St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr: Missa “Exaltabo“
Boniface was born in Crediton in 680AD into a Saxon family. He was baptised Wynfrith or Winfrid (from the Saxon words wine – friend and frith – peace) . His first biographer, Willibald, writing in the C8th, records that he received his early education in a Benedictine monastery in Exeter. In his early teens he went from here to another monastery at Nursling (now a suburb of modern Southampton) in Hampshire, where, after many years of study and skilful teaching – he became head of the school and compiled the first ever dictionary of Latin grammar, he was ordained priest at the age of thirty.
For many years he had felt called to missionary work and started this, at the age of thirty-six in Friesland – now part of Northern Holland, in 716. His first mission was unsuccessful, and he returned to Wessex where he was offered the job of Abbot of Nursling. He declined this, and went to Rome where, in May 719, Pope Gregory II commissioned him as a missionary to Germany. He was given the name Boniface, meaning maker of good or good deeds.
In accepting the commission, he undertook to use the Roman, rather than the Celtic Christian formula for baptism, and to consult the Vatican about any problems. His work took him to Hesse, Friesland and Bavaria.
In 722 he was consecrated a bishop – without a see. His remit was “to preach to the heathen east of the Rhine”. In 723 he visited the Frankish court and was taken under the protection of the king, Charles Martel (Martel meaning hammer). Over the next two years Boniface’s mission continued in Hesse and Thuringia where he established convents and started to create a disciplined system of churches. This was built on in the years which followed by the organisation of dioceses and provinces, all under the Pope, in other areas of Germany.
A legend of this period is the best known of the whole of the saint’s life. On his arrival in Hesse, among half-believers with a lot of residual pagan beliefs and influences around them, Boniface struck at the root of pagan superstition by a single act. He publicly announced in advance that he would destroy their gods. Armed with an axe he approached a sacred tree, the giant oak of Geismar, dedicated to Thor. After some effort, he felled the oak, and its branches lay on the ground in the shape of a cross. In its descent, sections of the oak had crushed every other tree around except a single small fir tree (this was possibly the origin of the Christmas tree).
Boniface made frequent pleas to the Christian Saxons of England to send supplies of both money and books, and of people – monks to help him in preaching and teaching – and sought and gave advice to many clerics in his home country in writing. Many of his letters of this time and later, still exist, and can be found, translated, on the Internet (go to the Internet Medieval Sourcebook on http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html and type St Boniface into its search engine. A complete version of Willibald’s biography, translated into modern English, can also be found on the site.
In 732 Boniface was consecrated archbishop – without a specific archiepiscopal see – by Pope Gregory III. He was authorised to organise the hierarchy of the church in Bavaria and created new four sees. He went on to found other sees at Erfurt, for Thuringia, Buraburg, for Hesse, and Wurzburg for Franconia. Later he established a see at Nordau in Eichstau.
In 741 Boniface founded the abbey of Fulda with his young disciple, (Saint) Sturmi and in 745 he was given Mainz as his cathedral, being created Primate of all Germany by Pope Zachary. In the period 742-747, Boniface directed a series of reforming councils (much of their work dealt with abuses by new and inexperienced clergy) which were held in Francia.
In 753, Boniface set off for further missionary work in Friesland, and in 754 his life ended in martyrdom at the hands of a pagan band, who killed him as he was reading to a group of new converts on Pentecost Sunday. He would not allow his companions to defend him. His body was taken to Fulda, where it still rests.
Boniface has had an enormous impact on English and European history, far beyond the simple conversion of people to Christianity. His guidance of the early church in Germany, his establishment of structures which allowed it to co-exist with monarchy, were massively important, and the educational and literary influence from his monasteries and churches in his lifetime and over the next centuries was very significant. He is described as the Apostle of Germany and is greatly revered in Holland.
Boniface has been described by eminent historians as “The greatest Englishman of all time” and “the Englishman who has had a greater influence on the history of Europe than any other Englishman”, but in England he is not greatly known about.
INTROIT Isa. 65:19; 65:23
I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in My people. No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying. My elect shall not toil in vain, nor beget children for sudden destruction; for a race blessed by the Lord are they and their offspring. Ps 43:2 O God, our ears have heard, our fathers have declared to us, the deeds You did in their days. V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in My people. No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying. My elect shall not toil in vain, nor beget children for sudden destruction; for a race blessed by the Lord are they and their offspring.
O God, Who, through the zeal of blessed Boniface, Your Martyr and Bishop, graciously called a multitude of people to the knowledge of Your name, mercifully grant that we who keep his feast may also enjoy his patronage. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
Commemoratio Feria IV infra Octavam Ascensionis
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thine Only-Begotten Son our Saviour to have this day ascended into the heavens, so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with Him continually dwell.
Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.
EPISTLE Ecclus. 44:1 – 15.
Lesson from the book of Ecclesiasticus. Let us now praise men of renown, our ancestors, each in his own time. The Lord has wrought great glory through His magnificence from the beginning. Rulers of the earth by their authority, men of renown for their might, or counselors in their wisdom, or seers of all things in prophecy; resolute governors of peoples, or judges with discretion; authors skilled in composition, or poets with collected proverbs; composers of melodious psalms, or discoursers on lyric themes: stalwart men, solidly established, lovers of beauty, and at peace in their own estates – all these were glorious in their time, each illustrious in his day. Some of them have left behind a name that is remembered to their praise; but of others there is no memory, for it perished when they perished, and they are as though they had never lived, they and their children after them. Yet these lived, they and their children after them. Yet these also were godly men whose virtues have not been forgotten; their wealth remains in their families, their posterity are a holy inheritance, and their seed has stood in the covenants. And their children for their sakes remain forever; their seed and their glory shall not be forsaken. All these are buried in peace, but their name lives on and on. At gatherings their wisdom is retold and the assembly sings their praises.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Psalm 36: 30, 31
Allelúja Is 66:10; 66:14 Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with her, all you that love the Lord. Allelúja. V. You shall see and your heart shall rejoice; the hand of the Lord shall be known to His servants. Allelúja.
GOSPEL Matt 5:1-12
At that time, Jesus seeing the crowds, went up the mountain. And when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. And opening His mouth He taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are you when men reproach you, and persecute you, and, speaking falsely, say all manner of evil against you, for My sake. Rejoice and exult, because your reward is great in heaven.
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Psalm 15:7-8
I bless the Lord Who counsels me; I set God ever before me; with Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
May a bountiful blessing, O Lord, descend upon these offerings and, through Your mercy, may it help to make us holy and to be joyful on the feast of blessed Boniface, Your Martyr and Bishop. 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.
Commemoratio Feria IV infra Octavam Ascensionis
Receive, O Lord, the gifts which we offer for the glorious Ascension of thy Son, and mercifully grant that we may be delivered from present dangers and attain eternal life. Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Ascension
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: through Christ our Lord. Who, after His Resurrection, appeared openly to all His disciples, and, while they looked on, was taken up into heaven, that He might grant unto us to be sharers in His own divinity. And therefore, with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations, and with all the hosts of the heavenly army, we sing the hymn of Thy glory, evermore saying: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!…
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Rev 3:21
He who overcomes, I will permit him to sit with Me upon My throne; as I also have overcome and have sat with My Father on His throne.
Made holy by the sacrament of salvation, we beseech You, O Lord, that the prayers of blessed Boniface, Your Martyr and Bishop, under whose patronal care You have granted us to be ruled may never fail us. 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.
Commemoratio Feria IV infra Octavam Ascensionis
Grant us, we beseech thee, almighty and merciful God, that what we have taken and received in visible mysteries, may profit us by its invisible effects. 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.