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J.D. Long GarcíaMay 31, 2024
Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine, Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Robby McCullough, courtesy of Unsplash.

A Reflection for the Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr

Find today’s readings here.

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim 1:7)

Imagine being a bishop preparing candidates for confirmation and then getting killed in the process. That’s what happened to St. Boniface. The bishop, known as the apostle of Germany, died with more than 50 others in a massacre on June 5, 754. The church remembers his life today.

St. Boniface, an English Benedictine monk, became a missionary bishop who shared the Christian faith in foreign lands and attempted to reform the church. Paul’s words to Timothy in today’s first reading are exemplified in the life and legacy of St. Boniface, whose name means “good fate.”

“So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake,” Paul writes, “but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.”

It’s not exactly our “marketing,” but there’s something so odd about Christianity. I’m just saying, when I walk through Target and vendors try to get me to change my cellphone plan, they tell me the benefits. Jesus, on the other hand, tells us to take up our cross and follow him. It’s not easy to see the benefits right away. Paul tells Timothy to bear his share of hardships. St. Boniface, after decades of serving the Lord, is tortured and dies a painful death.

“O.K. Well, wow. Lord, thanks for the offer to take up my cross. Can I think about it and get back to you?”

This comes up a lot for me, frankly. Often things don’t go my way and I find myself muttering, “Ah, God? Hello? You want to use some of your all-powerfulness and take care of this for me?” O.K., sometimes my hardships seem really tough—but needless to say, it’s not torture and death. (And mostly the troubles do not come about because I’m sharing the Gospel.)

From the earliest days of the church, we have celebrated our martyrs. St. Perpetua and St. Felicity come to mind, as well as Tertullian’s description of the blood of martyrs as the seed of the church. Or more recently, the example of Blessed Miguel Pro.

Words fail to describe the sweetness of martyrdom these saints seemed to have experienced. Whatever difficulties I’ve faced fail to compare to their sacrifice. But within my life, I’ve come to think of the heartache and anguish this way: God can, but does not always, relieve me of my pain. But if I ask for help, God always gives me the strength to endure whatever suffering or hardship comes my way. That is my “good fate.” And that’s enough for me.

More: Scripture

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