Friday, June 5, 2009

Patron Saint of Germany

St. Boniface is the patron saint to Pope Benedict XVI's homeland Germany. He was a missionary who brought the faith to the Frankish during the 8th century. It is believed that he was responsible for the practice of putting up Christmas trees. In a dramatic story St. Boniface was at the summit of Mount Gudenberg at Geismar, near Fritzlar in Germany. Many Hessians had converted to Christianity. However, some continued secretly and some openly to continue various pagan practices, while others “forsook all the profane practices of heathenism." There was a tree there that the pagans of old worshiped at known as Thor's Oak. St. Boniface cut a notch in it to prepare to cut it down when suddenly the tree began to burst open and it fell to the ground. In the spot where the stump remained a fir tree grew and St. Boniface saw that as a sign of God's new symbol the "evergreen" tree like Christ himself was life to others even in the darkest times. Frisia was located on the cost of the North Sea. St. Boniface had attempted to convert them to Christianity, but was frustrated because they were at war. He had never relinquished his hope of converting the Frisians, and in 754 he set out with a small retinue for Frisia. He baptized a great number and summoned a general meeting for confirmation at a place not far from Dokkum, between Franeker and Groningen. Instead of his converts, however, a group of armed inhabitants appeared who slew the aged archbishop. According to their own law (The Lex Frisionum), the Frisians had the right to kill him, since he had destroyed their shrines. Boniface's hagiographer reports that the Frisians killed the saint because they believed the chests he carried with him contained gold and other riches, but were dismayed when they discovered that there were only the bishop's books contained within. His remains were eventually buried in the abbey of Fulda after resting for some time in Utrecht, and they are entombed within a shrine beneath the high altar of Fulda cathedral. The forcible conversion of Germany up to the Elbe River was executed by Charlemagne, who destroyed the Saxons' independence, though not that of the Frisians, in the last decades of the eighth century.His grave soon became a sanctuary, to which the faithful came in crowds especially on his feast and during the Octave. England is supposed to have been the first place where his matyrdom was celebrated on a fixed day. Other countries followed. On 11 June, 1874, Pope Pius IX extended the celebration to the entire world. Brewers, tailors, and file-cutters have chosen St. Boniface as their patron, also various cities in Germany.

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