Saint of the Day – 10 November – Saint Justus of Canterbury (Died 627) the Fourth Archbishop of Canterbury, also Bishop of Rochester, Missionary sent by St Gregory the Great to join St Augustine of Canterbury in the conversion of England.
The Roman Martyrology states: “In England, St Justus, Bishop, who was sent by Pope Gregory with St Augustine, St Mellitus and others, to preach the Gospel in that country. There he went to his repose in the Lord, celebrated for sanctity,“
For the particulars of his life we are almost entirely dependent on Venerable Bede’s “Historia Ecclesiastica.“
Justus was one of the second band of Missionaries sent by St Gregory the Great, the company which arrived in 601 to reinforce St Augustine and which conveyed the relics, books, sacred vessels and other gifts sent by the Pope.
It is not certain whether he was a secular Priest or a Monk. St Bede is silent on the point and only later monastic writers from Canterbury ,claim him as one of their own Order.
In 604 he was Consecrated by St Augustine as first Bishop of Rochester, on which occasion, King Ethelbert bestowed on the new See, by charter, a territory called Priestfield and other lands. Ethelbert also built Justus a Cathedral Church in Rochester; the foundations of a nave and chancel partly underneath the present-day Rochester Cathedral may date from that time.
After the death of Augustine, Justus joined with the new Archbishop, St Laurence and with St Mellitus of London, in addressing letters to the recalcitrant Irish Bishops urging the native Church to adopt the Roman method of calculating the date of Easter but without effect. In 614, Justus attended the Council of Paris, held by the Frankish King, Chlothar II, together with Peter, the Abbot of Sts Peter and Paul Monastery in Canterbury,
During the heathen reaction which followed the death of Ethelbert, Justus was expelled from his See and took refuge in Gaul for a year, after which he was recalled by Eadbald who had been converted by St Laurence.
On the death of St Mellitus (24 April, 624) who had succeeded St Laurence as the Archbishop, Justus was elected to the vacant primacy. The letter which Pope Boniface addressed to him when sending him the Pallium is preserved by Venerable St Bede. He was already an old man and little is recorded of his Archiepiscopate except that he Consecrated Romanus as Bishop of Rochester and St Paulinus as Bishop for the North.
His anniversary was kept at Canterbury on 10 November but there is uncertainty as to the year of his death, although 627, the commonly received date, would appear to be correct, especially as it fits in with the period of three years usually assigned by the chroniclers to his Archiepiscopate.
He was buried with his predecessors at St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury and is commemorated in the English supplement to the Missal and Breviary on 10 November. In the 1090s, his remains were translated, to a Shrine beside the high Altar of St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury. At about the same time, a Life was written by the Monk Goscelin of Saint-Bertin, as well as a poem by another Monk and writer, Reginald of Canterbury.