Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for June 5th, 2012

Almighty God, You called Boniface to be a witness and martyr in Germany, and by his labor and suffering You raised up a people for Your own possession. Pour out Your Holy  Spirit upon Your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many Your holy name may be glorified and Your kingdom enlarged; through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 Scripture Readings

Psalm 115:1-8 or 31:1-5
Acts 20:17-28
Luke 24:44-53

Introduction: As Patrick was a missionary bishop to Irish people, sent from the Catholic Church in England by the Bishop of Rome (the pope), so was Boniface sent from the same by the Bishop of Rome to the German peoples.  Boniface was martyred on this date in the Year of our Lord, 754. He had returned to Frisia (present-day Holland).   June 5th of 754 was Pentecost.  At sunrise, reading the Gospel to a group of the newly Baptized, Boniface and the neophytes were attacked by a band of pagan Frisians.  All were massacred.  InFulda,Germany, are the remains of Boniface along with the purported Gospel book he was holding with slash marks.  It is becoming increasingly clear that the Church is under such attacks again in our day, for instance see this article.

Boniface has been called “The Apostle to the Germans” but it is historically inaccurate to call him the apostle to Germany

Historical Backdrop: 

  • European Nation states did not come into existence until the 17th century and after (If memory serves).  There were lands, countries and tribes:  see map
  • The Schism between the Eastern and Western halves of the Catholic Church into the Roman Catholic Church and theEasternOrthodoxChurchesoccurred in 1054. 
  • The Reformation began with the posting of the 95 Theses on October 31, 1517.  Boniface lived and ministered the Gospel and Sacraments in the 8th century!

 I recounted to a colleague that my understanding from seminary of early Church history is basically, our Lord ascended into heaven in A.D. 33, the Church became all fouled up and Luther straightened it out in the 16th Century and here we are.  My colleague responded, “Yeah, that’s about right”.  The point is that a lot went on in between those dates!.  If it had not been for the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching, teaching and administration of the Word of God by Boniface and the catholic Church, there would have been no Christians in the German lands.

Biographical Timeline: 

  • ca. 675.  Born in Crediton, Wessex, England. His name was originally Wynfrid.   Note: that at the time of his martyrdom, Boniface was in about 79 years old. 
  • His father took ill and he was sent to the Benedictine school atExeterand then to the Benedictine Monastery in Nursling.  The monastery was noted for it’s learning and it’s concern for missionary activity and there he was ordained at the age of 30.
  • ca. 715: Wynfrid was given permission from his Abbot for missionary work in Frisia (Holland) Wynfrid was about 40 years old.  Missionary work had been done by (St.) Willibrord  (+11 November 739). After a year, Wyndrid realized the time was not ripe for mission work.
  • 717:  Wynfrid’s Abbot died and Wynfrid was elected his successor.
  • 718: Wynfrid resigned as Abbot and a trip toRome (Note: the distance between Holland and Rome; he probably walked) for a missionary assignment.
  • 719:  Pope Gregory II gave Wynfrid a broad missionary assignment in the German lands.  In a Letter to Wynfrid, Gregory II called Wynfrid, “Boniface”, “one who does good” and it may have been nickname or a term of endearment. Boniface went to Thuringia to reform the partly pagan clergy.  Boniface was not the first missionary to the German lands for there was an immoral and hertical clergy ‘ministering’ to the people.  Boniface returned to Frisia to learn Willibrord’s missionary methods.
  • 721:  Boniface went back to the German lands toHesse and established a monastery there
  • 722: Boniface baptized thousands, on Pentecost, according to his biographer, Willibald.  The Pope heard of the success, and so Boniface made a 2nd trip to Rome. On November 30th, the Pope ordained Boniface a Bishop with no fixed diocese in the German lands.
  • 723:   He returned to the mission fields to Hesseand one of the most spectacular events in his mission work occurred when Boniface, “…was to fell the sacred oak tree of Thor (a Norse god), at Geisman in the region of Hesse.  When Boniface was not struck down by the ‘god’, many people were converted and Boniface built a chapel in honor of St. Peter with wood from the tree.” (Festivals and Commemorations by Rev. Phillip Pfatteicher)
  • 725-735: After he stayed for two years in Hesse,  Bishop (Bp.) Boniface spent a decade inThuringia where Frankish and Irish missionaries  had made a start. Bp. Boniface had a fruitful mission despite struggles with the pagan corruption of the clergy.
  • 731:  Pope Gregory II died
  • 732: Pope Gregory III made Boniface an archbishop in order to consecrate missionary bishops.
  • 737:  Boniface made his third and final journey to Rome, spent a year.  The Pope made him his legate to organize the Church.
  • 738: Boniface returned to the German lands, toBavaria,  establishing new bishoprics and abbeys. 
  • 741:   Pope Gregory III died, the new pope is Zachary (741-752)
  • 742-747:  Boniface reformed the Frankish Church
  • 744:  He established his most noted monastery in Fulda which became the center of spiritual and intellectual life in the German lands.
  • 1 April, 742:  Bp. Boniface convenes a church council
  • 1 March, 734: A second church council
  • 2 March, 744:  A third church council and again councils in 745 and 747
  • 745: Pope Zachary assigned Boniface the see (bishopric) of Colgne
  • 751:  Boniface is assigned the see ofMainz
  • 751: Pippin was consecrated King of the Frankish Empire. His son was none other than Charlemagne.  Pippin supported Boniface.  

Boniface wanted to return to active missionary work and it was on this date, as reported above, on a missionary tour of Frisia he became a martyr.

(Sources:  The Letters of St. Boniface, translated by Ephraim Emerton and Festivals and Commemoration by Philip Pfaitteicher)

 

Almighty God, who called Your faithful servant Boniface to be a witness and martyr in the lands of Germany and Friesland, and by his labor and suffering raised up a people for Your own possession, pour forth Your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many Your holy Name may be glorified and Your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: