Saint Boniface also known as Bonifacius
Patron Saint of Germany (The Apostle of the Germans)
Feast Day: June 5
Boniface, or Winfrid (his baptismal name), was born into a Christian family of noble rank. At a very young age, Winfrid found himself listening to the conversation of some monks then visiting their home. Soon after, he devoted himself to the monastic life. At first, the boy's father was againsts it but a serious illness made him change his decision and sent Winfrid to the neighboring abbey of Exeter. He received further theological training in the Benedictine monastery and minster of Nursling and after completing his studies he was appointed head of the school.
At the age of thirty, Winfrid was ordained priest but God revealed to him that their was greater work needed in the foreign lands. Northern Europe and most of Central Europe were still living in paganism. Willibrord, the Northumbrian missionary, had long been striving to bring the Gospel to these people and it was to this region that Winfrid felt himself called.
In 716, he set out on a missionary expedition to Frisia but after a year their efforts were frustrated by the war and had to go back. He went straight to Rome, where Pope Gregory II renamed him Boniface and appointed him missionary bishop for Germania.
Boniface along with Saint Albinus, Saint Abel and Saint Agatha propagated Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. Although, isolated missionary groups had penetrated central German, it was not until the 8th century that a systematic effort was formed to Christianize the vast pagan territory. From that time the work of evangelization proceeded steadily. Saint Boniface paved the way to this region and created a hierarchy under direct commission from the Holy See. Boniface established the first diocese in Germany at the Frankish fortified settlement of Büraburg. They destroyed idols and pagan temples, and then built churches on the sites.
Boniface became the first Archbishop of Mainz. Saint Boniface is regarded as a unifier of Europe, and is seen as a German national figure.
He reformed the churches in his see and became the chief fomentor of the alliance between the papacy and the Carolingian family. Boniface helped shape Western Christianity through his efforts to reorganize and regulate the church of the Franks. St Boniface built religious houses in Germany, founded or restored the dioceses of Bavaria, Austrasia, Alemannia, Franconia, Thuringia etc. Boniface was able to carry through many important reforms and many of the dioceses remain until today. Boniface has been called the pro-consul of the papacy.
After 36 years of missionary labor, Saint Boniface was killed in Frisia in 755, along with 52 others including Saint Adaler and Saint Eoban.
Ending at last in martyrdom, Saint Boniface was quickly given the designation "Apostle of Germany".
It is said that St. Boniface won more than 100,000 people to Christianity in the course of his ministry. Boniface shaped the church through his zeal, love, faith and evangelization efforts.
It was for Christ's sake that Boniface toiled for souls and that in Jesus Christ, salvation is offered to all men.
Evangelization is a duty of every Christian. It is an essential mission of the Church and we must embrace this calling and make it a part of our every day life.
For most Catholics, however, evangelization is perceived to be the work of a special group of people within the Church like the priests, missionaries and those with a special vocation.
We take for granted what we have today.
Let us remind ourselves to be thankful to those who like Saint Boniface labored for us.
May we evangelize as he did. By the example of Saint Boniface, may we be reminded that we have been called to bring home those who have lost their way, to heal wounds and to proclaim Christ to all peoples.
We may not be living in pagan darkness but our challenge today as Catholics is to evangelize to those who do not yet believe in Christ and to bring back Christ to the non-practicing Christians.