Preaching the gospel

Daily Reading for November 8 • Willibrord, Archbishop of Utrecht, Missionary to Frisia, 739 (transferred)

It came about, however, that Pippin, King of the Franks, died, and his son Charles became head of the realm. Charles brought many nations under the power of the Franks, and among these were the Frisians, whose lands were added to his dominions after the defeat of Radbod. At that time St. Willibrord was officially appointed to preach to the Frisian people, and his episcopal see was fixed at the fortress of Utrecht. Being given greater scope for the preaching of the Gospel, he now attempted to bring into the Church by baptism the people that had recently been won by the sword. He allowed no error or past ignorance to pass unnoticed and lost no time in shedding upon them the light of the Gospel, so that soon among that people the statement of the prophet was fulfilled: “In that place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.” [Hos 1:10].

Many miracles were also wrought by divine power through His servant. Whilst the ministry of preaching the Gospel is to be preferred to the working of miracles and the showing of signs, yet, because such miracles are recorded as having been performed, I think mention of them ought not to be suppressed; and so that glory may be given to God who vouchsafed them, I will insert them into this narrative, and in this way what we know to have been achieved in former times may not be lost to future ages. Thus, when the venerable man, according to his custom, was on one of his missionary journeys he came to a village called Walichrum, where an idol of the ancient superstition remained. When the man of God, moved by zeal, smashed it to pieces before the eyes of the custodian, the latter, seething with anger, in a sudden fit of passion struck the priest of Christ on the head with a sword, as if to avenge the insult paid to his god. But, as God was protecting His servant, the murderous blow did him no harm. On seeing this, Willibrord’s companions rushed forward to kill the wicked man for his audacity. The man of God good-naturedly delivered the culprit from their hands and allowed him to go free. The same day, however, he was seized and possessed by the devil and three days later he ended his wretched life in misery. And thus, because the man of God followed the Lord’s command and was unwilling to avenge the wrongs done to him, he was vindicated all the more by the Lord Himself, just as He had said regarding the wrongs which the wicked inflicted upon His saints: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

From Alcuin’s Life of Willibrord, c. 796; found at

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