Feast Day: June 5th
I know this article will appear in your hands a day after we celebrate St. Boniface’s feast day, but his words on scripture this week were too good to pass up!
We start our tale in 720AD, with Boniface up by the North Sea (between Norway and Germany these days), where he receives a letter from a good friend, the Abbess of Minster on the Isle of Thanet, back in England near Canterbury. (Funnily enough, the “Isle” of Thanet is no longer an island these days, but it was when St. Eadburga sent her note.)
Be it known to you, my gracious father, that I give thanks without ceasing to Almighty God because, as I learned from your letter, He has shown His mercy to you in many ways and jealously guarded you on your way through strange and distant lands. First, He inspired the Pontiff who sits in the chair of Peter to grant the desire of your heart. Afterwards He humbled at your feet King Radbod, the enemy of the Catholic Church; finally He revealed to you in a dream that you would reap God’s harvest and gather many souls into the barn of the heavenly kingdom. – Abbess Eadburga to Boniface (720AD)
Of course, we no longer have all of their correspondence, but we hear again from Eadburga in 732, asking Boniface to pray for her parents, and then in 735, we finally hear his side of the story:
To the most reverend and beloved sister, Abbess Eadburga, Boniface, least of the servants of God, loving greetings. I pray Almighty God, the Rewarder of all good works, that when you reach the heavenly mansions and the everlasting tents He will repay you for all the generosity you have shown to me. For, many times, by your useful gifts of books and vestments, you have consoled and relieved me in my distress. And so I beg you to continue the good work you have begun by copying out for me in letters of gold the epistles of my lord, St. Peter, that a reverence and love of the Holy Scriptures may be impressed on the minds of the heathens to whom I preach, and that I may ever have before my gaze the words of him who guided me along this path. The materials [gold] needed for the copy I am sending by the priest Eoban. Deal, then, my dear sister, with this my request as you have so generously dealt with them in the past, so that here on earth your deeds may shine in letters of gold to the glory of our Father who is in heaven. For your well-being in Christ and for your continual progress in virtue I offer my prayers. – Boniface to Abbess Eadburga (735AD)
I take note not only of their friendship via that slow, but sublime, means of hand-written notes, but also just how much Boniface cherishes the words of Scripture. Not only is he anguishing over just getting a copy of the Epistle of Peter, he sends gold so that it could be written with gold ink. Do his words strike us as strange? Does his commitment to the Word of God seem over the top? I ask his intercession today that I might be inspired by His love! “…that a reverence and love of the Holy Scriptures may be impressed on the minds of the heathens to whom I preach, and that I may ever have before my gaze the words of him who guided me along this path.” What a saint!
– Fr. Dominic Rankin writes to his own sister, a Dominican Nun, to keep her appraised of his ministerial work and to ask her prayers as well. He currently considers it unlikely that a reigning monarch will reach out to him having gotten to know Sr. Mary Thomas, but that seems to be what happened to Boniface through Aedburga…
Having thus briefly mentioned these matters, there is one other favour I have to ask, which, from what I hear [from Eadburga], will not be difficult for you to grant, namely, to send me a pair of falcons, quick and spirited enough to attack crows without hesitation and bring them back to earth after catching them. We ask you to procure these birds and send them to us, since there are few hawks of this kind over here in Kent, which produce good offspring, quick-witted, mettlesome and capable of being tamed, trained and taught for the purpose I have mentioned. – King Ethelbert, Requesting Falcons from Boniface (748AD).