Today is the celebration of St. Willibrord, a British-born, Irish-trained, Roman-commissioned Benedictine who evangelized the Netherlands (or in the words of the Roman Martyrology, “Friesland and Denmark”). As such he is hailed as the patron and apostolic father of the Old Roman Catholic Church of the Netherlands, the original See of Utrecht.
In about 678 Willibrord, a 20-year-old monk taught by St Wilfrid, left his Yorkshire monastery at Ripon and moved to Ireland. Inspired by the great tradition of Irish missionaries, he set out in 690 for the northwest coast of continental Europe. The region of Frisia, or Friesland, was still pagan but had recently been conquered by Pepin, the founder of the Carolingian dynasty.
Willibrord brought with him eleven companions (more modest in its apostolic implication than the twelve companions of the earlier Celtic tradition). After destroying idols, Willibrord and his companions were thrown into jail and their lives were gambled for with the pulling of lots. Only one of the companions was given the martyr’s crown. When Willibrord was faced with the pagan King Radbod, he answered his questions so boldly, that the king did not kill Willibrord but returned him to Pepin with great honors.
The missionaries rapidly established a foothold in the region. With Pepin’s support, Willibrord was in a position by 695 to be consecrated archbishop of a new see in Utrecht. Willibrord also founded a great monastery at Echternach, where he died in 739.
The earliest Life of Willibrord, written, as Theofrid, Abbot of Echternach (10831100), tells us, by an unlearned Scot (i.e. an Irishman) in a rough and unpolished style, has disappeared, though its contents may be reconstructed from the biography composed by Alcuin, who probably used it as his source.
Alcuin, the author of the present Life, was born in York in 735 and became the master of the school there in 778. Four years later he was appointed head of Charlemagne’s school at AixlaChapelle [Aachen] and became a leading member of that select circle who supported the emperor in his efforts to reeducate Europe. In 796 he was removed to Tours and died in 804.
His Life of Willibrord was written at the request of Beornrade, Abbot of Echternach and Archbishop of Sens. As a relative of Willibrord and legal possessor of the Monastery of St. Andrew, founded by Willibrord s father, Wilgils, on a headland overlooking the mouth of the Humber, Alcuin must have undertaken the work as a kind of tribute to his family conneciions.
Charles [Martel] brought many nations under the power of the Franks, and among these were the Frisians, whose lands were added to his dominions after the defeat of Radbod. At that time St. Willibrord was officially appointed to preach to the Frisian people, and his episcopal see was fixed at the fortress of Utrecht. Being given greater scope for the preaching of the Gospel, he now attempted to bring into the Church by baptism the people that had recently been won by the sword. He allowed no error or past ignorance to pass unnoticed and lost no time in shedding upon them the light of the Gospel, so that soon among that people the statement of the prophet was fulfilled: ” In that place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.” [Hos 1:10]
– from St. Alcuin’s Life of St. Willibrord
INTROIT Sir 45:30
The Lord made a covenant of friendship with him, and made him a prince; that he should possess the dignity of priesthood forever. Ps. 131:1 Remember, O Lord, David and all his meekness. v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
O God, Who didst vouchsafe to send thy blessed Saint Willibrord to preach Thy glory to the Gentiles : we humbly pray Thee that, by his intercession, we may both see and know the things which we ought to do, and by Thy mercy be enabled to perform the same. Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who livest and reignest with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
EPISTLE Sir 44:16-27 45:3-20.
Lesson from the book of Ecclesiasticus: Behold, a great priest, who in his days pleased God, and was found just; and in the time of wrath he was made a reconciliation. There was not found the like to him, who kept the law of the Most High. Therefore, by an oath, the Lord made him to increase among his people. He gave him the blessing of all nations, and confirmed His covenant upon his head. He acknowledged him in His blessings; He preserved for him His mercy; and he found grace before the eyes of the Lord. He glorified him in the sight of kings, and gave him a crown of glory. He made an everlasting covenant with him, and gave him a great priesthood; and made him blessed in glory. To execute the office of the priesthood, and to have praise in His name, and to offer Him a worthy incense for an odor of sweetness.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Sir 44:16; 44:20
Behold, a great priest, who in his days pleased God. V. There was not found the like to him, who kept the law of the Most High. Alleluia, alleluia. Ps 109:4
You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedec. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Matthew 25:14-23
At that time, Jesus spoke this parable to His disciples: A man going abroad, called his servants and handed over his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his particular ability, and then he went on his journey. And he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more. In like manner, he who had received the two gained two more. But he who had received the one went away and dug in the earth and hid his master’s money. Then after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; behold, I have gained five others in addition.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; because you have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had received the two talents came, and said, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; behold, I have gained two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; because you have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many; enter into the joy of your master.’
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Psalm 88:21-22
I have found David, My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him, that My hand may be always with him, and that My arm may make him strong.
May Your Saints, we beseech You, O Lord, everywhere make us joyful: so that, while we reflect upon their merits, we may enjoy their help. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Apostles
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, to entreat Thee humbly, O Lord, that Thou woulds not desert Thy flock. O everlasting Shepherd; but through Thy blessed Apostles, wouldst keep it under Thy constant protection; that it may be governed by those same rulers, whom as vicars of Thy work, Thou didst set over it to be its pastors. And therefore with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations, and with all the hosts of the heavenly army, we sing the hymn of The glory, evermore saying:
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Luke 12:42
The faithful and prudent servant whom the master will set over his household to give them their ration of grain in due time.
Grant, we beseech You, almighty God, that as we thank You for the favors we have received, we may, by the intercession of blessed Willibrord, Your Confessor and Bishop, obtain still greater blessings. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.