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On October 10 we commemorate Paulinus, a Roman monk who was made a bishop in the year 625 and sent to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, where he settled at York and ministered to the few Christians at the court of King Edwin.

The pagan king engaged Paulinus in long private discussions about the Christian faith and eventually called a council of his nobles to debate whether he should accept Paulinus’s religion. One of them answered in the classic tones of the Anglo-Saxon heritage and said: “This, O King, is how the present life of man appears to me in comparison with that time which is unknown. You are sitting feasting with your nobles in winter time; the fire is burning on the hearth in the middle of the hall and all inside is warm, while outside the wintry storms of rain and snow are raging; and a sparrow flies swiftly through the hall. It enters in at one door and quickly flies out through the other. For the few moments it is inside, the storm and wintry tempest cannot touch it, but after the briefest moment of calm it flits from your sight, out of the wintry storm and into it again. So this life of man appears but a moment; what follows or indeed what went before, we know not at all. If this new doctrine brings us more certain information, it seems right that we should accept it.” The council decided that Edwin would do right to become a Christian; and on Easter Day, 627, Paulinus baptized him.

Many Northumbrian noblemen followed their king’s example, and Paulinus was able to extend his mission beyond York, founding churches as far south as Lincoln. But his work suffered a terrific setback when Edwin was killed in battle with the pagan Mercians, who then ravaged the Northumbrian church. Paulinus decided to quit northern England and return to Kent, where he was made bishop of Rochester and devoted himself to his flock until his death in the year 644.