Today is the feast of St. Boniface, bishop and martyr. Wikipedia notes “the three roles Boniface played that made him ‘one of the truly outstanding creators of the first Europe, as the apostle of Germany, the reformer of the Frankish church, and the chief fomentor of the alliance between the papacy and the Carolingian family,'” which means, in a nutshell, that he first brought the gospel to Germany, he was serious about holding to the faith, and he played a prominent role in the rise of the Holy Roman Empire.
It’s common to stereotype saints as being sweet, quiet types. Indeed, we might expect that especially in the case of Boniface – his name literally means “do-gooder” in one of two possible translations – but in fact, he’s best known for taking a bold, direct approach that many today would find controversial. When he encountered pagans in Geismar, Germany worshiping an oak tree, he chopped it down. The Catholic Encyclopedia recounts the event:
To show the heathens how utterly powerless were the gods in whom they placed their confidence, Boniface felled the oak sacred to the thunder-god Thor, at Geismar, near Fritzlar. He had a chapel built out of the wood and dedicated it to the prince of the Apostles. The heathens were astonished that no thunderbolt from the hand of Thor destroyed the offender, and many were converted.
St. Boniface is a great patron for today. We should pray that God will continue to send us bishops and priests who boldly topple the idols of our own times. St. Boniface, pray for us!