The Catholic Defender: The Church Remembers St. Boniface, "The Apostle of the Germans"
One of my Hero’s of the Faith is Bishop Boniface who was born in modern day England in 672 A.D. and from an early age developed a great love for Jesus Christ. In 719 A.D. Pope Gregory II Commissioned St. Boniface to begin his first missionary journey to Germany to present reforms within the Church and to work with the people.
He would become a missionary to the Germanic peoples who were still enslaved by Paganism. St. Boniface is remembered as “The Apostle of the Germans” and today is the Patron Saint of Germany.
in 722 St. Boniface returned to Rome and gave report of the progress made in Germany. With the aid of Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne, St. Boniface was extremely successful . He was the first Archbishop of Mainz. The action of St. Boniface in reaching the Pagans (centered in Germany) at his time reminds me very much of Elijah challenging the Prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:1-46).
In a town called Geismar stood a large Oak tree that held much superstition surrounding it. The local people in the area called this tree the “Donar Oak” the tree of Thor. When the Romans occupied the land, they called the tree “The Jupiter Tree“. Thor and Jupiter were Pagan gods of “Thunder“.
I am reminded of a song by a secular group known as “Kiss” called “god of thunder” which says, “I was born on Olympus To my father a son I was raised by the demons Trained to reign as the one God of thunder and rock and roll The spell you’re under Will slowly rob you of your virgin soul I’m the lord of the wastelands A modern day man of steel I gather darkness to please me And I command you to kneel Before the God of thunder and rock and roll The spell you’re under Will slowly rob you of your virgin soul”
Perhaps they were having some fun with this story. It’s pointing to the return of Paganism in our midst today. St. Boniface began to challenge the people about the superstition of the “Donar Oak” and threatened to cut it down. He challenged the gods to strike him dead for cutting down the tree.
St. Boniface had strong faith and reliance in Christ and as he began to cut the tree down, a great sign appeared among the people. A great wind erupted causing the people to think this was a miraculous sign. The wind blew the tree down leaving St. Boniface standing there totally unharmed.
I can see him smiling at the event thanking God for showing the people who the true God really is. People believed in Christ through the missionary work of St. Boniface. Many were being baptized and confirmed by the great Bishop of God.
St. Boniface would use the triangle shaped fir tree to teach the doctrine of the Trinity much like St. Patrick used the shamrock. He would hang the tree from the ceiling at Christmas to represent the peoples faith in Christ.
St. Boniface popularity and fame didn’t protect him from those who thought they could rob him of gold and precious stones.
St. Boniface and 53 companions died at the hands of those who could not recognize the treasure found in the Word of God.
A jealous band of pagan Frisians killed him as he was reading the Scriptures to Christian neophytes on Pentecost Sunday. The work of conversion and the Sacraments was their life bringing many to Christ.
Due to St. Boniface outreach, the people remembered this great man of God and by the 12 century, the tradition of the fir tree was refereed to by the people as “God’s Tree”.
Prayer of St. Boniface
Eternal God, the refuge and help of all your children, we praise you for all you have given us, for all you have done for us, for all that you are to us. In our weakness, you are strength, in our darkness, you are light, in our sorrow, you are comfort and peace. We cannot number your blessings, we cannot declare your love: For all your blessings we bless you. May we live as in your presence, and love the things that you love, and serve you in our daily lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen