The First of the Britons

Today the church remembers a 4th Century saint that has largely been lost to history, but whose name continues to be used on church signs, street markers (even here in Raleigh), and a number of notable British towns and landmarks: Saint Alban, Master of Disguise and Martyr.

St. Alban was a Roman soldier stationed in what was then the far reaches of the Empire: Verulamium, twenty miles north of London on the British Isles.

One night a priest came knocking at his door seeking shelter from bounty hunter soldiers who intended to kill him for the reward offered. St. Alban took him in, and when the marauding soldiers came to his house, St. Alban dressed as the priest and let the old Father escape.

The soldiers took St. Alban, tortured him, and martyred him in place of the priest, even though they knew they had the wrong person.

At the place of the martyrdom an abbey, St. Alban’s Abbey, now stands.

St. Alban is the earliest person we know tied to the Christian faith on the British Isles, and he’s largely considered the first Christian martyr of Britain (though we have no knowledge of his belief system).

Personally, I like to think that St. Alban was not a Christian, but rather just a good human who understood that when someone knocks at your door intending to harm someone in your house for their beliefs, their skin color, or their heritage, you have no choice but to tell them the truth: there is no one in that house that they can take.

St. Alban is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that sometimes salvation isn’t found in people who believe like you do, but rather in wonderful humans of every creed and stripe who just know the face of the Divine when they see it.

Let those with ears to hear, hear.

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