St. Boniface of Mainz
Winfrid, the future Saint Boniface, was born in the year 672 in England.He came from a higher nobility family, which was respected andprosperous. When he was young, he devoted himself to monastic life.However, his father was against the whole idea because he had otherplans for his future. After some time, he agreed, and Winfrid wasadmitted to the Benedictine monasteries of Adescancastre under the abbotWinbert. At the abbey school, Winfrid began his teaching career. Throughhard work, he climbed the ladder of leadership and was appointed to theposition of the priest at the age of 30. The first Latin grammar, whichwas produced in England was written by Winfrid at the abbey school.
Winfrid went on a missionary expedition to Frisia in 716. He intended toconvert the inhabitants by preaching to them in their language. His ownOld English language had a similar dialect to Frisian. However, the warbetween Frankish leader Charles Martel, a Christian and the paganRadbod, king of the Frisians hindered Winfrid from preaching the gospel.This forced him to return to Nursling without making any progress.
Commission and Early Missions
Pope Gregory II had so much faith in Winfrid to such an extent that hegave him a task to preach in Germany in 718. The pope wanted Winfrid toreorganise the Frankish churches and implement the Roman Catholicdoctrine. After travelling through the German province of Bavaria hediscovered that the churches and monasteries worshipped God in truth andspirit. He also visited the Merovingian duchy of Alamannia where hefound that the churches still followed Roman Catholic doctrine.
However, the central German territory of Thuringia which was consideredby Rome as Christian had rebelled and killed the newly converted DukeGotzbert and his son, Hethan II. They were attempting to force thepopulace to accept Christianity. The majority of people in thisterritory were non-believers who practised idolatry. Winfrid tried invain to rectify this horrific situation which was against the teachingsof Jesus Christ.
When King Radbod of Frisia died, Winfrid saw this as an opportunity topreach the Good News and win souls for Jesus Christ. He travelled toFrisia where he lived for three years under the guidance of St.Willibrord. While he was there, he managed to convert multitudes frompaganism. The majority of Christians who had to backslide during thepersecution of Radbod returned to worship Jesus Christ in truth andspirit.
After completing his mission in Frisia Winfrid returned to Thuringiawhere he continued with spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Hemanaged to establish a monastic cell at Amoneburg with the help of twonewly converted Germanic chiefs. This was a centre where native clergywere to be taught the things of God.
Winfrid’s devotion and dedication led to his appointment as regionalbishop by Pope Gregory II on 30 November 722. His name was changed toBoniface, a name that belonged to the legendary fourth-century martyrBoniface of Tarsus. The pope instructed the dioceses of Thuringia andHesse to obey the new bishop. As the pope’s representative, Bonifacewas to be protected by the Frankish ruler Charles Martel.
Saint Boniface Destroys Thor’s Oak
Boniface took it upon himself to destroy the pagan places of worship. Inthe year 723, he cut down the sacred oak tree dedicated to Thor. Afterdestroying Thor’s altar people expected a form of punishment to bemeted out to Boniface by the pagan gods. However, nothing happened tothe bishop and the people immediately converted to Christianity.Boniface did not stop there, he went on to use the oak’s wood to builda chapel at the site. Due to his hard work and dedication, the popeappointed Boniface to the position of Archbishop.
In his endeavour to devote himself completely to the mission ofspreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the pagan states, Bonifaceresigned from his Archbishop position in 738. However, Pope Gregory IIIdid not accept his resignation but promoted him further by giving himthe authority of a legate of the Holy See.
He was also granted Mainz an important key Frankish stronghold as hisMetropolitan See in 745. With the authority vested in him, Bonifaceproceeded to establish bishoprics of Salzburg, Regensburg, Freising andPassau.
Death of Boniface
Boniface never lost hope of converting the Frisians. In 754 he travelledagain to Frisia where he baptised a great number of people. He calledfor a general meeting at a place between Franeker and Groningen.However, a group of armed pagan inhabitants appeared. They were angrywith Boniface’s attempt to destroy their native religion. They martyredhim on 5 June 754. He was buried in the abbey church of Fulda.
The Orthodox Church recognises Boniface as a patron saint of Germany. Heis portrayed in paintings with a book, pierced by a sword.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Boniface of Mainz
- Boniface is known for converting Germany to the Christian faith more
than any other Christian missionary.
- St. Boniface used the wood from Thor’s Oak to build a chapel to
show the world that idols have no power over Christians.
- St. Boniface’s feast day is celebrated on 5 June by the Catholic
Church, Lutheran Church and the Anglican Communion. However, the Eastern
Orthodox Church celebrates feast day on 19 December.
- He is credited with the achievement of unifying Europe. He is
considered by German Catholics as a national figure.
Prayer to St. Boniface of Mainz
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.Amen.
God, thank You for the unique calling You have for each person. I knowthat You have special goals in mind for each of Your creations,including me. Help me to know and follow Your Will in my life.St. Boniface, how hard it must have been to know that your familydisapproved of you entering the religious life!I have also felt that my vocation was being blocked at times. Whetherdisapproved by family members or mocked by society, I have questionedwhat God was actually telling me to do.Imagine, however, if you had never entered the religious life! How manysouls would not have come to know Christ?St. Boniface, I ask that you intercede on my behalf. Help me to know andbe strong in my vocation. Guide me on the path that leads to God.Likewise, help me to also encourage vocations in those around me. Helpme to never stand in the way of someone’s true calling from God. Give methe grace to help others discern God’s will in their own lives. Help meto always be a positive encouragement to others.I also ask that you keep in mind my intentions:(State your intentions here)St. Boniface, pray for us!In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.Amen.