Tomorrow would be the feast of Saint Boniface if it were not a Sunday. Here in Canterbury, Fr Boniface OFM counts his patron as ‘perhaps the greatest Englishman who ever lived.’ Quite a claim from a German-Scot, but then Saint Boniface is celebrated as the Apostle of Germany. He worked there in the Eighth Century.
This greatest of Englishmen spent much of his working life outside England, as a European, preaching and baptising, dealing with royal houses, journeying to Rome to confer with popes and maintaining correspondence with friends at home and in Ireland as well as on the continent. No insular little Englander!
Boniface was first and foremost a missionary, sharing the Good News, giving faith to others, often in the face of opposition. He died in an ambush by pagan outlaws, and like Jesus in the Garden he refused to let his companions fight. Instead he held aloft the Book of the Gospels in a gesture of prayer. That book, hacked about by the robbers’ swords, can be seen in Fulda, near Boniface’s tomb.
The Good News survives attacks by those who oppose Christianity, and even the damage done by us Christians when our vision is too restricted or we tacitly accept that our faith is private, when it ought to inform all our relationships with God, family and neighbour.