Archive for June 5th, 2019

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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.

Biography:  Boniface was born in the late seventh century in England. Though he was educated, became a monk, and was ordained as a presbyter in England, he was inspired by the example of others to become a missionary. Upon receiving a papal commission in 719 to work in Germany, Boniface devoted himself to planting, organizing, and reforming churches and monasteries in Hesse, Thuringia, and Bavaria. After becoming an archbishop, Boniface was assigned to the See of Mainz in 743. Ten years later he resigned his position to engage in mission work in the Netherlands. On June 5, 754, Pentecost that year, while awaiting a group of converts for confirmation and at sunrise, while reading the Gospel to a group of the newly Baptized, a band of pagan Frisians attacked Boniface and the neophytes.  Boniface and the neophytes were massacred. According to reports, Boniface was carrying a Bible and it was stabbed. So his emblem is

the one you see here.  In Fulda, Germany, are the remains of Boniface along with the purported Gospel book he was holding with slash marks. Boniface died while catechizing. He was around 80 years old. Boniface is known as the apostle and missionary to the Germans.

For Further Reflection:  In A.D. 735, Boniface wrote to the abbess Eadburga.  He began his letter in thanksgiving to Almighty God for her previous gifts of books and garments.   Boniface then asked the abbess for the following:

“And I beg you further to add to what you have clone already by making a copy written in gold of the Epistles of my master, St. Peter the Apostle, to impress honor and reverence for the Sacred Scriptures visibly upon the carnally minded to whom I preach. I desire to have ever present before me the words of him who is my guide upon this road. I am sending by the priest Eoban the materials for your writing.

Do then, dearest sister, with this petition of mine as you have always done with my requests, so that here also your works may shine forth in golden letters for the glory of our heavenly Father. I pray for your well-being in Christ, and may you go on upward to still greater heights of holy virtue.”[i]

This letter, and the other letters and epistles, from Boniface and from many others in the Church to him, are obviously from a different world.  This was a world, yes, marked by idolatry and savagery, but within the Church a civilized gentility and peace without which the Church would not have been faithful in evangelizing.  So from this letter what can we discern and learn about mission?

  1. The mission of the Church was local and catholic, that is, universal.  She was being faithful to the Lord’s command to preach, teach and baptize all nations.  This letter and the many other extant letters bear witness to the fact of the close working together of the Church for her God-given Mission.
  2. This mission of the Church was promoting a Christian culture in pagan lands that shared with the pagans the acknowledgement of sin and the need of the Savior.  Boniface did so by not watering down the faith and practice of the Holy Spirit in the Church for the sake of acceptance, but neither by wiping out indigenous cultures.

It is out of my second point I reflect a bit more. 

With Boniface’s request of the Abbess for a copy of the Epistles of St. Peter, written in gold, the cost of which could have been high, I can hear Judas Isacariot’s complaint to the Lord, “But this money could be used for the poor”.  Boniface knew the poor and the poor in spirit, including himself.  The Words of God are the everlasting bread to feed souls.  Boniface believed St. Peter’s Epistles were of such temporal and eternal nourishment that they deserved such hand copying in gold.  A passage such as this one:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

(1 Peter 1)

The more-precious-than-gold faith of so many is the result of the more-precious-than-gold Word of God made flesh.  Further, the Apostle is thanking the Lord, the blessed and holy Trinity, for the receivers of his epistle that together (!)the Lord, “…has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”, that is, Holy Baptism.  Boniface was in the same situation as his master, St. Peter the Apostle.  The impression of a book of Bible in gold letters would certainly impress “the carnally minded” to whom Boniface preached the “honor and reverence for the Sacred Scriptures”.

Today, in this “carnally minded” world in the rise of neo-paganism, reminders of the stronger than gold-durability of Scriptures is needed.  In the fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, we were reminded that in Notre Dame, there was the sublime beauty of Jesus Christ.  The stones themselves cried out but only because the preaching of the Gospel was there and the administration of the Sacraments, not the transitory teachings of men.  Boniface and his brothers and sisters preached and lived the Word at great cost in money and to themselves, and in Boniface’s life, martyrdom. Can we do no less in these dark days?

(Read more about Boniface here)

[i] The Letters of Saint Boniface, translated by Ephraim Emerton; Columbia University Press; pages 42-43

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