A life of mission

Daily Reading for November 7 • Willibrord, Archbishop of Utrecht, Missionary to Frisia, 739

When this youth, as highly endowed with sacred learning as he was with self-control and integrity, reached the twentieth year of his age he felt an urge to pursue a more rigorous mode of life and was stirred with a desire to travel abroad. And because he had heard that schools and learning flourished in Ireland, he was encouraged further by what he was told of the manner of life adopted there by certain holy men, for love of Christ, forsook home, fatherland and family and retired to Ireland, where, cut off from the world though close to God, they lived as solitaries enjoying the blessings of heavenly contemplation. The blessed youth wished to imitate the godly life of these men and, after obtaining the consent of his abbot and brethren, hastened quickly across the sea to join the intimate circle of the said fathers, so that by contact with them he might attain the same degree of holiness and possess the same virtues, much as a bee sucks honey from the flowers and stores it up in its honeycomb. There among these masters, eminent both for sanctity and sacred learning, he who was one day to preach to many peoples was trained for twelve years, until he reached the mature age of manhood and the full age of Christ.

Accordingly, in the thirty-third year of his age the fervour of his faith had reached such an intensity that he considered it of little value to labour at his own sanctification unless he could preach the Gospel to others and bring some benefit to them. He had heard that in the northern regions of the world the harvest was great but the labourers few. Thus it was that, in fulfilment of the dream which his mother stated she had seen, Willibrord, fully aware of his own purpose but ignorant as yet of divine preordination, decided to sail for those parts and, if God so willed, to bring the light of the Gospel message to those people who through unbelief had not been stirred by its warmth. So he embarked on a ship, taking with him eleven others who shared his enthusiasm for the faith. Some of these afterwards gained the martyr’s crown through their constancy in preaching the Gospel, others were later to become bishops and, after their labours in the holy work of preaching, have since gone to their rest in peace.

From The Life of St. Willibrord by Alcuin (c. 796). http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/Alcuin-willbrord.html

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