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King St. Ethelbert

Saint Ethelbert of Kent

King & Confessor

Ethelbert was ruler of the English kingdom of Kent, and a descendent of Hengist, who with his brother Horsa led the Anglo-Saxons into Britain in the fifth century. Before or just after he took the throne, the pagan Ethelbert married St. Bertha, daughter of the King of the Franks. Ethelbert allowed his bride to bring along the bishop St. Liudhard as her chaplain, and even renovated the old Roman church St. Martin’s to be their chapel; to this day it is the oldest functioning parish church in the English-speaking world. In the year of Our Lord 597, St. Augustine of Canterbury, the Apostle of England, landed in Kent with forty fellow monks on a mission from Pope St. Gregory the Great. On Whitsunday, or Pentecost, later that year, Ethelbert was baptized, and thousands of Kentish pagans followed their king’s example. Ethelbert and Augustine established Canterbury as the center of the Church in England, and the zealous king founded several churches, inspired many conversions, and issued the first written English laws. Ethelbert died on February 24th, 616, on which day he is mentioned in the Martyrologies; churches in Kent celebrate his feast on the 25th.


Traditional Roman Martyrology for February 24th

(In leap-year, the 24th of February is announced in this manner: “The twenty-fourth day of February. The vigil of the apostle St. Matthias. Also, the commemoration of many holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.” On the 25th, read: “The twenty-fifth day of February,” and then: “In Judea, etc.” as marked for the 24th)

IN Judea, the birthday of the Apostle St. Matthias, who was chosen by lot by the apostles after the Ascension of our Lord in the place of the traitor Judas, and suffered martyrdom for preaching the Gospel.

At Rome, St. Primitiva, martyr.

At Caesarea, in Cappadocia, St. Sergius, martyr, of whose life a beautiful account still exists.

In Africa, the holy martyrs Montanus, Lucius, Julian, Victoricus, Flavian, and their companions. They were disciples of St. Cyprian, and suffered martyrdom under the emperor Valerian.

At Rouen, the passion of St. Praetextatus, bishop and martyr.

At Treves, St. Modestus, bishop and confessor.

In England, St. Ethelbert, king of Kent, converted to the faith of Christ by St. Augustine, bishop of the English.

At Jerusalem, the first finding of the head of our Lord’s Precursor.

℣. And elsewhere many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.

℟. Thanks be to God.

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