Saint Boniface, Bishop and Martyr

May 14 [New] June 5 [Traditional]

c. 680-754

He is thought to have ben born at Crediton, Devonshire, England, and Baptized Winfrid; he was sent to a monastery school near Exeter when seven, then to the Benedictine Nursling abbey in Winchester when fourteen, where he studied under Winbert and became director of the school. He was ordained about 715, was a successful teacher and preacher, but decided he wanted to be a missionary to Friesland. Unsuccessful in a first attempt in 716, he went to Pope Gregory n in Rome in 718 and was sent by the Pope to evangelize the pagans in Germany. He changed his name to Boniface, was a missionary under St. Willibrord in Friesland for three years, and then preached successfully in Hesse. In 722 he was recalled to Rome and was consecrated regionary bishop for Germany, secured a pledge of protection from Charles Martel, and on his return to Germany, preached in Hesse. He won instant success with a huge gathering of pagans at Geismar by demolishing the Oak of Thor, an object of pagan worship, without harm to himself. He then went to Thuringia, established a monastery at Ohrdruf, and was successful in securing English monks as missionaries to Germany. In 731, he was made metropolitan of Germany beyond the Rhine, authorized to create new sees, went to Bavaria as papal legate, and established a hierarchy and several new sees in the area. He founded several monasteries, Reichenau (724 ), Murbach (728) and Fritzlar (734), and in 735, he and St. Sturmi founded Fulda, which in the years to come became a great monastic center for northern Europe. He reformed the Frankish church, which Charles Martel had plundered, with five synods called after Charles' death in 741 by his sons, Carloman and Pepin, over which he presided between 741 and 747. In 747 his metropolitan see was established at Mainz and he was named primate of Germany by Pope St. Zachary. He was also appointed apostolic delegate for Germany and Gaul, and crowned Pepin sole ruler of Gaul at Soissons when Pepin's brother Carloman entered a monastery. Boniface resigned his see in 754 to spend the last years of his life reconverting the Frieslanders, who had lapsed into their pagan customs after the death of St. Willibrord. He was preparing for the confirmation of some of his converts at Dokkum, Friesland (northern Netherlands), when he and a group of his followers were attacked by a band of pagans and murdered on June 5. Called "the Apostle of Germany," his feast day was extended to the universal church by Pope Pius IX in 1874.  His patronage is that of Nations, Brewers, Tailors, File Cutters.


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