Christianity Brings Progress, Affirms Pontiff

Considers Boniface’s Contribution to Europe

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The testimony of St. Boniface is a reminder that Christianity promotes humanity’s progress as it favors the spread of culture, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this today in the general audience in St. Peter’s Square in which he reflected on the “apostle of Germany.”

The Holy Father gave a biographical account of the bishop and martyr, touching on his calling to the monastic life at a young age, and his subsequent leaving behind of a bright scholarly career to head to the missions.

The young monk’s first attempt at evangelization failed, the Pontiff recounted, and he went to Rome to seek counsel from Pope Gregory II.

That Pope “entrusted him with official letters and the mission to preach the Gospel among the peoples of Germany.”

“With his tireless activity, with his organizational gifts, with his flexible and amiable character despite its firmness, Boniface obtained great results,” Benedict XVI said.

Boniface continued harvesting apostolic fruits during long years of work in the territories of central Europe, the Holy Father continued.

He noted: “The great bishop, besides this work of evangelization and organization of the Church through the foundation of dioceses and the celebration of synods, did not fail to favor the foundation of various monasteries, masculine and feminine, so that they would be like a lighthouse to irradiate the faith and human and Christian culture in the territory. […]

“He considered in fact that the work for the Gospel should be also work for a true human culture. […] Therefore thanks to Boniface, to his men and women monks — the women too had a very important part in this work of evangelization — this human culture also flourished, which is inseparable from the faith and reveals its beauty.”

Already at an advanced age — around 80 years old — Boniface again took up missionary efforts, the Pontiff recalled. And it was thus that he met his martyrdom: “While he was beginning the celebration of Mass in Dokkum […] he was assaulted by a band of pagans. Placing himself at the front with a serene face, he ‘prohibited his [companions] to fight, saying: “Cease, sons, to combat, abandon the war, because the testimony of Scripture warns us not to return evil for evil, but good for evil. This is the day awaited for some time, the time of our end has arrived. Courage in the Lord!”‘

“Those were his last words before falling beneath the blows of his aggressors.”

Lessons

Benedict XVI contended that Boniface’s testimony offers many lessons for the faithful of today.

He focused primarily on three: “the centrality of the Word of God, lived and interpreted in the faith of the Church, a Word that [Boniface] lived, preached and gave testimony to unto the supreme gift of himself in martyrdom. He was so impassioned by the Word of God that he felt the urgency and the duty of taking it to others, even at his personal risk.”

The Pope continued: “The second obvious point, a very important one, which emerges from the life of Boniface is his faithful communion with the Apostolic See, which was a firm and central point in his missionary work. He always conserved that communion as a rule of his mission and he left it almost as a testament. […]

“For a third characteristic that Boniface draws to our attention: He promoted the encounter between the Roman-Christian culture and the Germanic culture. He knew in fact that to humanize and evangelize the culture was an integral part of his mission as a bishop. Transmitting the ancient patrimony of Christian values, he implanted in the German peoples a new style of life that was more human, thanks to which the inalienable rights of the person were better respected. As an authentic son of St. Benedict, he knew how to unite prayer and work — manual and intellectual — pen and plow.”

Thus, the Holy Father affirmed, “the valiant testimony of Boniface is an invitation for all of us to welcome in our life the Word of God as an essential point of reference, to passionately love the Church, to feel that we are co-responsible for its future, to seek unity around the Successor of Peter. At the same time, he reminds us that Christianity, favoring the spreading of culture, promotes the progress of man. It falls to us, then, to measure up to a patrimony that is so prestigious and make it bear fruit for the good of the generations to come.”

Benedict XVI said of the apostle of his homeland: “His ardent zeal for the Gospel always impresses me: At 40 years old, he leaves a beautiful and fruitful monastic life, the life of a monk and a professor, to announce the Gospel to the simple, to the barbarians; at 80 years of age, once again, he goes to a zone where he foresaw his martyrdom.

“Comparing this ardent faith of his, this zeal for the Gospel, to our faith so often lukewarm and bureaucratic, we see that we have to renew our faith and how to do it, so as to give as a gift to our times the precious pearl of the Gospel.”

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