more deeply, we cannot but see that the title and the power of King belongs to Christ as man in the strict and proper sense too. For it is only as man that he may be said to have received from the Father “power and glory and a kingdom,” (Dan. vii, 13-14) since the Word of God, as consubstantial with the Father, has all things in common with him, and therefore has necessarily supreme and absolute dominion over all things created” (Encyclical Quas primas, 7).

Christ’s kingship is founded upon the ineffable hypostatic union. From this it follows not only that Christ as God must be adored by angels and men, but that to Him as man angels and men and consequently also the entire civil society and their rulers are subject, and must recognize his empire. In Christ the King’s Encyclical of Pius XI we can hear the perennial and unchangeable teaching of the Supreme Magisterium: “It would be a grave error to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to him by the Father, all things are in his power. Nevertheless, during his life on earth he refrained from the exercise of such authority, and although he himself disdained to possess or to care for earthly goods, he did not, nor does he today, interfere with those who possess them. He who gives the heavenly kingdom does not take away the moral kingdoms: Non eripit mortalia qui regna dat caelestia. (Hymn of Epiphany). To use the words of Pope Leo XIII: “His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons … but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.” (Enc. Annum Sacrum, May 25, 1899). Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved” (Acts iv, 12). He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man and for every nation. … If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ” (Quas primas, 17;18).

The twentieth century was marked by a systematic exclusion and alienation of Christ the King from the human society by Atheist dictatorships. The first political attempt of such an exclusion of Christ the King was, however, made already by the French Revolution. An entire region of France, the people of Vendee, protested and proclaimed the Royal Heart of Christ as being their King and applied a legitimate self-defense. This had costed the life of hundreds of thousands of people and they were the first Martyrs of Christ the King in modern times. Another remarkable example were the thousands of Catholics who were killed by the Freemason dictatorship in Mexico in the twenties of the last centurybecause of their fidelity to Christ the King. Their distinctive acclamation was “Long live Christ the King!” (Viva Cristo Rey!). It was at the same time a confession of faith, a kind of password and the last prayer on their lips in the moment of their martyrdom.

One of the most moving and luminous examples of such a martyr of Christ the King in that time, was a fourteen year old boy, called Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio. On the way to execution, soldiers struck him savagely with sharp machetes.  With every blow, the young boy cried out, “Viva Cristo Rey!”  When he got to the cemetery, he was bleeding heavily.  His torturers had also cut off the soles of his feet and forced him to walk on salt.  The boy screamed with pain but would not give in.  As the road was nothing but rocks and dirt, the stones where he had walked were soaked in his blood.  The soldiers said:  “If you shout, ‘Death to Christ the King’, we will spare your life.”  He only answered: “Long live Christ the King!”. The commander ordered the soldiers to bayonet Jose. They pierced his body. But, with every stab he only shouted louder and louder: “Viva Cristo Rey!”  The commander was so enraged that he pulled out his pistol and killed Blessed Jose on the spot; it was February 10, 1928. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio was declared a martyr and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, and will be canonized in this year 2016.

In its history, England is blessed by a considerable great number of saint kings, who enthroned Christ as a king not only in their heart, but also in the public life of the entire society, over which they ruled. The very beginning of the Christian, Catholic and even saint kings of England represents Saint Ethelbert. May this Saint and the many modern martyrs of Christ the King implore us the grace, that Christ may by always enthroned as a king in our heart, in our mind and in our will; and that we may strongly desire and contribute within our possibilities that Christ be the King of every soul and the King of every human society on this earth, Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio, all modern martyrs of Christ the King and Saint Ethelbert, the saint king of England, pray for us. Long live Christ the King! Amen.

Bishop Schneider celebrates 1,400th anniversary of King Ethelbert at Shrine of St Augustine

King Ethelbert – the sixth-century monarch based at Canterbury – was celebrated on Tuesday 23rd February in a rare ceremony at St Augustine’s, Ramsgate.

The day after it was revealed Queen Elizabeth acknowledges Jesus Christ as the king she serves, Bishop Schneider was preaching how the first English Christian king made a similar acknowledgement 1,400 years ago.

Bishop Schneider’s comments were made during a Pontifical High Mass – a now-unusual form of Catholic worship. Music was sung by The Victoria Consort, under the direction of Tom Neal. They sang “Mass for Five Voices” by William Byrd – the same music sung by Westminster Cathedral Choir for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to London in 2010. The Master of Ceremonies was Richard Hawker.

The event was to celebrate the 1,400th anniversary of the death of King Ethelbert. It was King Ethelbert who welcomed St Augustine to England in 597AD. He was King of Kent and principal monarch in England at the turn of the seventh century. He co-founded Canterbury Cathedral with St Augustine of Canterbury. He welcomed St Augustine when he arrived in 597AD from Rome, and converted to Christianity soon after. He promulgated the first written laws in England, and encouraged education and learning.

Thus King Ethelbert was the first English Christian monarch, co-founder of Canterbury Cathedral, initiator of England’s legal system, and much modern English culture and history can trace its roots to him.

This is a significant anniversary in Ramsgate because Ethelbert was king of the whole of Kent (and supreme up to the Humber) and came to Ramsgate to meet St Augustine in 597AD. Out of his meeting near Ramsgate, and his living in Canterbury, arose Canterbury Cathedral and the following great history of that place. Also, the Catholic parish church in Ramsgate – St Ethelbert’s – is dedicated to him. Thus there is strong historical and current attachment in the town to our own sixth-century king.

Without King Ethelbert the renowned story of St Thomas Becket would not have occurred. It is fitting that a group from St Augustine’s will be visiting Canterbury on 28th May to celebrate the visit of relics of St Thomas Becket to Canterbury Cathedral from Esztergom, Hungary.

In a moving sermon, the bishop’s message was that, just as King Ethelbert risked much to become the first English Christian king, and English kings and queens have continued with that message of hope, and that many ordinary people have acknowledged Christ as king, so we should continue to do the same in our time.

Bishop Schneider told the story of Blessed José Sánchez who was a Mexican boy hacked to death in 1928, aged 14, for declaring that Christ is king. Despite having the soles of his feet cut off and being forced to walk towards the town cemetery, he continued to proclaim, “Vivo Christo Rey” – “Long live Christ the King”.

The bishop also referred to the saintly kings of England (such as St Edward the Confessor) who have professed the Christian message through the centuries.

The full text of the sermon is expected to be published shortly.

Speaking after the bishop’s visit, Fr Marcus Holden, Rector of St Augustine’s, said, “It is a great honour to have Bishop Schneider visit Ramsgate. He helped us to recall the value of King St Ethelbert’s example and see how we can continue to learn from our saintly past Kentish monarch. Bishop Schneider is well known for his writings and is widely considered a remarkably holy man. Being able to attract such a significant man to Ramsgate is a real coup for the town.”

Bishop Schneider was last in Ramsgate to celebrate St Augustine’s Day, in May 2014. Earlier on Tuesday Bishop Schneider had given talks to a group of thirty priests.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider to celebrate Mass at St Augustine’s

The famous Bishop Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, is coming to St Augustine’s on 23rd February. He will celebrate Pontifical High Mass at 7pm on that day.

The celebration is in honour of King St Ethelbert, on the 1,400th anniversary of his death.

Schneider Ethelbert anniversary poster 2016 YoM

All are welcome to attend.

St Augustine’s is very pleased to welcome Bishop Schneider back to St Augustine’s. He last celebrated Mass here for St Augustine’s Day in May 2014.

For those coming from a distance, there is ample free parking on Royal Esplanade, just to the west of the church. Alternatively, St Augustine’s is about a mile from Ramsgate railway station, which is served by trains from St Pancras International, London Victoria, and London Charing Cross. There are buses and taxis available from the station.

 

King St Ethelbert was the King of Kent, and supreme king of the English up to the Humber, when St Augustine arrived in 597AD from Rome. King St Ethelbert allowed St Augustine to preach Christianity to the English, and soon Ethelbert was himself baptised by St Augustine.

King St Ethelbert, with St Augustine, established Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury. He was buried in St Augustine’s Abbey when he died in February 616, and he was soon venerated as a saint. His shrine-tomb and relics were destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538. It is through King St Ethelbert’s collaboration with St Augustine that England became a Christian nation.

 

Live National BBC Radio Broadcast: Sunday Worship, 21st February 2016

BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Worship will come live from St Augustine’s on Sunday 21st February 2016, at 8.10am.

Radio 4 logo

Members of the public are invited to join the congregation for this live national broadcast, and should be in the church by 7.45am. The service will conclude at about 8.50am.

Sunday Worship is a weekly programme on BBC Radio 4, with a listenership of about 1.5 million people.

The service from St Augustine’s will be a sacred meditation, comprising readings, reflections, prayers, music, and congregational singing.

The broadcast has the theme of ‘Pilgrimage: Taking and Leaving’. This fits in well with St Augustine’s growing association with pilgrimage.

In 2014-15 it launched the “Way of St Augustine” – a walking trail between Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine’s in Ramsgate. This follows the route St Augustine took when he travelled to Canterbury from Thanet in 597AD. The route was launched in collaboration with Canterbury Cathedral, the Green Pilgrimage Network, and Explore Kent. More information is available here: http://explorekent.org/activities/the-way-of-st-augustine

A new DVD is co-presented by St Augustine’s Rector, Fr Marcus Holden, called To Be A Pilgrim. This was launched in October 2015. It documents the fascinating sites and histories of the ancient Pilgrims’ Way from Southwark to Canterbury. The route was made famous by Geoffrey Chaucer in his The Canterbury Tales. The DVD was produced by St Anthony Communications and is available here: http://www.saintant.com/item.php?itemno=208

People wishing to join the congregation for this live national broadcast should be in the church by 7.45am. The service will conclude at about 8.50am.