‘You will still, occasionally, read of Protestant fellow countrymen of ours referring to the Catholic Church in England under the contemptuous title of “the Italian Mission”. The name is meant, of course, to twit us with being foreigners, because during the penal times our priests were educated abroad... Who was the first to make it? It was made first by Archbishop Benson, father of Mgr Hugh Benson. And what was he? Archbishop of Canterbury. And why Canterbury? Why that very one-horse, dead-and-alive place on the South-Eastern? Simply because St Augustine, not being able to go on as far as London, had to wait about there for a time and so set up his See there. St Augustine, a Roman envoy sent by the Pope to convert our country to the religion of the Church of Rome. And then an Archbishop of Canterbury describes the diocese of Westminster as an Italian Mission!
Well, we were founded from Rome, and all through the Middle Ages, in spite of the nuisance of living so far away from it, we were known for our loyalty to the Roman See. In St Gregory’s time men were looking to the Church as the one abiding institution; it seemed to them that the break-up of earthly dominions and the shifting of nations which was taking place throughout Europe pointed to mere chaos ahead, unless hope lay in the Papacy. Today there is the same break-up of great dominions; the same shifting of the limits of nationality. The world has altered in its look since we learned our geography, and it has not got to the end of its alteration yet. In this new world men still look to the Catholic Church, and to Rome as the divinely-appointed centre of the Catholic Church, as the one abiding institution which will survive the new chaos. And we, without ceasing to be Angles (those of us who are Angles), will have to rally more than ever around the Holy See as the centre of our true citizenship, that Angelic community which was St Gregory’s gift to us. We ought to be praying earnestly for the Holy Father. We ought to be praying for the conversion of those who, disheartened by the failure of civilisation, are turning to the Church for guidance.
May the King of Angels bring us all to the fellowship of the heavenly citizens; to him be glory for ever and ever. Amen’.
Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
Almighty and merciful God, who didst raise up thy servant Pope Gregory to be the servant of the servants of God, and didst inspire him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people: preserve in thy Church the Catholic and Apostolic Faith they taught; that thy people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon