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April 17, 2014

St. Willibrord

Saint-Willibrord

Apostle of Frisia, Netherlands, a missionary archbishop. Born in Northumbria, England, circa 658, he studied at Ripon monastery under St. Wilfrid and spent twelve years studying in Ireland at the abbey of Rathmelsigi (most likely Mellifont, County Louth) under Sts. Egbert and Wigbert.

After receiving ordination and extensive training in the field of the missions, he set out about 690 with a dozen companions for Frisia, or Friesland. In 693, he went to Rome to seek papal approval for his labors, Pope Sergius I (r. 687-701) gave his full approbation and, during Willibrord’s second Roman visit, the pontiff consecrated him archbishop to the Frisians, in 696, with his see at Utrecht. In his work, Willibrord also received much support and encouragement from the Frankish leader; Pepin of Heristal (r. 687-714).

Willibrord founded the monastery of Echternach, Luxembourg, to serve as a center of missionary endeavors, and extended the efforts of missionaries into Denmark and Upper Friesland. He faced chronic dangers from outraged pagans, including one who nearly murdered him after he tore down a pagan idol. In 714, Duke Radbod reclaimed the extensive territories acquired by Pepin, and Willilbrord watched all of the progress he had made be virtually undone. After Radbod’s death, Willibrord started over with great enthusiasm, receiving invaluable assistance, from St. Boniface. Willibrord died on retreat at Echternach on November 7. For his efforts, he is called the Apostle of the Frisians.

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