St. Willibrord

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

Many miracles were also wrought by divine power through His servant Willibrord. 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.”

On another occasion, when the blessed man was on his way to a cell belonging to him called Susteren, from the name of the stream that flows past it, he took a narrow path running through the cornfields of a certain wealthy landowner. When the keeper of the fields saw this he was furious and began to revile the man of God. Those who accompanied Willibrord wanted to punish the man for insulting him, but the saint of God mildly restrained them, not wishing that anyone should perish on his account, since his whole happiness lay in bringing salvation to all. When he found it impossible to calm the fury of the foolish man, Willibrord did not persist but returned by the way he had come. Next day, however, the wretch who had not feared to heap insults upon the servant of God was struck down on that very spot with sudden death before a crowd of onlookers.

From The Life of St. Willibrord by Alcuin (c. 796).

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