Today we celebrate the feast of St. Boniface, the “apostle to Germany”. Born Winfrid or Wynfrith, somewhere around the year 675 in southwestern England (although that, as well, is uncertain) to a noble family, his parents educated him in the hopes of his pursuing a secular profession, but Boniface believed otherwise. Inspired by missionaries who visited the area, Winfrid desired monastic life.
After many years of study and prayer and sacrifice, Winfrid gained a great knowledge and understanding of the scriptures and decided to join the Benedictine order where he was ordained at the age of 30. His success as an educator and as a preacher spread his fame, but his sole desire was to bring the gospel to the peoples of Friesland.
In 718, he traveled to Rome where the pope requested that he go to Germany to spread the Faith. Winfrid obeyed. He initially met with varying levels of success in his efforts to convert the people, but grew more effective and successful as time went on. In November of 722 or 723, Pope Gregory II consecrated Winfrid as a bishop and gave him the name Boniface.
Christianity faced many obstacles in this pagan territory both inside and outside of the Church. Passing along solid Catholic teaching and helping converts to stay strong in their faith presented particular challenges. Additionally, a mixture of heresy and pagan customs seeped into Christian lives. Boniface’s zeal for the Faith, his knowledge of Scripture, and his courage provided the tools needed to succeed in his mission, building churches and monasteries throughout his bishopric. Boniface’s relationship with the pope and later with Charlemagne did much to bring about needed reforms and consistency within the Church, and he was eventually ordained as the Archbishop of Mainz and Primate of Germany. As such, he labored to assure that those who taught and preached the Faith adhered its Truth.
In 754 with the permission of the pope, Boniface resigned as Archbishop of Mainz and pursued his lifelong hope of evangelizing the Frisians. The following year he returned to the place where he started his missionary journey in order to confirm new converts to the Faith. Upon his arrival, Boniface and his 52 companions were martyred. Those who found his body report that beside him lie a blood stained copy of the “Advantage of Death” by St. Ambrose.
Let us pray today to persevere in our faith and zeal for the gospel offering up the sufferings of our daily duty for missionaries all over the world.
St. Boniface, pray for us! Anne