SAINT BONIFACE (c.675-754), bishop and martyr – Patron saint of Germany
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Boniface, known as
the “apostle of the Germans”, and was
an English Benedictine monk who gave up being elected abbot to devote his life
to the conversion of the Germanic tribes. Two characteristics stand out in his
life: his Christian orthodoxy and his fidelity to the bishop of Rome.
He was born in Devonshire, England, about the year 675 and was baptized with the name Winfrid. He was educated at a Benedictine monastery in Exeter and became a monk. He was elected abbot of the monastery in 718, but declined the position, for his heart was devoted to preaching the Gospel as a missionary. He then left England and arrived in Germany in the year 719, but not without first receiving the necessary permissions and authority from Pope Gregory II.
In Germany, paganism was a way of life. What Christianity he did find had either lapsed into paganism or was mixed with error. The clergy were mainly responsible for these latter conditions since they were, in many instances, uneducated and lax in their pastoral responsibilities.
Winfrid returned to Rome and reported his progress to the pope, who then gave him the authority with which he would be able to shepherd Christ’s Church – Pope Gregory II consecrated him a bishop and gave him the name Boniface on November 30, 722, being assigned as archbishop of the Diocese of Mainz, Germany.
After having returned to Germany, he reformed the churches in his see (diocese), and built religious houses throughout the country. He also founded or restored the dioceses of Bavaria, Thuringia, and Franconia.
It was Archbishop Boniface’s resolve to restore the Germanic Church to its fidelity to Rome and to convert the pagans. He had been guided by two principles: the first was to restore the obedience of the clergy to their bishops in union with the bishop of Rome. The second was the establishment of many houses of prayer which took the form of Benedictine monasteries. A great number of Anglo-Saxon monks and nuns followed him to the continent. As a result, he was able to introduce Benedictine nuns to the active apostolate of education.
It was during a missionary journey evangelizing the Frisians, a Germanic people living in the coastal parts of Germany, that he and fifty-two converts which he was preparing for Confirmation were attacked by a troop of pagans, and he and all fifty-two were martyred on June 5, 754. His remains are interred at the Benedictine monastery in Fulda, Germany.
We commemorate his feastday on June 5.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Boniface)
“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 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, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”