Monday, June 7, 2010
The earliest "Life" of Boniface, written by Willibald around 765, does not mention his place of birth but that at an early age he attended a monastery at Examchester. The vita written by Otloh of St. Emmeram (1062-1066) says that his birth was at Crediton, but it is not clear on what basis this was.
Winfrid was of a respected and prosperous family. Against his father's wishes that he devoted himself at an early age to the monastic life. He received his theological training in the Benedictine monasteries of Adescancastre, near Exeter and (presumably) Nursling, on the western edge of Southampton, under the abbot Winbert. Winfrid taught in the abbey school and at the age of 30 became a priest. He wrote the first Latin grammar produced in England.
In 716 AD, Winfrid set out on a missionary expedition to Frisia, intending to convert the inhabitants by preaching to them in their own language, his own Old English language being similar to Old Frisian. His efforts, however, were frustrated by the war then being carried on between Charles Martel and Radbod, king of the Frisians, and he returned to Nursling.
In 723, Boniface felled the holy oak tree dedicated to Thor near the present-day town of Fritzlar in northern Hesse. He did this with the Prophet Elijah in mind. Boniface called upon Thor to strike him down if he cut the holy tree. According to St Boniface's first biographer, Willibald (an Anglo-Saxon priest come to Mainz after Boniface's death, not to be confused with the saint), Boniface started to chop the oak down, when suddenly a great wind, as if by miracle, blew the ancient oak over. When Thor did not strike him down, the people were amazed and converted to Christianity. All belief in Thor ended. He built a chapel from its wood at the site where today stands the cathedral of Fritzlar. Later he established the first bishopric in Germany north of the old Roman Limes at the Frankish fortified settlement of Büraburg, on a prominent hill facing the town across the Eder River.
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. 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.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
This is truly a sorrowful day for us all, and I have no doubt that he is in the Bosom of Jesus and Mary, may his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the Mercy of God, rest in Peace, Amen.
26 Passionists di Daimiel (Spain), almost all young students, shot in different groups and in different places (+ 1936). [1 October 1989].
At 11:30pm on the night of 21 July 1936 a group of armed men arrived at the Passionist monastery of Santo Cristo de la Luz in Daimiel, Spain. The members of the community were gathered for prayer when the superior of the community, Father Niceforo of Jesus, upon hearing the armed men exclaimed
“Gethsemane – this is our Gethsemane. Our spirit is deeply distressed as it contemplates the daunting perspective of Calvary, as was that of Jesus, and so too our human nature, in its weakness, trembles, becomes cowardly… But Jesus is with us. I am going to give you He who is the strength of the weak.. Jesus was comforted by an angel; it is Jesus himself who comforts and sustains us… Within a few moments we will be with Christ… Citizens of Calvary, take heart! Let us die with Christ! It is my duty to encourage you and I myself am encouraged by your example.”
Father Nicefore then gave the community absolution and Holy Communion. The Passionists were ordered out of the church and led to the local cemetery under armed guard.  One of the five survivors later remarked ;
“Our imagination ran wild as we saw the already dug graves. Would they bury us alive…or dead? The thought of death frightened us, but the idea of being buried alive was even more terrifying.”
The armed men split the Passionists into groups and headed in different directions. The religious were set free but their movements had been observed by the Popular Front and information regarding their locations was sent to various armed fighters in the error using phrases such as
“The Passionists of Daimiel are going to going to pass through here. Fresh meat! Don’t let them get away…”
On 23 July 1936, Father Niceforo and four others were shot dead, seven more survived but after suffering from their injuries were executed three months later by firing squad. Nine others were placed on a train to Ciudad Real. They were put in gaol, accused of being religious who were killing people. Then they were led down the street to be mocked and stoned by crowds. These Passionists were shot dead and buried in a mass grave, their alleged crime written on their wrists ‘For being Passionist religious from Daimiel’. Ten other Passionists tried to get to Madrid by train or walking. They were taken off the train at Urda station and there, on the morning of July 25, shot dead. Two others, Father Juan Pedro of Saint Anthony and the elderly Brother Pablo Maria of Saint Joseph managed to walk to Carrion de Calatrava in Ciudad Real where they hid for two months. They were discovered and shot as they kissed their crucifixes and exclaimed “Long Live Christ the King!”
Eye-witnesses reported that all of the Passionists had forgiven their murderers before they died. A witness to the murder of Father Niceforo reported that after being shot the priest turned his eyes to heaven then turned and smiled at his murderers. At this point one of them, now more infuriated than ever, shouted:
“What, are you still smiling?”
With that he shot him at point blank range.