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St. Boniface, a monk of Exeter in England, is one of the great figures of the Benedictine Order and of the monastic apostolate in the Middle Ages. Gregory II sent him to preach the Gospel in Germany. He evangelized Hesse, Saxony and Thuringia and became Archbishop of Mainz. He well earned the title of Apostle of Germany, and Catholic Germany in our own times still venerates him as its father in the faith. He was put to death by the Frisians at Dokkum in 754 during the last of his missionary journeys. The famous abbey of Fulda, where his body lies, has remained the national shrine of Catholic Germany.
A Benedictine monk was chosen by divine Providence to become Germany's great apostle and patron. Boniface's first missionary endeavour proved unsuccessful (716). Before attempting a second he went to Rome and received papal authorization (718). Under the holy bishop Willibrord he converted Frisia within a period of three years. On November 30, 722, Boniface was consecrated bishop by Pope Gregory II.
In 724 he turned his attention to the Hessian people, among whom he continued his missionary activity with renewed zeal. On an eminence near the village of Geismar on the Eder, he felled a giant oak that the people honoured as the national sanctuary of the god Thor. Boniface used the wood to build a chapel in honour of St. Peter. This courageous act assured the eventual triumph of the Gospel in Germany.
The resident clergy and the priests dwelling at the court, whose unworthy lives needed censure, were constantly creating difficulties. Nevertheless Boniface continued to labour quietly, discreetly. He prayed unceasingly, put his trust in God alone, recommended his work to the prayers of his spiritual brothers and sisters in England. And God did not abandon him. Conversions were amazingly numerous. In 732 Gregory III sent him the pallium, the insignia of the archiepiscopal dignity. Boniface now devoted his time and talent to the ecclesiastical organization of the Church in Germany. He installed worthy bishops, set diocesan boundaries, promoted the spiritual life of the clergy and laity, held national synods (between 742 and 747), and in 744 founded the monastery of Fulda, which became a centre of religious life in central Germany. In 745 he chose Mayence for his archiepiscopal see, and affiliated to it thirteen suffragan dioceses. This completed the ecclesiastical organization of Germany.
The final years of his busy life were spent, as were his earlier ones, in missionary activity. Word came to him in 754 that a part of Frisia had lapsed from the faith. He took leave of his priests and, sensing the approach of death, carried along a shroud. He was 74 years of age when with youthful enthusiasm he began the work of restoration, a mission he was not to complete. A band of semi-barbarous pagans overpowered and put him to death when he was about to administer confirmation to a group of neophytes at Dockum.