The Rhine River, crossing the heart of the Europe, is a passageway for trade and transportation. In the fall of 718, the river became 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 became the apostle to the German people and a founder of Europe.
With other missionaries, Boniface founded monasteries and dioceses and preached the gospel to various Germanic tribes and peoples, then often at odds with each other. He brought one faith to a divided people and their leaders and worked tirelessly to bring them together. He believed what Jesus taught– we’re called to be one– and so by letters and countless visits and meetings he reached to the Germanic leaders and their people as an emissary of Rome. He’s buried in Fulda, a monastic foundation he founded. The city is the center of German Catholicism today.
As bishop of Mainz, Boniface worked for the unity of Germany. In his later 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.
Boniface’s work took place during changing times in Europe. There were no stable political or economic institutions to keep people together; he brought a common vision to the people of his day.
As division threatens Europe (and ourselves) again, as our institutions become unstable, let’s pray God send us people like Boniface, missionaries who work for unity and the common good. Here’s a letter he wrote that reveals the heart of a shepherd:
“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.
You ave reminded me of our visit to Mainz when our nephew was serving at the US Army base there. We were driving to the Bavaria region. At a stop on the local McDonald’s we knew were were near when we saw all the US soldiers inide. In Boniface’s unsettled times, there were no stable political or ecomonic institutions. Now unrest prevails again.
After we left the hustle and bustle of Mainz the Bavaria part of Germany was a welcome relief. No danger for us traveling in our rented car, except to keep up with the fast cars on the Auobahn and sty off it as much as possible! At each B&B we stopped at, the host opened the door to us Americans with luggage who spoke “Haben sie zimmer frei?” with English accent. Boniface plunged headlong into danger as he travelled on the river to the Frisians, courageous for the sake of Christ. The photo of the Rhine is a somber one. Unlike the river we saw loaded with cruise ships filled with vacationers!