Saint Adrian of Canterbury
by Catherine Fournier
Saint Adrian of Canterbury
Feast Day: January
We all know about men and women who travelled to China and Africa and South Seas Islands as missionaries, to bring the Word of Christ to these distant lands. But many centuries ago, when the Church was still young and hadn't spread to Europe, people would travel from Judea or Egypt to other lands as missionaries. Saint Adrian was born in Africa, but ended his days as a missionary to the people of England.
Saint Adrian was an Abbot of a monastery near Naples, Italy when the Archbishop of Canterbury died in 664. Pope Vitalian asked Adrian to travel to Canterbury as the next Archbishop. (Adrian was then an Abbot of a monastery near Naples.) Adrian refused, saying that he was not good enough for the job and suggested that the Pope send Saint Theodore of Tarsus instead. Saint Adrian offered to go to Canterbury as Saint Theodore's assistant.
Once they arrived in England, Theodore and Adrian went about teaching the Gospel. Most of England was still pagan, and There was much work to be done, to build the Christian Church in England. Adrian's job consisted mainly of establishing monasteries and schools. Together, they successfully spread the Christian faith in England so that it soon became a Christian country.
Saint Adrian died in the year 710. Saint Adrian's feast day is on the 9th on January.
Saint Adrian is less well known than Saint Thomas a Becket, who was martyred on the altar of Canterbury Cathedral, but no less important to the English Catholic Church. Saint Adrian, having rejected the position of Archbishop of Canterbury for himself, accompanied Saint Theodore of Tarsus as an assistant and advisor. When they both reached England, Theodore was confirmed as Archbishop and Adrian took up the position of Abbot in the nearby monastery of Saint Peter and Paul.
As Abbot, he had a far-reaching and long lasting influence, first on the young men in the monastery and then on the development of Christianity in England. Saint Adrian was learned in the Scriptures, well versed in the writings of the Church, and a scholar of both Greek and Latin. Students flocked to the monastery to learn from the saint, and from there, carried the teaching to the rest of the land.
A native of Africa, as was Saint Augustine some three hundred years before, Saint Adrian was the abbot os a monastery near Monte Cassino in Italy. Pope St. Vitalian considered him as the best replacement of Saint Deusdedit, the archbishop of Canterbury. Adrian seemed to be the perfect leader for a nation new in its Christianity. known for his piety and a skilled and patient instructor, his talents were well suited to the needs of a community and nation. Yet Adrian demurred saying that he was not fitted for such a great dignity. He said that he would find someone else more suited for the task. After one suggested substitute became ill, he suggested Saint Theodore of Tarsus. The Pope reluctantly agreed, but sent him with Theodore as assistant and advisor.
Adrian readily consented to this compromise. It was agreed that Adrian would accompany Theodore to England as his assistant and adviser. On March 26, 668, Theodore was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury and two months later the two set sail for England. After some adventures in France, when Adrian was arrested by the mayor of Neustria as an agent of the Eastern Emperor, and Theodore had to travel on alone, the two were reunited in England.
They were a perfect team. Theodore appointed Adrian abbot of SS Peter and Paul abbey, afterward called Saint Augustine's, at Canterbury. The abbot also helped the archbishop in his pastoral undertakings. There can be no doubt that the flourishing of the English Church in Theodore's time owed much to Adrian.
The school at Saints Peter and Paul abbey also contributed to the promulgation of the Faith in England. Into the minds of his students, Adrian "poured the waters of wholesome knowledge day by day," according to Bede. The school became famous for its teaching. Bede records that Saint Adrian was 'very learned in the Holy Scriptures, very experienced in administering the church and the monastery, and a great Greek and Latin scholar.' He also is said to have commented that some of Adrian's students spoke Latin and Greek equally as well as their native languages.In addition to teaching these languages, Adrian taught poetry, astronomy and math, as well as Scripture and virtue.
Adrian was known for miracles that helped students in trouble with their masters, and miracles were associated with his tomb in Saint Augustine's Church.
Return to Saints Page.