Understanding Catholic France: A Conversation with a French Country Priest

By Harry Stevens France is a confusing place for outsiders, especially when they don’t speak French and they are trying to understand the position of the Catholic Church there. Thankfully, a chance encounter with an English-speaking country priest with a broad and deep education led Regina Magazine down a fascinating path. Here’s our interview with … Read more

Martin, ‘Toto Orbi Peculiari Patron’, Bishop

November 11 Today is the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours.  Ora pro nobis. “Martin, the special patron of the whole world” Saint Gregory of Tours By Harry Stevens In the late Roman Empire, Savaria was a small, remote outpost village (today Szombathely, Hungary) built during the reign of Claudius. The Roman Legions controlled … Read more

How the Black Death & the Best Wines Created ‘The House of God’ in Burgundy

Inside a Medieval Catholic Hospital for the Sick Poor By Harry Stevens At the close of the Hundred Years War, France was a devastated nation.  The French, particularly the poor, were at the meager mercy of marauding soldiers bent on destroying and plundering the countryside.  Though the 1435 Treaty of Arras had essentially brought the … Read more

How Catholics Invented Whisky

 by Harry Stevens National Scotch Whisky day in US July 27.  “Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like … Read more

Escape from Ireland

One Family’s Story by Harry Stevens “Far away– oh far away– We seek a world o’er the ocean spray! We seek a land across the sea, Where bread is plenty and men are free, The sails are set, the breezes swell– Ireland, our country, farewell! farewell!” Ireland in the early 1800s was a country under … Read more

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Council

The Rhine Alliance and Vatican II

“Those therefore who after the manner of wicked heretics dare to set aside Ecclesiastical Traditions, and to invent any kind of novelty, or to reject any of those things entrusted to the Church, or who wrongfully and outrageously devise the destruction of any of those Traditions enshrined in the Catholic Church, are to be punished thus: if they are bishops, we order them to be deposed; but if they are monks or lay persons, we command them to be excluded from the community.”

——— Second Council of Nicaea 787 A.D.

by Harry Stevens

It was huge news in 1965: the Catholic Mass would finally be ‘modernized.’ By 1970 the Pope Paul VI Missal was in place, setting off a chain-reaction of liturgical innovation which shook the Catholic world to its core.

Vatican 2
SAINT PETER’S DURING THE VATICAN COUNCIL Curious onlookers — mainly lay people — watch the clergy process.

Today, almost 50 years later, many Catholics are beginning to ask why and indeed whether such drastic liturgical changes were ordered by the Council. These are serious questions. Now that the actual Council documents are available online for all to peruse, it is painfully clear that many of these liturgical changes — now in practice around the world – were never actually specified by the Council.

One thing is clear: those that were, were spearheaded by a group of liturgists and theologians from the Rhine Valley.

Catholic Mass Unchanged Since 600 AD

Up until the 1960s, the Roman Rite Mass had remained essentially unchanged –except for minor local variances — from the time of St Pope Gregory the Great (590-604). The Council of Trent (1545-1563) decreed that the Mass was to be celebrated uniformly and so St Pope Pius V in 1570 published a revised missal by the Bull Quo Primum.

The Missal of Pius V continued in use with very minor changes until the John XXIII Missal of 1962.

The Roots of Change

A torrent of questions remain basically unanswered. What led to the revolutionary changes in the Mass, post-Vatican II? Why have the priest face the people? Why term the priest no longer a ‘celebrant’ but a ‘president’? Why change all the ancient prayers to the vernacular? Why delete the prayers at the foot of the altar? Did all of this really start at Vatican II, as many believe? Or did it actually start earlier?

Some say these liturgical changes began with St Pope Pius X on November 22, 1903 with his motu proprio ‘Tra le sollecitudini’

“It being our ardent desire to see the true Christian spirit restored in every respect and preserved by all the faithful, we deem it necessary to provide before everything else for the sanctity and dignity of the temple, in which the faithful assemble for the object of acquiring this spirit from its indispensable fount, which is the active participation in the holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church.”

Tra le sollecitudini, in short, helped reform liturgical music with active participation of the faithful.  Pius X’s reform energized others to action.

Father Romano Guardini, an Italian by birth who was raised in southern Germany, may have been the genesis for what later became known as the ‘liturgical movement.’  This was an effort to enhance the appreciation and experience of worship with one goal: to enable the active participation of the faithful in the liturgy.

Guardini’s liturgical movement spread to the Rhine. Concentrated mostly in France and Germany, this pre-World War I liturgical movement was made up of academics, scholars, monks, priests and visionaries. There was little in the way of representation from the laity in the pews.

Even the century before, Dom Guéranger from Solesmes, France, was an early visionary with the reform of Gregorian chant.  Later, Benedictines in France and Germany were pioneers in the liturgical movement: Abbott Anselm Schott (who edited a Latin-German Missal); Dom Odo Casel, Dom Beauduin, Dom Maurice Festugière, Dom Ildelfons Herwegen, Dom Virgil Michel, and Dom Pius Parsch.

Pius XII’s Post World War II Commission

Forward to 1948 and back to Italy, when the next phase of liturgical reform began.  Pope Pius XII – expressly stating his wishes that the liturgy be kept within the spirit of Pius X – formed a liturgical commission.  In November 1955, this commission, under Father Annibale Bugnini, was responsible for changes in some Holy Week rites.

Today, there are questions about whether Pius XII was really kept informed about the activities of Bugnini’s commission, which implemented the first major changes to the Pius V Missal since 1570.  Some of these changes directly affected the rite of the Mass: the suppression of the prayers at the foot of the altar and last gospel on certain occasions and the celebrant not himself reading parts of the Mass.

The overall effect was to begin a watering-down of the Rite. Today, questions are still unanswered. Was this a trial run for the reforms that came later from the Council?  Was there an overall Italian plan led by Bugnini for the Council?   And what about the Rhine countries during this time?

Post War Along the Rhine

The Rhine Alliance, as it came to be known, included clerics from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In the wake of World War II, these were at the center of a push for modernization across European society. Both the secular and religious intelligentsia were keen to be rid of “tradition.”

In France, the alliance of most of the conservative bishops with the Vichy government resulted in their complete discredit and removal from office. The Rhine contingent to the Second Vatican Council was composed of men who had been bishops during the war, many of whom were cardinals by the 1960s. They brought with them younger advisors — the so-called ‘periti’ — whose names since have become well-known to Catholics:  Congar, de Lubac, Ratzinger, Rahner, Schillebeeckx and Küng. These young men brought their various ideas and schools of thought to Vatican II, with a view towards modernization and ecumenicism.

In the years since, well-regarded observers have posed different explanations for what happened at the Council.

Some have reported that it was the powerful Rhine alliance – with  reluctant Italians in tow — and more specifically, Father (later Archbishop) Bugnini that led the revolution. Father Wiltgen, who reported on the Council for the news media, described a struggle between the Italian and German contingents.  Cardinal Ratzinger, in his 1988 book, ‘Milestones’ described ‘German arrogance’ as a key factor.

The Council Unfolds

The Second Vatican Council opened in October 1962, and closed three years later.  In terms of liturgy, several changes set a precedent for further change early in the Council’s meetings. These included permanently omitting Judica me (prayers at the foot of the Altar), the Last Gospel, the Confiteor and the Absolution before Communion.

In December 1962 Pope John XXIII changed the Canon by adding St Joseph’s name immediately after the name of the Most Holy Virgin.  This was the first change to the Canon of the Mass, an unexpected move which surprised many.

Also, early in the Council, missionary bishops assigned to Asia and Africa sought liturgical reform and practices, hoping that languages other than Latin would bring a richer and more vital liturgy to their faithful.  There were a few calls for changes such as shortening prayers at the foot of the altar, ending the Mass at Ite, missa est, making the priest facing the people, and developing an ecumenical Mass.

The vast majority of the Council Fathers, however, did not call for any liturgical change. Undaunted by this lack of enthusiasm, however, the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy approved three distinct Mass formulas, specifying that the Canon was to be said aloud, in the vernacular, and with the priest facing the people.

One can say things moved quickly in just three years.

A High-Jacked Reform
From whence came all of this unprecedented change? By the 1960s, opposition to the Vietnam War and Cold War balance of power politics prompted the US peace movement.  In Germany and France, the ‘68er’ movement of student protest, activism and rebellion seemed to shadow America’s experience.  But did the turmoil in society necessarily have to affect the Church so much – and for so long?

In the decades since this tumultuous era, various observers and authors have offered their comments. Michael Davies famously opined that the liturgical movement was ‘high-jacked’ and contended that a ‘pseudo liturgical renewal’ developed afterwards.

Of this same  influence Benedict XVI later reported, “I was not able to foresee that the negative sides of the liturgical movement would afterward reemerge with redouble strength, almost to the point of pushing the liturgy towards its own self-destruction.” Furthermore, he stated unequivocally that the Council Fathers ‘never intended many of the changes that took place.’

How then did this all happen?

Outright rebellion against the Council

In the final analysis, it appears that fifty years later we can say with certainty that it was outright rebellion on the part of some European and American bishops and priests that led to institutionalizing practices such as Communion received standing and in the hand, and priests no longer celebrating Mass ad orientem.

Furthermore, this same group unleashed a storm of iconoclasm never imagined by the Council Fathers, destroying the work of centuries in beautiful art — high altars, stained glass, and statuary in Catholic churches all over the world.

Tragically, the damage wrought by the so-called ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ did not end there. The catechesis of Catholics was seriously damaged. Traditional Orders quickly lost their bearings — and most of their members. As religious vocations plummeted, abuses rapidly crept in to the Church — in seminaries, in parishes and in Orders. Today, many observers point to the fact that two generations of un-catechized Catholics have meant mass apostasy in most of the Western world.

The damage that has been done to the Church is only now starting be assessed by a new generation of unbiased Catholic and secular scholars alike. What really happened at Vatican II may in fact take another fifty years to understand.

(Editor’s Note: This short essay is but an introduction to and some thoughts on the liturgical movement, the Rhine alliance and Vatican II.  See the Reference list and their bibliographies for further reading.)

Davies, Michael.  Liturgical Revolution, Volumes I, II, III, Angeles Press
Fortescue, Adrian.  The Mass, A Study of The Roman Liturgy, University Press, Longmans, Green and Co, Ltd 1955.
Guardini, Romano.  The Spirit of the Liturgy. Sheed & Ward, London 1930;
Ratzinger, Joseph.  Milestones Memoirs 1927-1977, Ignatius
Wiltgen, Ralph. The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, The Unknown Council, Hawthorne Books, Inc

German Catholic Church, Inc.

By Harry Stevens

“It is the glory of vain men never to yield to truth. Such vainglory is a deadly passion for those it dominates.  It is a disease that, in spite of every effort, is never cured–not because the doctor is inept, but because the patient is incurable.”

 ‘City of God’ by Saint Augustine of Hippo

In Germany, Catholics are leaving the Church in droves, as an average of 140,000  formally abandon the Faith annually.*  This is easy to track, because numbers are publicly reported in a system where Germans pay 8-9% of their income tax to receive the Sacraments. The church tax is administered by the State on behalf of the Church through a payroll deduction, for a lucrative 2-3% processing fee.

And there is no tax relief. This was clarified at the highest levels when a Catholic canonist asked for relief of his Church tax in 2007.  In response, the German bishops’ conference issued a decree stating that those who have declared to a government registry office that they are no longer members of the Catholic Church will no longer be able to actively participate in Church life nor receive the Sacraments.  Period.

Why are Germans abandoning the Faith? The proximate causes range from well-publicized sex abuse scandals (touched off at a prominent Jesuit boys’ high school in Berlin) to a simple lack of faith. Largely un-catechized and uninterested, German Catholics would rather save the money, it seems.

But that’s not all there is to the story. Closer inspection reveals a German Church which is extremely wealthy and completely unregulated. Digging a little deeper reveals some questionable activities, mostly having to do with profiting from pornography and abortion.

Follow the Euros

Money is pivotal to this discussion. In 2013, the German Catholic Church collected a whopping 5.2 billion euro in church tax, in addition to 100-200 million euros per year in State subsidies from a still-valid 1803 agreement. Other income was derived from multiple sources, including Church ownership of no less than ten banks, several breweries, a mineral water company, and multiple insurance companies. 

Unlike the beleaguered German taxpayer, the Church does not pay tax on Church property. Nor does it pay corporate or capital gains taxes.  Everything it does as a public corporation in Germany is considered charitable and tax-exempt and guaranteed by the German constitution.

Also, unlike other public corporations like universities, the Church is not subject to any state supervision of its finances. 

As for German bishops, “Most Americans would be a bit shocked to learn that German bishops make between €8000 ($10,965) and €11,500 ($15,763) a month, depending upon their seniority. That comes to between $131,000 and $189,000 a year…. In short, the German clergy may have a real financial interest in keeping the flock happy so they continue to pay that tax and not drop out.”*****

Catholic Church, Inc.

This all means a tremendous amount of money in the German bishops’ hands. The Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church combined are the second largest employers in Germany, with the Catholic Church employing 650,000 people, plus another 600,000 volunteers. In 2011 (the latest date available) the Church spent  129 million Euro in its dioceses. 

The Catholic Church provides many social services for the elderly, infirm, and youth through organizations such as Caritas (‘Catholic Charities’ in the USA).  Through these channels, the bishops’ influence reaches far and wide within the German Catholic community of 24 million. (Though only a tiny fraction — 2.8 million — actually attend weekly Mass.)

The Publishing Business

While it might seem that the German Church has more than enough revenue, apparently this has not been the case. Weltbild was the second largest bookselling company in Germany in 2011, with annual sales of $2.1 billion.  Until that year, it was 100% owned by the German bishops’ conference.

In addition to a lucrative pornographic book publishing company that carried some 2,500 titles, Weltbild also sold books promoting satanism, the occult, esotericism, and anti-Christian atheist propaganda.  

After years of public complaints, articles in Der Spiegel and a rebuke from Pope Benedict,** the German bishops’ conference finally announced that they had sold the company.  Many believed the bishops’ shares were liquidated in 2011. 

As of November 2013, however, it was still being reported that the Diocese of Augsburg, and the Archdioceses of Munich and Freiberg still owned parts of Weltbild.   On January 19, 2014, parts of the company filed for insolvency.***

Profiting from Abortion 

After German reunification in 1989, new laws came into effect stating that abortion would be legal within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, but only after the woman received counseling on her decision.

Naturally, counseling would be well-compensated, paid for by the German State. The Catholic Bishops promptly organized a counseling service, which for a decade received state moneys for issuing certificates which permitted women to have abortions.

On January 26, 1998 Pope John Paul II asked the German bishops to withdraw from this lucrative side business.  Cardinal Ratzinger, as prefect of the Congregation for the Faith, was given the task of carrying out the Pope’s instructions. 

More than a year later, the German bishops finally responded, unanimously rejecting the Pope’s demand. On  November 20, 1999, JPII specifically instructed the German bishops in a letter that in the future pregnant women should no longer be issued any certificates by the counseling service of the German Bishops. 

It wasn’t until March 8, 2002 – four years later — that the German bishops finally removed themselves from this counseling business in all dioceses. ****

The Root of All Evil

Reviewing these facts, it is easy to conclude that the Bible is correct; the love of money may well be the root of all evil. Bearing this in mind, perhaps there is a bit more to the steady exodus of German Catholics from the Church than what the German media reports.

For, in addition to the fact that Catholics are getting very little for their money, there are very serious ethical questions indeed about how it is being used by the German Church.

 *All statistics from the official website of the German Bishops’ Conference, which has  reported Catholics leaving as follows: 2010 (181,193);  2011 (126,48 ) and 2012 (118,3350).


2013 stats in English, Catholics reported leaving as follows: (178,805), deaths (252,344), total 431,149. New members 3,062.

2014 stats in German, Catholics reported leaving as follows: (217,716), deaths (240, 262), total 457,978.  New members 2809 Here

2015 stats in German, Catholics reported leaving as follows:  (181,925), deaths (254,260), total 463,185. New members 2685.



****Article by Stephan Köhnlein at Cathcon: http://bit.ly/1poIiCQ


More sources:





Saint Boniface, Apostle to the Germans


June 5

Today is the feast day of Saint Boniface. Ora pro nobis.

by Michael Durnan

If you are German-speaking or descend from German emigrants and you call yourself a ‘Christian,’ you owe this fact to Boniface, an English monk who lived in the 8th century. The first archbishop of Mainz, Boniface is known as the “Apostle to the Germans.” He also is the patron saint of Germany, and is credited with conceiving the idea of the Christmas tree.

St. Boniface was born in the year 675 AD in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex, and given the baptismal name Wynfrid. Wessex occupied the far west and south of modern-day England. By the seventh century, St. Augustine of Canterbury and Lindisfarne monks St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert had converted the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. Wynfrid was to be one of the beneficiaries of this flowering of early Christian culture and learning.

The Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic warrior people who arrived from Northern Europe after the Romans left Britannia in 410 AD. Christianity transformed them by calming and pacifying the wilder aspects of their pagan culture, and by appealing to their noble and virtuous qualities. Culture and learning flourished in Christian Anglo-Saxon England under the guidance and patronage of the newly converted Christian kings and the monks of Lindisfarne and Jarrow.

The Life of a Brilliant Scholar

Wynfrid entered the monastic life when he was around seven years of age, attracted by the monastic ideal and the opportunity for a first-class education. The monks discerned his academic and intellectual ability, and he seemed destined for the life of a brilliant scholar.

He became a teacher of Latin grammar, wrote several treatises, and also composed Latin poetry. Eventually, Wynfrid’s talent was rewarded when he was made head of the abbey school. Wynfrid’s reputation as an outstanding teacher and scholar, coupled with his personal popularity amongst his students, meant that many travelled great distances for the chance to study under his tutelage.

At about the age of thirty, Wynfrid was ordained priest. Although he loved teaching his young students, he also felt called to travel as a missionary amongst the pagan Germanic tribes of mainland Europe and to bring them the light of Christ, mindful that only 100 years earlier his forebears had lived in pagan darkness.

In 716 AD Abbot Winbert granted him permission to travel, and he set forth to Frisia in the Netherlands. Upon his arrival he met with great opposition from the local chieftain, so his mission to bring the Gospel of Christ failed. He returned to Wessex, but did not lose heart.

What the Pope Told Boniface

Two years later he made a pilgrimage to Rome, where he had an audience with Pope Gregory II (715 – 731).

In a letter to his disciples, Wynfrid wrote that Pope Gregory had received him with “a smile and look of full of kindliness,” and had held long, important conversations with him during the following days, conferring upon him his new name, Boniface, and assigning him, in official letters the mission of preaching the Gospel to the German peoples.

Encouraged, inspired, and comforted by the Pope’s support and wise counsel, Boniface journeyed to the Germanic lands, preaching and campaigning against pagan worship and practices, such as human sacrifice to the Norse gods, Odin and Thor, as well as teaching and reinforcing the foundations of Christian morality and ethics.

When Archbishop Boniface returned to Germany from Rome, for Christmas 723, he discovered the Germans had turned back to their pagan ways and were getting ready to celebrate the winter solstice by sacrificing a young person under Odin’s sacred oak. Archbishop Boniface felled the oak, thus demonstrating the victory of Christianity over the pagan gods. This historically documented story eventually gave rise to the legend of the first Christmas tree. According to the legend, St. Boniface replaced the felled oak with a spruce he found growing amidst the tangle of oak branches.

‘We Are Not Mute Dogs’

With a profound sense of duty and commitment, Boniface wrote in one of his letters,

“We are united in the fight on The Lord’s day because days of affliction and wretchedness have come….We are not mute dogs or taciturn observers or mercenaries fleeing from wolves! On the contrary, we are diligent pastors who watch over Christ’s flock, who proclaim God’s will to the leaders and ordinary folk, to the rich and the poor, in season and out of season.”

With his tireless efforts, persistence, and gift for organisation, Boniface achieved remarkable results converting the pagans he encountered. The pope rewarded Boniface by consecrating him a regional bishop of the entire Germanic lands.

He continued his apostolic efforts with the same dedication and commitment, and extended his mission to the land of the Gauls. Pope Gregory II’s successor, Gregory III, appointed him Archbishop of all the Germanic Tribes. Archbishop Boniface also founded abbeys for monks and nuns to be beacons of learning and culture throughout the Germanic lands, as they had in his native Anglo-Saxon England. The Monastery of Fulda, founded in 743 AD, was the heart and epicentre of outreach for religious spirituality and culture.

The Death of Boniface

At the age of about 80, with 52 monks, Boniface wrote to Bishop Lull of Mainz, as he set forth to renew his failed mission to Frisia:

“I wish to bring to a conclusion the purpose of this journey; in no way can I renounce my desire to set out. The day of my end is near and the time of my death is approaching; having shed my mortal body, I shall rise to the eternal reward. May you, my dear son, ceaselessly call the people from the maze of error, complete the building of the Basilica of Fulda that has already been begun, and in it lay my body, worn out by the long years of life.”

On 5 June 754 AD, Boniface started the celebration of Mass in a place called Dokkum in the present-day Netherlands, when a gang of pagans attacked him. Forbidding his fellow monks to retaliate, he exclaimed:

“Cease, my sons, from fighting, give up warfare, for the witness of Scripture recommends that we do not give an eye for an eye but rather good for evil. Here is the long awaited day, the time of our end has now come; courage in the Lord!”

These were his last words before his assailants struck him down.

WHERE BONIFACE WAS MURDERED: Dokkum in the Frisian islands today. At the age of 80, Boniface was attacked and murdered by a gang of pagans here.

His remains were taken to the Monastery of Fulda, where he was given a burial fitting for a martyr and saint. Since then, St. Boniface has been known as “The Apostle to The Germans.”

by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877

St. Boniface, the great Apostle of Germany, was a native of England. He was baptized under the name of Winfrid but received the name Boniface from the Pope, on account of the great good which he did. Boniface means one who does good. When scarcely 5 years old, he requested of his parents to be sent to a monastery, in order to be instructed by the monks as well in religion as in other sciences. His father opposed this wish, but falling sick and believing it a punishment sent by God, he gave his consent and recovered immediately. Winfrid received the instruction he desired in two monasteries, and took the habit of the religious of St. Benedict. How greatly his virtues and learning were esteemed by the brethren of this order, may be seen from the fact that in the course of a few years, they unanimously elected him successor of their late Abbot. Boniface, however refused to accept the dignity, and on making known his desire to preach the Gospel to the heathens, he succeeded so well in representing everything connected with his plan, that the monks not only abstained from further efforts to persuade him to yield, but gave him permission, with several others whose hearts were filled with the same desire, to go to Rome and offer himself to the Pope for so holy a work. Hence, Boniface bade farewell to his brethren and left England with his companions. Gregory II., at that time Pope, was greatly rejoiced when Boniface informed him of his intention, and after having had several conversations with him on the subject, he gave him the powers of an Apostolic missionary, with full permission to preach the Gospel everywhere, especially in Germany. He presented him at the same time some relics and dismissed him with his pontifical blessing. Boniface, leaving Rome, went first to Bavaria, then to Thuringia, where the Christian faith was, almost extinguished, and where idolatry and wickedness prevailed. In the space of 6 months he led the Christians to a better life, and cleansed almost the whole of Thuringia from idolatry.

During this time, Boniface received news of the death of Radbod, Duke of Friesland, an arch-enemy of the Christian faith, during whose reign the Saint had preached a short time in Friesland, but finding that he could do but little good, had quickly returned to England. Inspired, however, by God, he determined, now that circumstances had thus changed, to go once more to Friesland and endeavor to convert the inhabitants. On arriving at Utrecht, he went to St. Willibrord, first bishop off the church there, and spent in the city and neighboring places three years in preaching and instructing the people. His success was so great, that all the inhabitants became Christians, all the idolatrous temples were overthrown or changed into Christian churches. After this, the indefatigable apostolic preacher went to Hesse, where in a very short time he converted many thousands to the Christian faith, built many churches and supplied them with pious priests. He also built several monasteries and convents for those who desired to serve God more perfectly. As however the Saint could not supervise so much work unaided, he called from England several zealous priests, who lent a willing hand to the work he had begun. He also invited some pious virgins, to govern the convents which he had erected. Several of his fellow-laborers were sent to Rome to inform the Pope of the progress of Christendom. The Pope was highly rejoiced and desired to see Boniface himself. The Saint therefore went a second time to Rome, was most kindly received by the holy Father, and consecrated bishop. It was at this time that his name Winfrid was changed into Boniface.

Soon after this, the bishop returned to Germany. Hesse abounded yet with people still in the darkness of paganism. An immense tree which stood there was called the power or might of Jupiter, and it was worshipped as a god. The holy bishop could not endure this sacrilege, and although the pagans threatened to kill him if he touched the tree, he went to the place where it stood, and seized an ax to fell it. At the first stroke, the power of Jupiter, the immense tree, fell to the ground and was split into four parts. This visible miracle opened the eyes of the heathens and moved them to abandon idolatry. The bishop erected, in the place where the tree had stood, a chapel in honor of St. Peter. In Thuringia, whither he went next, he built a church in honor of the Archangel Michael on the place where the latter had appeared to him and exhorted him to continue bravely in the work that he had begun. Divers affairs of the Church made a third journey to Rome necessary; and Gregory III., who then occupied the chair of St. Peter, showed great honors to St. Boniface, and sent him back to Germany, after having bestowed on him, among many other graces, the title of apostolic legate. When, on his return, the Duke of Bavaria invited him to remain some time in his Dukedom, the holy man acquiesced, as this gave him an opportunity to convert the remaining heathens and lead those Christians, who had been seduced from the true faith by godless impostors, back upon the right path.

By his holy conduct and incessant preaching he arrived at the desired end, and divided the whole country into four bishoprics, in order to give the newly converted better opportunities to be instructed and preserved In the faith. Salzburg, Friesingen, Regensburg and Passau were the four cities where he established bishoprics, providing them with able men. The same he did soon after at Eichstadt and Wurzburg in Franconia, where he for some time labored to the great benefit of the heathens. The sea of Eichstadt he gave into the charge of St. Willibald, that of Wurzburg to St. Burchard. He founded many convents and churches, as well in the above-named States as also in Thuringia and Hesse, especially at Fritzlar, Ehrfurt, Amoeneburg and Fulda. He erected monasteries especially with the intention to educate such men, in them as would be able to defend the true faith, to instruct the faithful in leading a Christian life, and to bring to the true Church those who were still heathens. He himself was created by the Pope archbishop of Mentz, where he remained for seven years in continued apostolic labor for the salvation of those in his charge.

Meanwhile, the greater part of the inhabitants of Friesland had again, for some unknown reason, forsaken Christianity, and returned to their former idolatry. No sooner had St. Boniface heard this, than he determined to proceed thither. Hence, with the permission of the Pope, he resigned the see of Mentz to his disciple Lullus, and set out for Friesland, accompanied by some zealous men, foremost among whom were Eobanus and Adelar. On arriving there, he began forthwith to preach, and converted a great number of the inhabitants to Christ. He baptized those whom he had sufficiently instructed, and others, who had been seduced to forsake the true faith, he reconciled with God and the Church. Happy in the consciousness of such great success, the Saint appointed a day on which he would publicly administer the holy Sacrament of confirmation to strengthen the newly converted in the faith. No church was large enough to contain the number of those who desired to be confirmed; in consequence of which tents were erected in an open field not far from the river Borne. The appointed day had come, and a large crowd of Christians had assembled, eager to receive the sacrament. Suddenly, however, came a band of heathens, who, incited by their idolatrous priests, had vowed to kill Boniface, as the greatest enemy of their idols. Armed with weapons they approached the holy man and his companions. When Boniface perceived them, he thanked God with a loud voice for having vouchsafed to him the long desired opportunity to die for Christ’s sake; then having encouraged his companions bravely to suffer pain and death, he went to meet the barbarians, with the gospel, which he carried almost constantly with him, in his hands. He spoke fearlessly to them; but, not willing to lend ear to him, one of them stabbed him with his sword with such force, that he sank dead to the ground. The companions of the Saint suffered the same death.

Thus gloriously did this truly, apostolic man finish his laborious career, in the year 754, or according to other historians, 755, in the fortieth year after his arrival in Germany. How much he endured during these forty years, in wandering through so many lands and converting so great a number of people; how unweariedly he labored; what persecutions he suffered from heathens, from heretics, and even from wicked Catholics, is more easily imagined than described. But nothing could daunt his great heart, which, filled with love of God and man, untiringly executed what his apostolic zeal dictated. He seemed never satisfied with the work he had already performed, or with the suffering he had borne for the honor of God and the salvation of man. His insatiable desire to save souls incited him constantly to more work and more suffering. He feared no danger, but fervently desired to conclude his labors by receiving the crown of martyrdom. God granted his wish; after having lived for the Almighty alone, he was permitted to shed his blood for Christ. He was first buried at Utrecht, then removed to Mentz, and at last brought to Fulda by the Archbishop St. Lullus. (2)

Image: Saint Boniface by Cornelis Bloemaert, c. 1630 (11)

Additional resources research by REGINA Staff
1. http://www.catholictradition.org/Saints/saints6-4.htm
2. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/St.%20Boniface,%20Apostle%20of%20Germany.html
3. http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-172/Boniface.htm
4. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_boniface.html
5. http://traditionalcatholic.net/Tradition/Calendar/06-05.html
6. http://www.crusaders-for-christ.com/saint-of-the-day/category/boniface
7. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2011/06/june-5-saint-boniface-apostle-of.html
8. https://www.catholicireland.net/saint-day/
9. http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j219sd_Boniface_06_05.html
10. http://www.nobility.org/2014/06/05/boniface-nobility/


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