5 June – Memorial for St. Boniface, bishop and martyr
Educated at the Benedictine monastary at Exeter, England where he became a monk, Boniface (c.673–754) was a missionary to Germany from 719, assisted by St. Albinus, St. Abel, and St. Agatha. They destroyed idols and pagan temples, and then built churches on the sites.
He was ordained a bishop and later became Archbishop of Mainz. He reformed the churches in his see, and built religious houses in Germany. He ordained St. Sola. He founded the dioceses of Bavaria, Thuringia, and Franconia. He evangelized in Holland, but was set upon by a troop of pagans and he and 52 of his new flock, including St. Adaler and St. Eoban were martyred.
Once in Saxony, Boniface encountered a tribe worshipping a Norse deity in the form of a huge oak tree. Boniface walked up to the tree, removed his shirt, took up an axe, and without a word he hacked down the six-foot wide wooden god. Boniface stood on the trunk, and asked, “How stands your mighty god? My God is stronger than he.” The crowd’s reaction was mixed, but some conversions were begun.
One tradition about St. Boniface says that he used the customs of the locals to help convert them. There was a game in which they threw sticks called kegels at smaller sticks called heides. Boniface brought religion to the game, having the heides represent demons, and knocking them down showing the purity of spirit.
He is the patron of many groups, including World Youth Day.
Paul addressed these words to the elders of the church of Ephesus:
‘Be on your guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you the overseers, to feed the Church of God which he bought with his own blood. I know quite well that when I have gone fierce wolves will invade you and will have no mercy on the flock. Even from your own ranks there will be men coming forward with a travesty of the truth on their lips to induce the disciples to follow them. So be on your guard, remembering how night and day for three years I never failed to keep you right, shedding tears over each one of you. And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace that has power to build you up and to give you your inheritance among all the sanctified.
‘I have never asked anyone for money or clothes; you know for yourselves that the work I did earned enough to meet my needs and those of my companions. I did this to show you that this is how we must exert ourselves to support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, who himself said, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.”’
When he had finished speaking he knelt down with them all and prayed. By now they were all in tears; they put their arms round Paul’s neck and kissed him; what saddened them most was his saying they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship.
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:
keep those you have given me true to your name,
so that they may be one like us.
While I was with them,
I kept those you had given me true to your name.
I have watched over them
and not one is lost
except the one who chose to be lost,
and this was to fulfil the scriptures.
But now I am coming to you
and while still in the world I say these things
to share my joy with them to the full.
I passed your word on to them,
and the world hated them,
because they belong to the world
no more than I belong to the world.
I am not asking you to remove them from the world,
but to protect them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth;
your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
I have sent them into the world,
and for their sake I consecrate myself
so that they too may be consecrated in truth.’
Men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them. So be vigilant
In this sharing, I want to address the issue of unity from the institutional level as well as at the level of one’s personal faith in God and the Church.
Allow me to begin my reflection on the theme of unity with this saying — “We may have all come on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now.” I once watched a documentary about Martin Luther, the so-called founder of the Reformation movement which gave birth to Protestantism. In the video, someone commented that, had Martin Luther attempted to reform the then decadent and corrupt Catholic Church at the time from within the establishment, he would have been one of the greatest saints that ever lived. Much like St Francis of Assisi, who faced similar challenges in his time, but managed to bring about tremendous changes to the Church by working with the Holy Spirit to reform and transform the church from within it. Unfortunately for Martin Luther, he missed his chance at sainthood.
Both were devout, committed Catholic monks who loved Christ and the Church deeply. Both were appalled at the systemic decay and corruption within the Church which had become greedy, prideful, self-edifying, sinful and very far away from embodying Christian virtue and morality. Both felt compelled to stand against the corruptions, excesses and vain-glory, for the deep moral decay that had taken root in their beloved Church. However, the actions of one led to great healing, renewal and transformation of the Catholic Church, the other led to a deep schism and split which till today, continues to lead countless millions of souls away from the true path of the one true, Christian, Catholic church. It seems from the very early days of Christianity, the Apostles could already foresee that unity was going to be a great battle and danger to the flock.
It used to be that I was very ‘apologetic’ whenever I met a strong Protestant due to my dismal knowledge of scripture. Whilst my scripture knowledge is still nothing to rave about, I have come to learn that the Catholic faith is founded on much deeper roots than only the word of God, important as that is. In more recent times. I have learnt to stand on the side of the Apologists of the Catholic Church – those who stand up and defend the doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic faith. Disputes about Sola Fide, about the authority of the Papacy and the Magisterium, the legitimacy of sacred rites and traditions, the ‘worship’ of Mary and the Saints being amongst the most fundamental. Men have chosen to distort truth – at times out of a genuine sense of misguided understanding of truth, to downright manipulation of faith to serve one’s own selfish and worldly interests.
At the end of the day, the Catholic Church is founded by Christ and not men. In the fallibility of the human men who lead the Church, lies the infallibility of Christ and the Holy Spirit that continues to be the true force that moves, creates, directs … and yes, at times even corrects and redeems the Church. For those of you who may be harbouring doubts about the Catholic faith as the one true holy, apostolic, evangelical and missionary church, I urge you strongly – do your research. Come to the truth and recognize the treasure we have been given. Defend the unity of true Christianity and bring the lost back to Catholicism. Only a fool is soon parted from his money … or in this case, the treasure, which is the Catholic faith itself.
Let me close with offering one other facet of unity – that of the Christian’s union with Christ. There is no better example of this than our Blessed Mother. From the moment of the Annunciation, Mary became one with the will of God and with His Son. Despite all the immense challenges, even life-threatening ones such as being pregnant before marriage in Jewish society, Mary never wavered from her fidelity to God and Jesus. At the darkest hour of human history, at the foot of the cross stood Mary…silent. She did not cry foul murder against the Romans, nor for revenge against the bloodthirsty injustices of the Pharisees, nor divine retribution against the infidelity of the cowardly apostles. She simply stayed united to her Son. She chose the harder path – to stay united to her Son, come what may. Mary stayed as one with Jesus and with His mission to fulfill the will of the Father; that is true Christian unity – the union of a Christian disciple to her God. Come what may.
This was the unity of the Catholic faith long before the Reformation ever came to be and long after that disunity ceased to exist. Defend your faith. Stand up for it. Either you are with it or you are against it. Choose.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)
Prayer: Father help us. We pray for the Holy Catholic Church, which was given to us by your Son through St Peter and his successors. Bless, protect, empower and guide her always. Deliver her from her enemies, from all heresies. Heal the wounds of division and for the damage done to her through the evil one and his false prophets and wolves in lamb clothing. Save and redeem the lost and those who have been led astray.
Thanksgiving: Father, help us to stay faithful to the one true holy Catholic Church. Help us be truly grateful for so precious a gift of our Church, which embodies and protects the precious gift of our faith and the true presence of Your Son in the Holy Eucharist. Thank you for all the martyrs and saints it has given us through the millenniums. Mary, Mother of the Catholic Church. Pray for her.