SAINT BONIFACE: THE PATRON SAINT OF D-DAY? On June 5, the Church honors an English-born man who was baptized with the name Winfred. Born in Devonshire in 675, he became a Benedictine Monk, taking the religious name Boniface, and was elected by his brothers as their Abbot. At the request of Pope Gregory II [reigned: 715-731], he left monastic life to evangelize and convert the pagan Germanic peoples. Armed with the Word of God or Sacred Scripture, the Sacraments, the support of the Church and her leadership under Saint Peter’s Successor, the Pope, other Catholic [albeit very imperfect] Monarchs and a team of coworkers, he went – radically outnumbered – on what many considered a suicide mission.
However, Saint Boniface’s eventual success, which he did not live to see [at least while he was still on earth!] had been guaranteed by the One who said, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” [Matthew 16:18] More about Saint Boniface, who is nicknamed the ‘Apostle to Germany,’ his bravery, the means by which he converted Germany to Christianity, and helped the Church to grow in that region of Europe, after praying the Collect offered at holy Mass on his Feast Day.
AN UPHILL BATTLE. In 719, Boniface arrived in Germany to begin his first missionary campaign. The few traces he found of Christianity from previous missions undertaken by others had lapsed into paganism. Local chieftains promoted many false narratives to unite the people to their causes, and heavily relied on fear to keep them in line, as did the Nazis centuries later. To prove their uselessness, Boniface destroyed pagan idols and temples. Supposedly, in Saxony, he took an ax and chopped down a huge oak tree revered as the home of the Norse god Thor. [He is often depicted in art shirtless, holding an ax or chopping down a tree.] When the tree was felled, and he survived, the pagans were moved to convert – but he faced other challenges.
The few Christians he found were so lax and misinformed because of improperly formed or corrupt clergy, so he took them on, too! With so many challenges, he returned to Rome to report his findings to the Pope, who enlisted the help of secular leaders, like the powerful Frankish ruler who was Charlemagne’s grandfather. Fortified with an international coalition and being named a Bishop, and eventually, Archbishop of all of Germany, Boniface returned to his mission. The two main hallmarks of his ministry were: his adherence and promotion of official dogma and doctrine, and fierce loyalty to the Pope. During his final mission, Boniface and over fifty of his companions were martyred while in Holland on June 5, 754.
WHAT’S HIS TIE TO D-DAY? No doubt, as the men and women prepared for the onslaught they would endure on D-Day, they prayed. [There were a few female pilots and other support crew members, as well as one female war correspondent, Martha Gellhorn, on Normandy beach on D-Day!] And any Catholics who knew that the day before D-Day was the Feast of Saint Boniface, in whose steps they were walking, and whose battle they were continuing, must have sought, and relied on, his intercession. And certainly, the faithful in Germany and other countries under Nazi domination may have been aware of the coincidental or Divinely Providential timing of these two events. [Go to https://www.americamagazine.org/politicssociety/2019/04/05/saint-boniface-patron-saintd-day for more info on this topic.]
As we wage our societal battles with the forces of evil: paganism, secularism or wokeism – or our own personal battles against addictions, temptations, sinful desires, bad influences, etc., enlist the support of this brace, formidable Saint who knows what it is to stand firm against the foe! Saint Boniface, pray for us!
With God’s love and my prayers,
Very Rev. Michael J. Kreder, VF, KCHS