FEAST OF ST. BONIFACE, otherwise Winfrid, styled the Apostle of Germany; Archbishop of Mainz, and Martyr. Born at Crediton, near Exeter, about the year 680; slain on a mission and with about fifty companions by certain pagans of East Friesland, 755.
GREAT is England's glory in having given birth to so eminent a hero of the Faith. From early childhood the little Winfrid set his heart on piety and the service of God. At first his father entertained for him secular views, but after a while he sanctioned his son's obvious vocation: the lad assumed a religious habit, took the name of Boniface, and about the age of thirty was ordained priest.
But the safe and peaceful duties of an English priest sufficed not this ardent spirit. Bishop Willibrord, of Utrecht, was laboring among the heathens of Frisia: this Boniface knew, "the fire kindled," and he sailed to join that mission.
His first expedition, howver, failing, he returned to his cloister: but only to quit it once more, betake himself to Rome, and solicit from Pope Gregory II missionary powers.
Invested with these, he started anew for Frisia, and entered on those devoted labors which won thousands of converts to Christianity, and at length earned for himself the martyr's unfading palm.
A while he worked under bishop Willibrord: but when that now aged prelate desired to raise him also to the Episcopate, St. Boniface shunned the dignity and departed to a fresh field. His obedience, however, equalled his self-devotion and humility: and when it became the Pope's expressed pleasure to elevate him to so lofty a sphere of duty, he submitted to undergo consecration at Rome; and returned to his beloved field of toil, not as Bishop of one assigned locality, but as general episcopal pastor of any flock he could gather in that wide German territory.
A man he was of many toils and of much love, faithful to old associations and unforgetul. In need of missionaries he looked to England, and thence received a noble response; devoted men and devoted women betaking themselves to break up under him the fallow ground, or to occupy the land reclaimed for Christ.
He ordained Bishops, and under his auspices monasteries were founded and throve. He preached the simplest sermons to his rugged converts, teaching them in plain words the lovely Gospel history, instructing them what to do and wherein to sin no more.
At length, in old age, having provided for himself a successor in the See of Mainz, he started afresh on a personal mission into a still heathen portion of Friesland. There for a time his work prospered, and many were converted to Christ. But on a day when the lately baptized should have undergone confirmation, a savage band of pagans bore down on the missionaries and slew them: --"The archbishop himself, when he saw that his hour was come, took a volume of the Gospels, and making it a pillow for his head, stretched forth his neck for the blow, and in a few moments received his release."