St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day
 

Saint Boniface, Bishop & Martyr
(Memorial)
June 5



Adaler M (AC)
Died 755. Saint Adaler was an Irish companion of Saint Boniface, who accompanied him also into martyrdom at Dokkum, Friesland (Montague).


Boniface of Crediton BM and Companions, OSB MM (RM)
Born in Crediton, Devonshire, England, 680; died at Dokkum, Friesland, in 755.

Let us stand fast in what is right and prepare our souls for trial. . . . Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. --Saint Boniface

Boniface, baptized Winfrid or Wynfrith, determined at the age of five that he wanted to be a monk after listening to visitors from the monastery. He began his education when he was seven at the monastery school near Exeter and, at 14, graduated to the abbey at Benedictine Nursling (Hants) in Winchester. There he studied under Winbert, became a monk, and eventually became director of and popular teacher at the school. He wrote the first Latin grammar produced in England.

Wilfrid was ordained at age 30 and successfully taught and preached, but he wished to join Saint Willibrord as a missionary in Friesland. Having wrung a reluctant consent from his abbot, Winbert, he set out with two companions. His first missionary trip in the spring of 716 failed due to the ascendancy of the pagans and political conditions, so he returned to England that autumn. The monks at Nursling tried to make him stay by electing him abbot on the death of Winbert, but he refused because he knew that God was calling him to the mission field. In 718, he went to Pope Saint Gregory II in Rome, who commissioned Wilfrid to preach to the pagans in Germany and changed Wilfrid's name to Boniface.

Full of hope Boniface set out from Rome, crossed the lower Alps, and travelled through Bavaria to Hesse. He preached successfully in Hesse. Shortly after his arrival he was informed of the death of the pagan ruler Radbod. Hoping that he would have greater success if their leader were converted, Boniface returned to Friesland and worked with Willibrord. The ancient evangelist wanted to name Boniface his coadjutor and successor, but Boniface declined because his commission from the Vatican had been a general one, not confined to a particular diocese. Fearing that he might be persuaded to consent, Boniface returned to Hesse.

In 722, he was recalled to Rome and consecrated regionary bishop for Germany. Gregory gave him a special letter to deliver to the powerful Charles Martel. The delivery of this letter en route back to Germany won for him the valuable concession of a sealed pledge of protection from Martel.

Upon his arrival again in Hesse, Boniface decided to strike at the root of pagan superstition. He publicly announced in advance that he would at a particular time destroy their gods. The awestruck crowd at Geismar watched as he successfully cut down the sacred Oak of Thor, an object of pagan worship that stood on the summit of Mount Gudenberg near Fritzlar, without being struck down by their angry gods. The pagans, who had expected immediate judgment against such sacrilege, acknowledged that their gods were powerless to protect their own sanctuaries.

Having succeeded in Hesse, Boniface moved on to Thuringia, where he found a few Christians, including a few Celtic and Frankish priests, but they tended to be more of a hindrance than a help. Boniface established a monastery at Ohrdruf (near Gotha) to serve as a missionary center for Thuringia, and asked English monks and nuns to join him as missionaries to Germany. He found the people ready to listen, but they needed teachers to speak. For several years in succession, parties of monks and nuns crossed the sea to place themselves at the disposal of Boniface. The two existing monasteries were enlarged and new ones founded to accommodate all the missionaries. Among their numbers were Saint Lull, who succeeded Boniface in the see of Mainz; Saint Eoban, who shared Boniface's martyrdom; Saint Burchard, the first bishop of Würzburg; Saint Wigbert, abbot of Fritzlar; Saint Thecla, first abbess of Ochsenfürt Abbey; Saint Walburga, sister of Saints Willibald and Winebald; and Boniface's beautiful and erudite young cousin, Saint Lioba, who supervised all the convents founded from the monastery of Bischoffsheim.

In 731, having established several monasteries and dioceses, Boniface was sent the pallium by Pope Saint Gregory III and constituted metropolitan of Germany beyond the Rhine. He was authorized to create new sees and went to Bavaria to organize a church hierarchy and establish new sees. He became a mentor and support to the Carolingians, and he reformed the Frankish Church, which Charles Martel had plundered.

Boniface made a third journey to Rome to report on the progress being made. At that time he was appointed papal legate and recruited Saint Willibald at Monte Cassino. Returning to Bavaria as papal legate, Boniface organized its hierarchy, weeded out unworthy priests, and corrected abuses. Then he continued on with his missionary work, founding other sees at Erfurt for Thuringia, Buraburg for Hesse, and Würzburg for Franconia. Later he established a seat in Nordgau at Eichstätt.

The year 741 was a fruitful one. Boniface founded the abbey of Fulda with his young disciple, Saint Sturmi, and Charles Martel died, leaving the way open for Boniface to reach the ears of Pepin and Carloman, Martel's successors. Carloman was earnestly devout and venerated Boniface, so it was easy to convince him to call a synod to deal with abuses. The first was followed by a second in 743. Pepin summoned a synod for Gaul, which was succeeded in 745 by a general council for the two provinces. Boniface presided over all of them and succeeded in carrying out all the reforms he felt were needed. Fresh vigor was infused into the Church of Gaul. After the fifth Frankish council in 747, Boniface fixed his metropolitan see at Mainz and Pope Saint Zachary created him primate of Germany as well as apostolic legate for Germany and Gaul. Soon after this Carloman retired into a monastery and Pepin united Gaul under one rule; however, he continued to give Boniface the supported he needed. As papal legate Boniface crowned Pepin at Soissons.

When he was over 70, Boniface resigned his see to Saint Lull in 754, in order to spend his last years reconverting the Frieslanders who had lapsed into paganism after the death of Saint Willibrord. With a small company, he successfully converted large numbers in the previously unevangelized area of northeast Friesland. On Whitsun Eve Boniface and Eoban were preparing for the confirmation of some of Boniface's converts at Dokkum, in the northern Netherlands. Boniface had been quietly reading in his tent while awaiting the arrival of his new converts, when the hostile band descended on the camp. He would not allow his companions to defend him. As he was exhorting them to trust in God and to welcome the prospect of dying for the faith, they were attacked--Boniface was one of the first to fall. The body of Boniface was taken to Fulda, where it still rests. His bloodstained book was exhibited for centuries as a relic.

Boniface's impact on English history was enormous, extending beyond the simple conversion of people to Christianity. He helped to arrange alliances between popes and emperors, and the educational and literary influence from his monasteries was significant. For a another perspective on Saint Boniface's importance in Western history, read Pope Pius XII's Ecclesiae Fastos (Encyclical on Saint Boniface promulgated on June 5, 1954. His body rests at Fulda. Boniface is called "the Apostle of Germany" (Walsh, White).

Boniface's emblem is a book, pierced with a sword or ax. He may be shown (1) felling an oak tree in the presence of pagan priests; (2) with a miter and staff (White); (3) as an angel brings him a fish, an axe lies behind him in the root of an oak; (4) holding a missioner's cross and a book pierced with a sword; (5) with water springing from the ground where he strikes his cross, sword on a book, and a baptism taking place in the background; (6) in a ship with a book and cross; (7) beaten to death with a club; or (8) with a raven, fox, and arrow (Roeder).

Boniface is considered the apostle of Germany (Bavaria, Franconia, Hesse, Thuringia) and the Netherlands (Freisland), Amanburch, Fritzlar, and Fulda. He is venerated at Exeter, Nutshulling (Winchester), and Ventnor. He is the patron of brewers and tailors (Roeder).


Dorotheus of Tyre M (RM)
Died c. 362. The priest Dorotheus was exiled by Emperor Diocletian. Upon his return to Tyre in Phoenicia, he was chosen bishop and in that office attended the Council of Nicaea. He was beaten to death at Varna on the Black Sea (Odyssopolis, Thrace) under Julian the Apostate (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth). Saint Dorotheus is portrayed in art as a priest killed with a club (Roeder).


Dorotheus the Archimandrite, Abbot (PC)
Died c. 640. Dorotheus, a learned monk of Gaza, became archimandrite of a unknown monastery. His writings were greatly admired by Abbot de Rancé (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Eoban of Utrecht, OSB M (RM)
Born in Ireland; died 755. Saint Eoban was a monk and priest who worked with Saints Willibrord and Boniface in the German mission. Boniface appointed him bishop of Utrecht and he shared in the that apostle's martyrdom at Dokkum in Friesland (Benedictines, Montague).


Felix of Fritzlar, OSB M (AC)
Died c. 790. Although Saint Felix was a Benedictine monk of Fritzlar, Germany, about the same times as Saint Boniface, he survived that period. Nevertheless, he met a martyr's death, probably at the hands of the heathen Saxons (Benedictines).


Blessed Ferdinand of Portugal M (AC)
(also known as Ferdinand the Constant, the Standard-Bearer, or el Abanderado)

Born at Santarem, Portugal, in September 29, 1402; died in Fez, on June 5, 1443; cultus approved in 1470. Ferdinand, son of King John I of Portugal and his queen, Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt, was unusually pious for a prince in that age. His devout nature led him into religious life, yet he refused a cardinalate from Pope Eugene IV. He became master general of the military order of Aviz (originally the New Militia to Fight the Moors), an order dependent on Cîteaux. In this capacity he led an expedition with his brother, Henry the Navigator, against the Moors in northern Africa. Portugal was defeated at Tangier. Henry escaped, but Ferdinand was captured and maltreated when his brother, King Edward, refused to ransom him with the stronghold of Ceuta. He endured his imprisonment at Arzilla for five years without complaint and finally succumbed to neglect at Fez the following year. When he died his body was hung from the prison walls. The moniker, "the Constant," is derived from the name of one of the most popular tragedies, El Principe Constante by Pedro Calderón, of which he is the hero (Benedictines, Delaney).


Florentius, Julian, Cyriacus, Marcellinus & Faustinus MM (RM)
Died 250. Martyrs beheaded at Perugia, Italy, under Decius (Benedictines).


Franco (Francus) of Asserigo, OSB Hermit (AC)
Born in Castel Regni near Asserigo, Abruzzi, Italy; died c. 1275. Franco was a monk in the community of Benedictines at Colimento for twenty years. Then he retired to a hermitage near Asserigo for the last fifteen years of his life (Benedictines).


Marcian, Nicanor, Apollonius and Companions MM (RM)
Died c. 304. The Roman Martyrology states that this was a group of martyred in Egypt under Diocletian. Their acta are not of historical value, however. It is likely the Marcian and Nicander were Roman soldiers who suffered in Bulgaria or Roumania (Benedictines).


Blessed Meinwerk of Paderborn B (AC)
Died 1036. Emperor Saint Henry II appointed his relative Meinwerk to the bishopric of Paderborn in 1009. He was noted for the building activities that occupied his episcopacy, leading to the nickname, "the bishop-builder" and the "second founder of Paderborn. His cathedral school was famous throughout northern Germany (Benedictines).


Sanctius of Cordova M (RM)
(also known as Sancho, Sancius)

Born at Albi, France; died in Cordova, Spain, 851. The Frenchman Sanctius was taken as a prisoner of war to Cordova by the Moors. He was educated at the Moorish court and enrolled in the guards of the emir. Later he was later martyred by impalement for refusing to become an Islamic (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Tudno of Caernarvon (AC)
6th century. Almost nothing is known about Saint Tudno beyond the Welsh legends that refer to him. Llandudno in Carnarvonshire was named for him (Benedictines).


Zenais, Cyria, Valeria, & Marcia MM (RM)
Date unknown. This seems to be an amalgam of two sets of martyrs. Zenais apparently suffered at Constantinople. The other three are early martyrs at Caesarea and appear to be contemporaries of Jesus (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).



About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.