Wednesday, June 6, 2007

+ St. Boniface, Apostle to the Germans +

I missed the commemoration of Boniface, which is technically June 5, but did not want to miss the opportunity to recognize this important figure in the early evangelization of the Germanic lands. Boniface (c. 672-754), who was originally from England, felt compelled to take Christ to the pagan land of Frisia and later to the Frankish realm, a territory that encorporates what today would include Germany, France and the Netherlands. The most celebrated story of this 8th century missonary is his bold attempt to cut down the "holy tree" of Thor's Oak. It was a pagan holy site and the people believed that his effort to destroy it would result in him being struck dead. When he wasn't they began to see that maybe their pagan gods were not all powerful. I commend Boniface for his courage, for certainly he knew the risks of being an Elijah against the Baal prophets of his day.

In fact this God-given courage resulted eventually in his martyrdom in the land he first tried to evangelize - Frisia. Again, it was his effort to destroy their pagan shrines that brought about his execution. However, as Tertullian said in his day, the blood of the martyrs is often the seed of the chruch. Boniface's efforts were not in vain, and those of us of Germanic heritage owe a prayer of thanks for his missonary work over 1,200 years ago.

I believe that our modern missionary efforts may need to look back to those days of the early Middle Ages for guidance and encouragement as we face the increasing paganization of Eurpose and even our own country.

A more detailed history of this missionary of the early Medieval era can be found in an article on Wikipedia bearing his name.

A blessed St. Boniface day to all!

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