(Latin: Bonifacius; German: Bonifatius; c. 672 – June 5, 754), the Apostle of the Germans, born Winfrid or Wynfrith at Crediton in the kingdom of Wessex (now in Devon, England), was a missionary who propagated Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. He is the patron saint of Germany and the Netherlands.
Winfrid was of a respected and prosperous family. It was somewhat against his father's wishes that he devoted himself at an early age to the monastic life. He received his theological training in the Benedictine monasteries of Adescancastre, near Exeter and Nursling, on the western edge of Southampton, under the abbot Winbert. Winfrid taught in the abbey school and at the age of 30 became a priest. He wrote the first Latin grammar produced in England.
Later he set out to preach in Friesland (overlaps with modern Holland), whence he was soon expelled because of war between its heathen king and Charles Martel of France. Boniface, after a brief withdrawal, went into Hesse and Bavaria, having secured the support of the Pope and of Charles Martel for his work there. In Hesse, in the presence of a large crowd of pagans, he cut down the Sacred Oak of Geismar, a tree of immense age and girth, sacred to the god Thor. It is said that after only a few blows of his axe, the tree tottered and crashed to the ground, breaking into four pieces and revealing itself to be rotted away within. It was the beginning of a highly successful missionary effort, and the planting of a vigorous Christian church in Germany, where Boniface was eventually consecrated bishop. He asked the Christian Saxons of England to support his work among their kinsmen on the continent, and they responded with money, books, supplies, and above all, with a steady supply of monks to assist him in teaching and preaching.
Boniface did not confine his attentions to Germany. He worked to establish cooperation between the Pope and others in Italy on the one hand and Charles and his successors in France on the other. He persuaded Carloman and Pepin, the sons of Charles, to call synods for the reform of the church in their territories, where under previous rulers bishoprics had often been sold to the highest bidder. He never forgot his initial failure in Friesland, and in old age resigned his bishopric and returned to work there. Many Frisians had been converted earlier by Willibrord (another Saxon missionary from England--see 7 Nov), but had lapsed after his death. Boniface preached among them with considerable success. On June 5, the eve of Pentecost, 754, he was preparing a group of Frisians for confirmation when they were attacked and killed by heathen warriors. His tomb is in the crypt of Fulda Cathedral.
Propers for Boniface (Winfrid of Wessex) - Missionary, Bishop and Martyr
Almighty God, who didst call thy faithful servant Boniface to be a witness and martyr in the lands of Germany and Friesland, and by his labor and suffering didst raise up a people for thine own possession: Pour forth thy Holy Spirit upon thy Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many thy holy Name may be glorified and thy kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Epistle - Acts 1:1-9.
The Gospel - St. Matthew 10:16-22.
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