Thursday, 5 June 2008

Feast of St Boniface OSB

Born around 672 in Devon, St Boniface OSB was actually an English monk called Winfrid until he changed his name when commissioned by the Pope in 719. He was made a bishop in 722, and eventually became Archbishop of Germany, which he was primarily responsible for evangelizing.

His methods were, shall we say, rather direct - he famously chopped down Thor's Oak, a pagan sacred tree, daring Thor to strike him down if he was real. The saint is credited with the invention of the Christmas Tree as a replacement symbol for the locals...a classic version of inculturation!
He seems to have also played a key role in the politics of the time, helping the Carolingian dynasty along its way to stardom.

His life has many modern resonances - the picture to the left shows him baptising new converts, but one of his concerns early on was the validity of baptisms being conducted by illiterate priests who couldn't quite get the Trinity to have the correct gender!

He was martyred in 754 at the age of 79(the lower panel of the picture), making one last attempt to convert Frisia. His attackers were apparently enraged at his destruction of their shrines - their blows cut into a book of the Gospels he held before him.


Felix said...

given the current approach to inter-faith dialogue, will the Vatican be revoking his canonisation? It would fit the current revisionism

Terra said...

I guess he got through in the days before there was a bureaucracy for these things!

Mind you, he was by no means the most extreme of missionaries - consider for example King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway, who called an assembly of those resisting his invittion to convert, invited any who disagreed with becoming Christians to speak up, and promptly killed the pagan spokesman pour encourages les autres!

These days of course the pagan altars are perhaps the abortion factories...