Entering a monastery, Winfred, who later will become Boniface, was a distinguished scholar and his piety was beyond reproach. He was a great student and became an even greater teacher. The monastery where he was learning and teaching was of the Benedictine Order, and plans were in the works that he become the head of that monastery. We read this in “The Life of St. Boniface” by George Robinson. “…..in the words of the apostle, whether he ate or drank, or whatsoever he did, he always rendered unto God with heart and voice the commendation of praise and the highest degree of devoted jubilation, according to the word of the Psalm 1st: “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” For to such an extent was he inflamed with ardent desire for the Scriptures, that often he applied himself with every effort to imitating them and listening to them; and the matters which were written for the instruction of the people, he paraphrased and preached to the people with wonderful eloquence of speech and very shrewdly added parables. He
had such a right proportion of discretion, that neither was the energy of his rebuke lacking in gentleness, nor the gentleness of his preaching in energy; but as the zeal of energy kindled him, so the gentleness of love made him mild.
Accordingly, to the rich and the powerful and to yeomen and slaves he employed an equal discipline of holy exhortation, so that neither did he fawn upon the rich and flatter them, nor did he oppress slaves or yeomen by severity; but, in the words of the apostle, he was made all things to all men, that he might gain all. And he did not seize the certificate of heavenly instruction of his own will, or before the time; nor did he usurp it by stubbornness and robbery; but in the progress of his
holy humility, being thirty years or more of age, and supported by the choice of his master and friends, he received the certificate in accordance with the rule of the canonical constitution and, enriched by divers gifts and presents, entered upon the rank of the priestly office in such wise that he was wholly devoted in will and act to the works of almsgiving and compassion, so far as he had power under the severity of the rule and of the monastic life……..
In other words he entered young and worked hard, cut no corners and learned to be a priest before becoming a priest. This explanation of his preaching and pastoral care is exemplary and might be a notation in a job description of what anyone would want in a pastor. It seems that he put up with the rule that one could not become a priest until the age of 30. But he never lost his one great ambition and that was to be a missionary. If you doubt the power of his desire and zeal for missions you have to understand a very human and personal situation in which he was placed. The head of the monastery, the Abbot, was convinced that Winfred would be a great leader and managed to get the position of Abbot offered to Winfred before he retired. Winfred turned it down. He was released to the mission field to a place called Friesland (modern Holland) and he was released in 716
The missionary work already in progress there was being led by the famous missionary monk Willibrord, so Winfred would have a good mentor and Winfred had also studied hard to learn Old English, which was very similar to Old Frisian. When he arrived he discovered that Radbod, king of the Frisians, had declared war on all Christians. Charles Martel had come to the defense of the Christians, but ultimate victory was years away and would be at the hands of his descendants. The pagans were murdering Christians, destroying churches, and anything else that seemed Christian. Winfred wanted to stay and preach but things were so out of hand that he went back to England.
Many people see the hand of divine providence in this episode as well. Since we believe that God controls his church and all things for the good of his church we have to stop and look at the politics and the nature of some folks that history identifies to us as the “Franks”.