Sunday, June 5, 2022
St. Boniface is called the Apostle of the Germans. He was a Benedictine monk in England. Instead of pursing a leadership position at the abbey, he desired to spread Christianity among the Germanic tribes.
On his first mission to Friesland (now the Netherlands) he was largely unsuccessful. During the eighth century, most of these tribes were pagans. Even those who professed Christianity did not truly practice it. Although the gospel had been preached there, the people had lapsed in their faith and an ongoing war between political factions forced him to leave.
He made a report to Rome and Pope Gregory II sent him back with letters of recommendation and instructions to reform the German Church. Now, having the authority of the pope to back him up, he set out again. He continued his missionary work in Friesland and Germany, this time with much greater success.
One story which is told is that he came across a huge oak tree which was a shrine to the pagan God Thor. He easily felled the giant tree with his ax. He did this to demonstrate that Christ is greater than pagan Gods. This story is often cited as the origin of the tradition of the Christmas tree.
Boniface was martyred in 754. While baptizing a group of converts in the river, he and his companions were killed by a group of raiders.
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