Feast of Sts. Petronax of Monte Cassino, Willibald of Eichstatt, Walburga and Winnebald of Heidenhelm, Sebaldus of Vincenza, Wigbert of Fritzlar, Sturmius of Fulda, and Lullus of Mainz (May 6)   Leave a comment

 

Above:   Vatican Coat of Arms

SAINT PETRONAX OF MONTE CASSINO (DIED CIRCA 747)

Roman Catholic Abbot

His feast = May 6

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SIBLINGS

SAINT WALBURGA OF HEIDENHELM (710-779)

Roman Catholic Abbess

Her feast transferred from February 25

SAINT WILLIBALD OF EICHSTATT (700-786)

Roman Catholic Bishop

His feast transferred from June 6

SAINT WINNEBALD OF HEIDENHELM (DIED 761)

Roman Catholic Abbot

His feast transferred from December 18

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ASSOCIATES OF SAINT WILLBALD

SAINT SEBALDUS OF VINCENZA (DIED CIRCA 770)

Roman Catholic Hermit and Missionary

His feat transferred from August 19

SAINT WIGBERT OF FRITZLAR (675-746)

Roman Catholic Abbot

His feast transferred from August 13

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SAINT STURMIUS OF FULDA (DIED 779)

Roman Catholic Abbot

His feast transferred from December 17

disputed with

SAINT LULLUS OF MAINZ (710-786)

Roman Catholic Archbishop

His feast transferred from October 16

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I have done it again.  I have, while researching the life of one saint, uncovered other related lives.  Here we find mentors, students, associates, siblings, and even an adversary in a dispute.  I invite you, O reader, to join me on a journey through church history.

We begin where I started:  St. Petronax of Monte Cassino (died circa 747).  This saint, from Brescia, Italy, arrived at Monte Cassino in 717.  There he organized the hermits living at the tomb of St. Benedict of Nursia, rebuilt the abbey, and attracted many more monks.  Lombards had destroyed the monastery in 581, but St. Petronax restored the abbey and its influence.  For this accomplishment history recalls him as the Second Founder of the abbey.

Among the monks St. Petronax taught was St. Willibald of Eichstatt (700-786).  St. Willibald was a nephew of St. Boniface of Mainz through his (St. Willibald’s) mother, St. Wuna, about whom I can find little information.  St. Willibald’s father and St. Wuna’s husband was St. Richard the Pilgrim (died 721/722), a West Saxon chieftain of whom little reliable information survives.  Educated at Waltham Monastery, St. Willibald, his brother, St. Winnebald of Heidenhelm (died 761), and their father undertook a pilgrimage to Rome in 721.  St. Richard died at Lucca, Italy, in 721/722, but the brothers continued to Rome.  At Rome St. Willibald continued to the Holy Land.   He reached Jerusalem in 724 then traveled to Edessa, where he was imprisoned by some local Muslims on charges of being a spy.  Released, he visited many hermitages and monasteries before traveling to Constantinople.  He returned to Italy in 730, spending a decade at Monte Cassino.

St. Winnebald, in the meantime, entered the religious life at Rome.  He traveled with his uncle, St. Boniface of Mainz, to Germany in 739.  There St. Boniface ordained his nephew.  St. Willibald joined the German mission in 740, when Pope Gregory III sent him to St. Boniface.  Uncle St. Boniface ordained St. Willibald in Thuringia in 741.  St. Willibald was an effective evangelist around Eichstatt, of which he became the first bishop.

St. Willibald had at least two unrelated associates in his missionary work.  One was St. Sebaldus of Vincenza (died circa 770), who had been a hermit near Vincenza.  Another was St. Wigbert of Fritzlar (675-746), an English monk who had accepted St. Boniface’s invitation to join the mission.  St. Wigbert served as abbot of two monasteries–Fritzlar then Ohrdruf, but he returned to Fritzlar to die.  Many details of the lives of these two saints have become lost in the mists of time, unfortunately.

Sts. Willibald and Winnebald had a sister, St. Walburga of Heidenhelm (710-779).  She studied under one St. Tatta, of whom I can find no reliable information other than this:  St. Tatta sent St. Walburga to assist St. Leoba and St. Boniface of Mainz in the German mission.  The three siblings founded the double abbey at Heidenhelm.  St. Walburga, as abbess, governed the nuns, and St. Winnebald, as abbot, led the monks.  St. Walburga became the sole leader of the double abbey after her brother, the abbot, died.  And St. Willibald made the double abbey the headquarters for his missionary work.  He died in 786, having been bishop for forty-five  years.

Another figure in our saga is St. Sturmius of Fulda (died 779).  Born to a Christian family in Bavaria, St Wigbert educated him at Fritzlar Abbey and St. Boniface ordained him.  St. Sturmius worked as a missionary for several years before becoming a hermit at Hersfeld.  Yet raiding Saxons forced him to flee.  St. Sturmius founded Fulda Monastery in 744, and St. Boniface appointed him the first abbot.  The new monastery became a center of Benedictine spirituality and learning.

Here St. Lullus of Mainz (710-786) enters the story.  Born in Britain and educated at Malmesbury Monastery, he had become a deacon.  Then, aged twenty years, St. Lullus joined St. Boniface’s mission.  The great missionary bishop ordained St. Lullus to the priesthood.  Pope St. Zachary (reigned 741-752) consecrated the priest Bishop Coadjutor.  St. Lullus succeeded St. Boniface as Archbishop of Mainz in 754.

Pope St. Zachary had granted St. Sturmius complete autonomy.  Perhaps St. Lullus was not aware of this fact.  Anyhow, St. Lullus claimed jurisdiction over Fulda Monastery.  In 763, Pepin III (reigned 752-768), the Frankish king (and previously Mayor of the Palace) banished St. Sturmius from Fulda.  Yet the saint returned from exile after two years, reinstated in large part due to the protestations of monks there.  The king also declared the monastery independent, affirming Pope St. Zachary’s decision.

St. Sturmius, the first German to become a Benedictine, was the Apostle to the Saxons, a people whom he had great difficulty evangelizing due to the ill treatment they had received from Pepin III then Charlemagne (reigned 768-814).  But at least St. Sturmius tried.

St. Lullus retired as Archbishop of Mainz in 786, returned to Hersfeld Monastery, and died there.

These were remarkable saints devoted their lives to God.  Most of them left their homes and traveled far away.  They took great risks for Jesus and helped to preserve civilization.  That was meritorious.  May we thank God that they lived.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 1, 2012 COMMON ERA

PALM SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SYRAGIUS OF AUTUN AND ANACHARIUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS, AND VALERY OF LEUCONE AND EUSTACE OF LUXEUIT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK DENISON MAURICE, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST  OF SAINTS SIDONIUS APOLLINARIS, EUSTACE OF LYON, AND HIS DESCENDANTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

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Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit  you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth:

Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer,

and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy.

We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit,

and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Eccleasiasticus) 2:7-11

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 25:1-13

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 726

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