Willibald’s Life Of Saint Boniface

And speaking of Würzburg.

We have previously discussed Boniface’s comments on Slav matters here, here and here.  Boniface died in 754 but Slavs managed to follow him and make it (once) into the “Life of Boniface” when that work was penned by Willibald about the year 768:

“…Burghardo verotionis parrochiam commendavit in loco qui vocatur Wirzaburg dignitatis officium delegavit, et ecclesias in confiniis Francorum et Saxonum atque Sclavorum suo officio deputavit…”

According to the translator of that work, this WIllibald was not the Willibald of Eichstätt whose own “Life” we already discussed here.  Rather, the author of Saint Boniface’s “Life” (incidentally, the first of such works regarding Boniface) was “a simple priest who had never come into direct contact with Boniface and what he says is based upon the facts that he was able to collect from those who had been Boniface’s disciples.”

Here is that Slavic mention (from Talbot, C. H., trans., The Anglo-Saxon missionaries in Germany; being the lives of SS. Willibrord, Boniface, Sturm, Leoba, and Libuin, together with the Hodoeporicon of St. Willibald and a selection from the correspondence of St. Boniface)

Chapter 8

How throughout his whole life he preached with zeal and how he departed from this world

“During the rule of Carloman all the bishops, priests, deacons, and clerics and everyone of ecclesiastical rank gathered together at the ruler’s instance and held four synodal councils. At these Archbishop Boniface presided, with the consent and support of Carloman and of the metropolitan of the see and city of Mainz. And being a legate of the Roman Church and the Apostolic See, sent as he was by the saintly and venerable Gregory II and later by Gregory III, he urged that the numerous canons and ordinances decreed by these four important and early councils should be preserved in order to ensure the healthy development of Christian doctrine. For as at the Council of Nicaea, held under Constantine Augustus, the errors and blasphemies of Arius were rejected; as under Theodosius the Elder an assembly of one hundred and fifty bishops condemned Macedonius, who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit; as in the city of Ephesus under Theodosius [II] two hundred bishops excommunicated Nestorius for declaring that there are two Persons in Christ; and as at the Council of Chalcedon an assembly of six hundred and thirty bishops, basing their decision on an earlier one of the fathers, pronounced an anathema against Eutyches, an abbot of Constantinople, and Dioscorus, who defended him, for attacking the foundations of the Catholic faith – So in the Frankish territories, after the eradication of heresy and the destruction of wicked conspirators, he urged that later developments of Christian doctrine and the decrees of the general councils should be received. With this in view there should be a meeting of the bishops in synod each year in accordance with the decree of the aforesaid council of bishops. This holding of synods had fallen into desuetude through the constant fear of war and the hostility and attacks of the surrounding barbarian tribes and through the attempts of hostile enemies to destroy the Frankish realm by violence. They had been forgotten so completely that no one could recall such an assembly’s having taken place within living memory. For it is in the nature of the world to fall into ruin even though it is daily restored, while if no attempt is made to reform it it quickly disintegrates and rushes headlong to its predestined doom. Therefore if in the course of this mortal life means have been discovered to remedy such evils they should be preserved and strongly defended by Catholics and fixed indelibly in the mind. Otherwise human forgetfulness and the enticement of pleasure, both of them instigated by the devil, will prove a stumbling block. For this reason the holy bishop, in his anxiety to deliver his people from the baleful influence of the devil, repeatedly urged Carloman to summon the episcopal synods already mentioned in order that both present and later generations should learn spiritual wisdom and should make the knowledge of Christianity available to all. Only in this way could unsuspecting souls escape being ensnared.”

“After he had set before all ranks of society the accepted norm of the Christian life and made known to them the way of truth, Boniface, now weak and decrepit, showed great foresight both as regards himself and his people by appointing a successor to his see, as ecclesiastical law demands. So, whether he lived or whether he died, the people would not be left without pastors and their ministration. He promoted two men of good repute to the episcopate, Willibald and Burchard, dividing between them the churches that were under his jurisdiction in the land of eastern Franks and on the Bavarian marches. To Willibald he entrusted the diocese of Eichstätt, to Burchard that of Würzburg, putting under his care all the churches within the borders of the Franks, Saxons, and Slavs. Nevertheless, even to the day of his death he did not fail to instruct the people in the way of life.”

“Then Pepin, with the help of the Lord, took over the rule of the kingdom of the Franks as the happy successor to his above-mentioned brother [i.e. Carloman]. When disorders among the people had subsided, he was elevated to the kingship. From the outset he conscientiously carried out the vows he had sworn to the Lord, to put into effect without delay the synodal decrees, and he renewed the canonical institutions which his brother, following the advice of the holy archbishop Boniface, had so dutifully set on foot. He showed the saint every mark of veneration and friendship and obeyed his spiritual precepts. But because the holy man, owing to his physical infirmities, was not able to attend the synodal assemblies, he decided, with the king’s approval and advice, to appoint a suitable person to minister to his flock. To his purpose he appointed Lull, a disciple of outstanding ability, whose duty it would be to continue his instruction to the people. He consecrated him bishop, and committed to his care the inheritance that he had won for Christ by his zealous efforts. Lull was the man who had been his trusted companion on his journeys and who had been closely connected with him both in his sufferings and his consolations…”

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May 6, 2017

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