Saturday, November 7, 2015

For All the Saints: Willibrord
Back in 1979, during my first semester at Yale Divinity School, I joined two Episcopalian friends for the Wednesday evening vespers at nearby Berkeley Divinity School. The Berkeley dean preached about the saint commemorated that day, the Northumbrian missionary Willibrord. The dean was lighthearted about the saint's name, which he kept pronouncing Willy Board (or something like that). One of my friends thought the dean had been too flippant---whatever. I've long since forgotten what the dean preached about, but I was glad to see this saint on the list for today, and to recall his significance on the thirty-sixth anniversary of the evening that I first learned about him.

Born about 658, Willibrord was called to be a missionary to the pagan North Germanic tribes of Frisia, in what is now the Netherlands. He made two trips to Rome, not as a pilgrim (not uncommon even for other Anglo-Saxons) but to be consecrated by the pope as a missionary. Pope Sergius, consequently, consecrated him as Bishop of the Frisians (and thus he became the first bishop of the new diocese of Utrecht), where Willibrord preached, founded churches, established a monastery at Utrecht, as well as the Abbey of Echternach and a Benedictine covent at Horren in Trier. Escaping the area during a time of persecution in the 710s, Willibrord persevered and lived a long time, until November 7, 739. He was interred in Echternach, in what is now Luxembourg. He was considered a saint very soon after his death.

Thank you, Lord, for Bishop Willibrord.

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