Today is the Feast of St. Boniface (c. 7th century – 754), known as the Apostle of the Germans. Born with the name Wynfrith in the English kindgom of Wessex, he was renamed Boniface by Pope Gregory II, who commissioned him. He spent the last thirty years of his life as a missionary to the Germanic peoples, especially in the region of Frisia. He was the first archbishop of Mainz, and died a martyr for the faith while on a mission to convert the Frisians. St. Boniface leaves behind a sizable body of correspondence, his letters to and responses from popes, bishops, abbots, and nuns: his superiors, associates, and friends. I’ve selected a particularly touching passage from a letter of Boniface to his dear friend
Bishop Daniel of Winchester:
News was brought to me recently by a priest who came to Germany from your parts that you had lost your sight. You, my lord, are more aware than I am who it is who said: “Where he loves, he bestows correction.” And St. Paul says: “When I am weakest, then I am strongest of all”; and: “My strength is increased in infirmity.” The author of the psalms adds: “Many are the trials of the innocent,” etc. You, my father, have eyes like those of Didimus, of whom Antony is related to have said that his eyes saw God and His angels and the blessed joys of the heavenly Jerusalem. On this account, and because I know your wisdom and your patience, I believe that God has permitted you to be afflicted in this way so that your virtue and merit may increase and that you may gaze with the eyes of the spirit on those things which God loves and commands, whilst seeing less of the things God hates and forbids. What are our bodily eyes in this time of trial but the windows of sin through which we observe sins and sinners, or, worse still, behold and desire them and so fall into sin?
Correspondence 30 (ca. 742–746)