I would like to continue my look at the side altars of our church, which I began in last week’s bulletin. On the north side of the church, closest to the deacon’s door (side door), we have an eclectic combination. The icon in the center of the wall is our patron saint, St. Augustine of Canterbury. He is not to be confused with the more famous St. Augustine of Hippo. Our Augustine was a Roman monk who, in about the year 600, was sent off to England by Pope Gregory the Great to convert the pagan English. Augustine did not ask for this job, and about halfway there he got cold feet and went back to Rome. The Pope ordered him a second time, and that time he made it to the Kingdom of Kent. The wife of the King of Kent was a Christian and the sister of the King of the Franks. She brought Augustine to the King, who converted, and therefore Augustine became the “Apostle to the English” and the Pope made him an archbishop. So he did pretty well, and so we consider him the patron saint of second chances.
The icon you see was done by a former Paulist seminarian, Nicholas Markell. Visit our parish website at www.staustin.org/staustin, where you will find a longer (and more accurate) biography of our patron saint, as well as a wonderful explanation of our icon and all the rich symbolism that it includes. I think you will find that investigation worthwhile.
How is it that we call St. Augustine of Canterbury “St. Austin?” Well, Austin is a variant form of Augustine in English, much like “Chuck” is a short form for Charles. And so we also know our patron saint by the name of Austin. St. Austin pray for us!
Also at this side altar is a metal bust of Fr. Isaac Hecker. He, with four priest friends, founded the Paulist Fathers who have staffed this parish since its beginning. Isaac Hecker was the impetus and driver for the founding of the Paulist order.
Fr. Hecker was born December 18, 1819 - we are coming up on Isaac’s 200th birthday in just a few months! He grew up in New York, was a searcher in the early communes of the day, converted to Catholicism and became a Redemptorist priest. He and his four Redemptorist friends, all Native Americans who had converted to Catholicism, wanted to start a mission band reaching out to Americans. Most Catholics at the time were immigrants, especially Irish, but these priest felt a call to convert Americans. The Redemptorist superiors, overwhelmed by the pastoral care of so many Catholic immigrants, did not see a need to reach out to the native Protestants who they thought were all going to hell anyway. Eventually a Roman Cardinal named Barnabo brought Hecker to Pope Pius IX, who said there was more than enough work for everybody, and separated Isaac Hecker and his friends from the Redemptorists. This freed them to found their own order, and the Paulists were born July 7, 1858. You can read more about Isaac Hecker, and the effort to seek his canonization, on the Paulist website at http://www.paulist.org/who-we-are/our-history/isaac-hecker/