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Saint Boniface,

Benedictine Monk, Martyr, 'Apostle of the Germans'
Patron Saint of Germany
Born c 680 in Crediton, England
Died on 5 June 754 in Dokkum, Frisia
Feast Day - 5th June

Popes Benedict XV and Pius XVII both wrote encyclicals on St Boniface: In Hac Tanta and Eccleiae Fastos.

St Boniface (Letter 78):

The Church is like a great ship sailing the sea of the world and tossed by the waves of temptation in this life. But it is not to be abandoned - it must be brought under control.

As an example of this we have the Fathers of the past, Clement and Cornelius and many others in the city of Rome, Cyprian in Carthage and Athanasius in Alexandria. Living under pagan emperors, they steered the ship of Christ, that is the Church, his beloved spouse. And they did this by teaching, defending, working and suffering even to the shedding of their blood.

When I considered the example of these men and of men like them, I was filled with fear. Dread came upon me and trembling, and the darkness of my sins almost overwhelmed me. I should have been only too glad to give up the government of the Church which I had accepted, if only I could have found some support for this course of action in the example of the Fathers or in sacred scripture.

Therefore, since this is the situation and since the truth may become wearied but cannot be overcome or deceived, I take refuge in my weariness in the one who spoke through Solomon: 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and so not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.' And elsewhere: 'The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.'

Let us stand firm in doing what is right and prepare to face temptations, so that we may hope for support from the Lord and be able to say to him: 'Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.'

Let us trust in the one who laid this burden upon us. What we cannot bear on our own, let us bear with the help of the one who is all-powerful and who said: 'My yoke it easy, and my burden is light.'

Let us stand firm in battle on the day of the Lord, because days of distress and anguish have come upon us. Let us die, if God wills, for the sacred laws of our fathers, so that we may be worthy to share an eternal inheritance with them.

Let us not be dumb watch-dogs or silent spectators: let us not be hirelings that flee at the approach of the wolf. Let preaching to great and small alike, to rich and poor, preaching all that God has decreed to men of all degrees and ages, in so far as God gives us the power. Let us preach in season and out of season, in the way that Saint Gregory has set out in his Pastoral Rule.

Catechesis by Pope Benedict XVI
General Audience, Wednesday 11 March 2009 - also in Croatian, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear brothers and sisters,
Today, we are reflecting on a great VIII century missionary who spread Christianity in Central Europe, indeed also in my own country: St Boniface, who has gone down in history as "the apostle of the Germans". We have a fair amount of information on his life, thanks to the diligence of his biographers: he was born of an Anglo-Saxon family in Wessex around 675 and baptized with the name of Winfrid. He entered the monastery very young, attracted by the monastic ideal. Possessing remarkable intellectual abilities, he seemed destined for a tranquil and brilliant career of studies: he became a teacher of Latin grammar, wrote several treatises and even composed various poems in Latin. Ordained a priest at about the age of 30, he felt called to an apostolate among the pagans on the continent. Great Britain, his land, evangelized just 100 years earlier by Benedictines led by St Augustine, showed such a solid faith and such an ardent charity as to send missionaries to Central Europe to announce the Gospel there. In 716, Winfrid with some companions went to Frisia (today Holland), but he met with/encountered the opposition of the local chief and the attempt at evangelization failed. Having returned home, he did not lose heart, and two years later he went to Rome to speak with Pope Gregory II and have directives/receive his instructions. According to the story of one biographer, the Pope welcomed him "with a smiling face and a gaze/look full of sweetness", and in the following days held "important talks" with him (Willibaldo, Vita S Bonifatii), and finally/lastly, after conferring upon him the new name of Boniface, entrusted to him with official letters the mission of preaching the Gospel among the peoples of Germany.

Comforted and sustained by the Pope's support, Boniface embarked on the preaching of the Gospel in those regions, fighting against pagan cults/worship and strengthening/reinforcing the foundations of human and Christian morality. With a great sense of duty he wrote in one of his letters: "We stand firm in the fight on the Lord's Day, because days of affliction and wretchedness have come.... We are not mute dogs nor taciturn observers nor mercenaries who flee from wolves! We are instead diligent Pastors who watch over Christ's flock, who announce God's will to important persons and ordinary folk, to the rich and the poor.. in season and out of season.." (Letters, 3, 352,354). With his tireless activity, with his organizational skills, with his flexible/adaptable and friendly yet firm character, Boniface obtained great results. The Pope then "declared that he wished to confer episcopal dignity upon him, so that he could thus with greater determination correct and bring/lead wanderers back to the way of truth, feeling supported by the greater authority of the apostolic dignity and being all the more accepted by all in the office of preacher, the clearer it was that this was why he had been ordained by the Apostolic Bishop" (Otloho, Vita S. Bonifatii).

The Supreme Pontiff himself consecrated Boniface "regional Bishop" - that is, for all/the whole of Germany - who then resumed his apostolic labours in the territories assigned to him and extended his action also to the Church of the Gauls: with great prudence he restored ecclesiastical discipline, convoked various synods to guarantee the authority of the sacred canons and strengthened the necessary communion with the Roman Pontiff: a point that was particularly close to his heart. The Successors of Pope Gregory II also held him in the highest esteem: Gregory III appointed him Archbishop of all the Germanic tribes, sent him the pallium and gave him the faculty to organize (the) ecclesiastical hierarchy in those regions (cf Epist 28: S. Bonifatii Epistulae); Pope Zacchary confirmed his office and praised his commitment; Pope Stephen III, newly elected, received a letter from him in which he expressed his filial respect (cf Epist 108).

In addition to this work of evangelization and organization of the Church through the foundation of dioceses and the celebration of Synods, the/this great Bishop did not omit/fail to promote/encourage/favour the foundation of various monasteries,
male and female, so that they would become like a beacon for the irradiation of faith and of human and Christian culture in the territory. From the Benedictine cenobies of his homeland he had called/summoned monks and nuns who lent/gave him very valuable and precious help in ammouncing the Gospel and in spreading/disseminating the human sciences and the arts among the populations. He indeed rightly considered that work for the Gospel must also be work for a true human culture. Above all the monastery of Fulda - founded around 743 - was the heart and centre of the irradiation of religious spirituality and culture: there the monks, in prayer, in work and in penance, endeavoured to strive for holiness, were trained in the study of the sacred and profane disciplines and prepared themselves for the announcement/proclamation of the Gospel, so as /in order to be missionaries. Thus by the merit of Boniface, of his monks and nuns - women have also had/played a very important part/role in this work of evangelization - (that) human culture, which is inseparable from faith and reveals its beauty, also flourished. Boniface himself has left us significant intellectual works. First of all his copious correspondence, in which pastoral letters alternate with official letters and others of a private character, which unveil/reveal social facts and above all his rich human temperament and profound faith. He also composed a treatise on the Ars grammatica, in which he explained declensions, verbs and syntax of the Latin language, but which for him also became an instrument/tool for spreading faith and culture. Also attributed to him are an Ars metrica, that is, an introduction on how to write poetry, and various poetic compositions and lastly a collection of fifteen sermons.

Although he was already advanced in years - he was close to 80 - he prepared himself for a new evangelizing mission: with about fifty monks he returned to Frisia where he had begun his work. As if/Almost presaging his imminent death, alluding to the journey of life, he wrote to his disciple and successor in the see of Mainz,
Bishop Lull: "I desire to bring to a conclusion the purpose of this journey; I cannot in any way renounce the/my desire to leave/set out. The day of my end is near and the time of my death is approaching; having shed my mortal body, I shall go up to the eternal reward. But you, dearest son, may you ceaselessly call the people from the juniper bush of error, complete the building of the already begun Basilica of Fulda and there you will lay my body, aged by the long years of life" (Willibaldo, Vita S. Bonifati). While he was beginning the celebration of Mass at Dokkum (in today's northern Holland) on 5 June 754, he was assaulted by a band of pagans. Coming forward with a serene expression, he "forbade his followers to fight saying, "Cease, children/my sons, from fighting, abandon/give up warfare, since the witness of Scripture admonishes us not to render evil for evil, but good for evil. Here is the long desired day, the time of our end has now come; courage in the Lord!" They were his last words before he fell under the blows of the/his aggressors. The remains of the martyr Bishop were then carried to the monastery of Fulda where they received a worthy/fitting burial. Already one of his first biographers speaks about him with this judgement: "The holy Bishop Boniface can call himself father of all the inhabitants of Germany, for it was he who first begot them/brought them forth in Christ with the words of his holy preaching, he confirmed them with his example, and finally/lastly he gave his life for them, a charity that cannot be greater" (Otloho, Vita S. Bonifatii).

Centuries later, what message can we collet/gather today from the teaching and prodigious activity of this great missionary and martyr?
An first/initial evidence/fact imposes itself/stands out for those who approach Boniface: the centrality of the Word of God, lived and interpreted in the faith of the Church, the/a Word that he lived, preached and witnessed to all the way to the supreme gift of himself in martyrdom. He was so passionate about the Word of God that he felt the urgency and duty to bring/communicate it to others, even at his own personal risk. On it rested that faith the diffusion of which he had solemnly committed himself to at the moment of his episcopal ordination: "I profess integrally the purity of the holy catholic faith and with the help of God I desire to remain in the unity of this faith, in which without any doubt is all the salvation of Christians" (Epist 12). The second very important evidence that emerges in/from the life of Boniface is his faithful communion with the Apostolic See/Seat, which was a firm and central point of his missionary work, he always preserved this communion as a rule of his mission and left it as if/as it were as his will. In a letter to Pope Zachary, he affirmed: "I never cease to invite and to submit to obedience of the Apostolic See those who wish to remain in the catholic faith and in the unity of the Roman Church and all those who in (this) my mission God gives me as listeners and disciples" (Epist 50). (A) Fruit of this commitment was the firm/steadfast spirit of cohesion around the Successor of Peter which Boniface transmitted to the Church of/in his mission territory, joining England, Germany and France with Rome and contributing thus in/to a decisive extent to planting/laying those Christian roots of Europe which were to produce abundant fruit in the following centuries. Boniface is recommended to our attention for a third characteristic: he promoted the encounter between the Roman-Christian culture and the Germanic culture. In fact/Indeed, he knew that to humanise and evangelize the culture was an integral part of his mission as Bishop. By transmitting/ passing on the ancient patrimony of Christian values, he grafted on to the Germanic populations a new, more human lifestyle, thanks to which the inalienable rights of the person came to be/were better respected. As an authentic son of St Benedict, he knew how to unite/join/merge prayer and labour (manual and intellectual), pen and plough.

Boniface's courageous testimony/witness is an invitation to us all to welcome the word of God in(to) our life/lives as an essential reference point, to love the Church passionately, to feel co-responsible for her future, to seek her unity around the Successor of Peter. At the same time, he reminds us that Christianity, by promoting/encouraging the diffusion/dissemination of culture, promotes the progress of man. It is up to us, now, to live up to/be equal to such a prestigious patrimony and to make it bear fruit for the benefit of the generations to come.

I am always impressed by his ardent zeal for the Gospel: at forty years old/of age he leaves a beautiful and fruitful monastic life, the life of a monk and teacher so as to announce the Gospel to the simple, to barbarians; at eighty years old/of age, once again, he goes to a region where he foresees his martyrdom. By comparing his ardent faith, this zeal for the Gospel, with our own often lukewarm and bureaucratized faith, we see what we must do and how to renew our faith, so as to give as a gift to our time
the precious pearl of the Gospel."