Discover more from The Call to Holiness
Today is the Feast Day of St. Boniface, Martyr
Saint Boniface: Apostle to the Germans, Evangelizer, and Martyr
Saint Boniface, whose feast day we commemorate today, June 5th, is a significant figure in the history of the Christian faith, particularly for the Christianization of Germany and the influence he left on the Christmas tradition.
Born of English nobility, St. Boniface was originally named Winfrid (or Wynfrith) in the kingdom of Wessex, probably at Crediton (now in Devon, England. Devoted to scholarship as a Benedictine monk, he changed his name to Boniface and dedicated his life to evangelizing the pagan Germanic tribes around the age of forty.
St. Boniface's missionary endeavors were not undertaken single-handedly. He received help from other eminent figures from his native land, England. Among these were Saint Lull, Saint Eoban, Saint Burchard, Saint Wigbert, Saint Thecla, Saint Walburga, and his own nun-cousin, Saint Lioba. Together, they sowed the seeds of Christianity in Germany, an effort that would result in a bountiful harvest of faith.
An interesting aspect of St. Boniface's legacy is his connection to the Christmas tree tradition. This great Benedictine monk utilized an evergreen tree as a symbol that the pagans of his time could comprehend, representing eternal life in Jesus Christ. His symbolic use of the evergreen tree later evolved into the Christmas tree tradition, a beloved symbol of life and hope during the festive season, observed worldwide.
However, St. Boniface's missionary endeavors came at a high cost. St. Boniface, along with 52 others, was killed in Frisia in 755, achieving the title of martyr for his faith. His martyrdom is a testament to the courage and resilience of missionaries willing to sacrifice their lives for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
Today, as we celebrate St. Boniface's feast day, let's remember his invaluable contributions to the Church, and the brave missionaries like him who still, to this day, work tirelessly to spread the gospel across the world. In the words of the prayer dedicated to him, may St. Boniface "be our advocate that we may firmly hold the faith he taught with his lips and sealed in his blood and confidently profess it by our deeds.”
Saint Boniface, Bishop and Martyr, pray for us.
A letter by St Boniface
The careful shepherd watches over Christ's flock
In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course.
The ancient fathers showed us how we should carry out this duty: Clement, Cornelius and many others in the city of Rome, Cyprian at Carthage, Athanasius at Alexandria. They all lived under emperors who were pagans; they all steered Christ’s ship – or rather his most dear spouse, the Church. This they did by teaching and defending her, by their labors and sufferings, even to the shedding of blood.
I am terrified when I think of all this. Fear and trembling came upon me and the darkness of my sins almost covered me. I would gladly give up the task of guiding the Church which I have accepted if I could find such an action warranted by the example of the fathers or by holy Scripture.
Since this is the case, and since the truth can be assaulted but never defeated or falsified, with our tired mind let us turn to the words of Solomon: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own prudence. Think on him in all your ways, and he will guide your steps. In another place he says: The name of the Lord is an impregnable tower. The just man seeks refuge in it and he will be saved.
Let us stand fast in what is right and prepare our souls for trial. Let us wait upon God’s strengthening aid and say to him: O Lord, you have been our refuge in all generations.
Let us trust in him who has placed this burden upon us. What we ourselves cannot bear let us bear with the help of Christ. For he is all-powerful and he tells us: My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Let us continue the fight on the day of the Lord. The days of anguish and of tribulation have overtaken us; if God so wills, let us die for the holy laws of our fathers, so that we may deserve to obtain an eternal inheritance with them.
Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ’s flock. Let us preach the whole of God’s plan to the powerful and to the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season, as Saint Gregory writes in his book of Pastoral Instruction.
Let us pray
Lord, your martyr Boniface spread the faith by his teaching and witnessed to it with his blood. By the help of his prayers keep us loyal to our faith and give us the courage to profess it in our lives. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.