November 6, 2017

Saint Willibrord, Apostle to the Frisians

Saint Willibrord

Historically November 7th is the feast of Saint Willibrord, the 8th century bishop of Utrecht in the Netherlands and Archbishop of Cologne, Germany. He is credited for bringing the Good News of Christ to the pagan Frisians (Germanic peoples living in the Netherlands). As a missionary, confessor and gifted catechist, he spread Christianity throughout the British Isles, Germany and the Netherlands.

Willibrord was born in Northumberland, (the northernmost county in England) the son of a godly Englishman named Wilgis, who became a monk, and was a most holy saint. When Willibrord was just twenty, he was already wearing the religious habit. Being accustomed to bearing the yoke of the Lord, he went to Ireland to seek greater perfection in the Faith, studying sacred scripture under Saint Egbert.

Somewhere around the age of thirty Willibrord was ordained a priest, and was then sent by St. Egbert to convert the pagans of Friesland, together with eleven companions, men eminent for learning and holiness of life. Among them were Saints Swithbert and Adelbert. He landed at Utrecht, and was welcomed, along with his companions, by Pepin of Heristal, who had brought Southern Friesland under his power, and who mightily helped advance the preaching of the Gospel.

Thereafter Willibrord journeyed to Rome to seek a wider knowledge of missionary work in that great center of the Christian Faith, where he was welcomed by Saint Pope Sergius I who sent him back much comforted. Later, when Saint Wilfrid had consecrated holy Swithbert as legionary bishop, Pepin sent Willibrord to Rome to be duly consecrated as the first bishop of Utrecht by the same St. Pope Sergius I.

After a life of unwearied apostolic labors, St. Willibrord passed away, to be with Christ, on November 7, 739. He is called the Apostle to the Frisians, for through his labors and those of his blessed companions, this people were won for Christ. He was buried in the Abbey of Echternach. After his death his ministry was taken up by others eminent among them, Saints Willehad, Marcellinus, and Lebwin, all of whom are commemorated in the Martyrology. O God, who did vouchsafe to send St. Willibrord to preach thy glory to the Gentiles, we pray that by his merits we know thy holy Will, and live the same, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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