Today, June 5th, is the Memorial of Saint Boniface (Apostle of Germany).
Born to a respected noble family in England, Winfrid (later named Boniface) entered a monastery where he received strong theological training. He eventually became a priest and teacher of the Faith. Winfrid, however, had his heart set on becoming a missionary to Germany.
In 718 AD, Winfrid traveled to Rome, where Pope Gregory II officially appointed him missionary to and bishop of Germany, giving him full authority to preach the Gospel to the heathens of Germany. The Pope also gave Winfred the name Boniface.
In Germany, Boniface and his companions chopped down Donar’s Oak (aka: Jupiter’s Oak, Thor’s Oak, Jove’s Oak) a tree very sacred to the German pagans. When the people of region saw that Boniface was not struck dead for the act, they believed Boniface’s God to be greater than their pagan gods and converted to Christianity. With the wood from the sacred oak Boniface constructed a chapel dedicated to St. Peter. Later, this chapel was enlarged into a church with an attached monastery.
Boniface and his companions worked hard to spread the Gospel of Christ throughout the region, and they saw many Germans converted to the Catholic Faith.
In 732 AD Boniface journeyed to Rome to give a report of his missionary activity to Pope Gregory III. The Pope heard Boniface’s report and conferred on him the title of Archbishop, giving him jurisdiction over all of Germany. Boniface returned to Germany and continued his work of preaching and teaching the Catholic Faith, seeing thousands converted.
In 737-738 AD Boniface journeyed again to Rome where he was made papal legate for all Germany. After returning to Germany, Boniface, working with the great Christian ruler, Charles Martel, established many Roman Catholic dioceses, and appointed faithful Catholic men as Bishops and priests.
On June 5th, 754 AD, Boniface, along with many of his companions, was killed by a group of heathen robbers. The robbers, however, were disappointed; for when they broke open Boniface’s chests they found only manuscripts of sacred Christian texts.
The remains of the martyred Boniface were eventually buried in the abbey church of Fulda, and are entombed within a shrine under the altar of, what is now, Fulda Cathedral.
Christo et Ecclesiae,