A Beautiful Picture
Born Wynfrith of Crediton in 675 and later known as Boniface, this Anglo-Saxon monk has been called the Apostle of Germany. Boniface is known to history for his many ministry achievements, including the work of conversion, church reform, propagating the Benedicine rule, and founding a number of monasteries, most notably the large one at Fulda.
Boniface had a long and fruitful ministry career. As quoted in Constants in Context, “still filled with missionary fervor as he neared eighty, he left his administrative responsibilities to others and went to work in Frisia, where he and fifty companions were martyred.”
Martyred at 80. Think about that.
Basically, what I’m saying is that Boniface was no joke!
On top of all of this, history tells us that Boniface was also an advocate for women. Again, from Constants in Context:
“It is quite significant that [Boniface] called upon women to share explicitly in mission on a wide scale for the first time in the post-Constantinian period. For example, Lioba (Leoba) was called from her cloistered monastery in England and became the abbess of such a women’s monastic-mission community at Bischofsheim.
‘She [Lioba] was learned not only in Holy Scripture, but in the works of the Church Fathers, in canon law and in the decisions of all the councils…Learning was no mere decoration, it was what made Lioba an abbess-founder, whose disciplines and daughter houses spread like good seed over new-plowed fields. Her learning, then, was an aspect of her holiness, for it was the very stuff of that good order, that rootedness in faith and tradition, which the biographer finds so worthy of her monastic foundations.'”
This is awesome, yes? Boniface goes to bat for women in his context, even in the period after Constantine, when the status of women in the church took a significant step back. Today, we need more men like Boniface in the church, men who will take their power and leverage it to raise up women like Lioba into leadership and influence.
And yet the story gets even better. Because evidently Boniface saw himself as a true partner to Lioba. The authors continue:
“Boniface requested that Lioba be buried in his tomb, so that as they had shared in the same missionary partnership, they might wait together for the resurrection. This seemingly strange request (and it was considered such by many of Boniface’s contemporaries) can be seen as a powerful symbolic statement regarding the collaboration and equality between women and men in mission, and as a challenge that, while not always met in mission history, certainly has resonance today. In this particular case, Boniface’s monks did not honor his request, but its significance still stands.”
Yes it does. What a picture of gender equality, partnership and reconciliation.
So, today, I honor my friend Boniface, advocate for and partner to women when such things weren’t cool, in his life and even in his death.