Today the church remembers an obscure saint, St. Willibrord of Utrecht, Missionary to Frisia.
Willibrord (b. 658) was raised in Ireland where he was ordained a priest in 688.
He was heavily influenced by the Northumbrian monk, Egbert, who told fantastical stories of his travels and work. Willibrord was enamored with these tales, and wanted in on the action. At Egbert’s invitation, Willibrord dedicated himself to exploration and missionary work.
He sailed to Utrecht in Frisia (the Netherlands) where he set up the first official see of the Roman Catholic church in that land (well, the Pope founded it, but gave Willibrord permission to do what he was doing: running it). Willibrord set to work founding schools, parishes, and monasteries. He was consecrated as Bishop by Pope Sergius I in 695, and did much to plant the church in the Netherlands.
In his old age he retired to a monastery he founded in what is now Luxembourg, and died there on this day in 739.
St. Willibrord is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that stories inspire. Hearing Egbert’s tales enticed him to explore the world! The faith is full of inspiring stories, and telling them in such a way that they’re heard as the wonderful tales and testimonies they are should inspire exploration, not entrench people in trite moralisms, stilted orthodoxy, or make the faithful fearful of what’s on the other side of any fence.
A lovely historical development: as one so inspired by stories, he now has so many stories about him shared throughout the Netherlands. These tales of his accomplishments are richly embellished and fantastical, ensuring that this one so moved by stories is the subject of many moving stories himself.
-historical pieces from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations
-also, it should be noted that I will probably look like this old Irish saint when I become an old Irish saint…