Today is the feast of St. Boniface who was not beloved by the Irish people. Starting with the year 430, let me explain why they did not like him. 430 was the year St. Augustine died in north Africa, and it was also the year St. Patrick returned to Ireland as its first bishop. That year of 430 marked the beginning of the Dark Ages when education and international communication came to a standstill.
Moving forward a hundred and seventy years to 600, Pope St Gregory the Great, who had been a Benedictine monk, sent another Benedictine monk to Southern England, renaming him Augustine, and appointing him the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
Meanwhile, under Patrick and his successors the church in Ireland had become very healthy. Its St. Columkille, from his monastery on the island of Iona, sent out priests who made most of northern England Christian.
However, the Irish church, left on its own, separated from Rome for two hundred years, had developed some customs of its own. While Augustin of Canterbury was celebrating Easter, Columbkille’s Catholics in the north were still back at their Palm Sunday.
The differences between the church of northern England and southern England grew and grew; then in the year 673 each faction saw the birth of a champion. In the north it was Venerable Bede , who wrote a history of Irish Catholicism. In the south it was the Benedictine monk Wynfrith.
Wynfrith, true to Rome’s way of doing things, shut down Irish monasteries, and then he went to the Continent where he suppressed other institutions he considered renegade. For that, in the year 730, the pope made Wynfrih an archbishop, changing his name to Boniface.
When I was ordained a priest in 1952 I went around visiting the old Irish Catholics in St. Louis, and they were all facing the same heartbreak. They had been parishioners of St. Columbkille’s where my mother went to school, but a new German archbishop was closing down St. Columkille’s, making them parishioners of St. Boniface’s.