The Rhine River, crossing the heart of the Europe, is one of its great world passageways for trade and transportation. In the fall of 718, the river was a path for Christian missionaries bringing the gospel to Europe. Pope Gregory II commissioned Boniface, a monk from England, to evangelize the peoples who lived on the right side of the Rhine. Boniface is the apostle to the German people and a founder of Europe.
Boniface brought other missionaries to Germany, founded monasteries and dioceses and preached the gospel to various Germanic tribes and peoples, which were then often at odds and quick to fight each another. Boniface brought one faith to a divided people and their leaders and worked tirelessly to bring them together. He believed what Jesus taught– all are meant to be one– and so by letters and countless visits and meetings he reached out to Rome and to the Germanic leaders and their people. He’s buried in Fulda, a monastic foundation he founded. The city is the center of German Catholicism today.
Boniface became bishop of Mainz, a key city where he worked for the unity of Germany. In his older years he yearned to be a missionary to the Frisians, a Germanic people not yet Christian and so he resigned his see in 754 to bring the gospel to them. In 755, on his way to Dorkum on the River Borne to confirm some new converts, he and some 37 others, were killed by robbers.
So much of Boniface’s work took place at a shifting, unsettled time in Europe, when there were no stable political or economic institutions to keep people together. At a divided time he brought a common vision to the people of his day.
As division threatens Europe (and ourselves) again, as our institutions have become unstable, let’s pray for people like Boniface, missionaries who work for unity and the common good.
He wanted to be a dedicated shepherd, as a letter he wrote indicates:
“In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course…Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ’s flock. Let us preach the whole of God’s plan to the powerful and to the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season, as Saint Gregory writes in his book of Pastoral Instruction.”
Almighty God, the martyr Saint Boniface sealed with his blood the faith he preached.Let him pray that we may hold fast to the faith and profess it courageously in our lives.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.