Paulinus arrived in England in 601, a Roman monk sent on mission to our island by Pope Saint Gregory the Great. He spent twenty years evangelizing the Anglo-Saxons, before being receiving episcopal ordination from Justus of Canterbury in c 625, and travelling with Æthelburg, sister of the Kentish King, to Northumbria to marry King Edwin. When the king had a daughter, Paulinus revealed that this was the result of his prayers, and Edwin promised to convert to Christianity if he won victory over Wessex. He eventually made good on this promise when Paulinus revealed knowledge of a dream Edwin had before he took the throne about receiving power when a hand was laid on his head, a gesture then performed by Paulinus. Encouraged by the Pope, Edwin and many of his followers were baptized in 627, and Paulinus established a church there, mindful of Gregory the Great’s wish to establish a metropolitan see in York.
Edwin later died, and his kingdom was fractured. Æthelburg fled to Kent, accompanied by Paulinus. While in Kent, Paulinus was asked to become Bishop of Rochester, where he died. He was venerated soon after his death as a saint. Although the success of the Gregorian Mission was not so clear as it might have been, Paulinus is remembered for bringing the Christian faith to our part of the country. He reminds us that York has long been centre of faith in the North, and of the Roman origins of our faith. This is something the life of John Henry Newman, who brought the Oratory to England reminds us. He first received Holy Communion as a Catholic on 10th October 1845, the feast of Paulinus of York.