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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Saint Boniface, Bishop and Martyr

Saint Boniface, Bishop and Martyr

Winfrid, afterwards called Boniface, was born in England, towards the end of the seventh century. From childhood he had his heart set upon becoming a monk; and as soon as he was old enough, against the wishes of his father, who had others plans for his clever young son, he entered a monastery, where he was instructed in all godliness and divers kinds of learning. At the age of twenty-nine he was priested, and became an unwearied preacher of the Word of God, wherein ha had a gift which he used with great gain to souls, and whereby he became so renowned in England that many ecclesiastical dignities were open to him. However, his chief desire was to spread the kingdom of Christ as a missionary, and he continually bewailed the vast number of savages who were still plunged in darkness of ignorance. Which zealous love of souls did but increase in him day by day, till nothing would serve him except an adventure for the salvation of the heathen. So, having implored the blessing of God by tears and prayers, and obtained authority from his abbot at Nursling abbey, in the Diocese of Winchester, he set forth for the coast of Germany. * It was in the year 716 that he set sail from England with two companions, and reached the town of Doerstadt in Friesland. A bloody war being then raging between Radbold, Duke of the Frieslanders, and King Charles Martel, Winfrid preached the Gospel in vain, an hence went back to England to Nursling Abbey, whereof he was, against his own will, chosen to be abbot. After two years he obtained the consent of the Bishop of Winchester to resign his office ; and to ensure his right to be a missionary to the Germanic peoples, in 719 he went to Rome, and sought an apostolic commission to preach to them. Gregory II courteously welcomed him, and in token of his commission to do good, changed his name from Winfrid to Boniface. Whereupon he went to Germany, and preached Christ to the tribes in Thuringia and Saxony. Radbold, Duke of Friesland, who had bitterly hated the Christian name, being dead, Boniface went a second time among the Frieslanders and there, with his comrade Saint Willibrord, preached the gospel for three years with so much fruit, that the idols were hewn down, and countless churches arose to the true God. * Holy Willibrord urged upon him to take the office of a Bishop but he deferred to seek it, that he might the more instantly toil for the salvation of the unbelievers. After he had advanced into Germany, and reclaimed thousands of the Hessians from devil worship, Pope Gregory sent for him from Rome, whither he came in 723, and he was then consecrated bishop. On his return to Germany, he thoroughly purged Hesse and Thuringia from all remains of idolatry, and because of his great works was made archbishop, and later founded four bishopricks and held divers synods, and became primate of all that country. In these holy labours he had much assistance for his kinswoman Saint Kioba, who came from England with a colony of some thirty nuns, and established convents, and schools for girls among the Germans. The Frieslanders having again fallen back into idolatry, Boniface once more betook himself to preach the Gospel among them ; and while he was busied in this duty he obtained the crown of martyrdom, being by some ungodly savages murdered, along with many others, in a massacre near the river Borne, on June 5th, in the year 755, and of his own age the seventy-fifth. In accordance with the wish expressed by himself during his life, his body was carried to Maintz, and buried in the great abbey of Fulda of which he had been the founder, and where God hath gloriously honored it by the working of many signs and wonders. He is revered as the Apostle of Germany.

O God, who by the labours of blessed Boniface, thy Martyr and Bishop, didst vouchsafe to call many nations to the knowledge of thy Name : mercifully grant that we, who as on this day do keep his feast, may by his advocacy find favour in thy sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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