He is called the apostle to the Germans and was perhaps the greatest missionary of the Dark Ages.

Boniface was an Englishman, born in 680. He entered a monastery and at age 30 was ordained. His abilities guaranteed a rising career in the English church, but Boniface had a missions call on his life that would not be denied. About 716, he sailed to Holland on his first missionary endeavor, but he met strong political opposition and returned to England discouraged.

He recovered and left again for the Continent, going to Rome in 718, then, with the Pope’s sanction, to Germany. For the next 12 years he worked there (with occasional forays back to Holland), and he soon began seeing great numbers of pagans converted. His boldness knew no bounds. In one village he could win no converts because the local populace was convinced that a massive tree, the sacred oak of Thundergod, held supernatural powers over them. Boniface took an ax and felled it in full view of the horrified citizens. He then proceeded to build a church with the wood. News spread across Central Europe, and thousands confessed Christ as Lord. Boniface traveled from village to village, smashing idols, destroying temples, and preaching the gospel.

But he soon reconsidered his “smash-and-burn” evangelism and began building churches, training and organizing an indigenous clergy. Women became actively involved in his work. In 744, Sturm, a disciple of Boniface, founded the Benedictine monastery of Fulda as one of Boniface’s outposts in the reorganization of the church in Germany. established the important monastery of Fulda, to this day the center of Roman Catholicism in Germany. Boniface’s converts fanned out as missionaries throughout Central Europe.

Everywhere he went, it was with papal sanction and authority, and he became one of the most powerful churchmen of the eighth century. Some have criticized him for emphasizing the church over the gospel. He was back in Holland for a preaching tour, and thousands of converts were being baptized. On June 5, 755 a band of hostile pagans fell upon him as he camped by the river Borne. He was slain while clutching a Bible in his hand.

The Lord has given us this command, “I have placed you here as a light for the Gentiles. You are to take the saving power of God to people everywhere on earth.” … Everyone who had been chosen for eternal life then put their faith in the Lord. (Acts 13:47,48)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). June 5.

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