From recluse to missionary
Corbinian faced bear, angry duchess to spread the faith
By Tony Staley
Where: France and Bavaria
Feast: Sept. 8
St. Boniface has the title "Apostle of Germany," but he was not the only one to preach there. One of his contemporaries was St. Corbinian, who did considerable evangelizing in Freising, Upper Bavaria.
That Corbinian found himself ministering in Bavaria is another example of the sort of surprises God has in store for us.
Corbinian was born in France, near Melun. He was named Waldegiso, in honor of his father, but his mother soon changed his name to Corbinian, after herself.
For about 14 years, he lived as a recluse in a cell he had built near a chapel. But his holiness, miracles attributed to him and his wise spiritual advice attracted others. Eventually, he supervised several men who formed a religious community under his direction. He apparently decided to return to solitary life and went to Rome hoping to melt quietly into the city.
But Pope St. Gregory II had other ideas. He sent Corbinian, who may already have been a bishop, to Bavaria to preach the Gospel (Gregory also sent Boniface to Germany).
Corbinian quickly became friends with Duke Grimoald, who provided him with protection. Corbinian began converting people to Christianity from his base at Freising, which did not become a diocese until Boniface made it one in 739.
After Corbinian learned Grimoald had broken a church rule by marrying his brother's widow, Biltrudis, Corbinian demanded that the two separate. He also refused to have any dealings with the duke until that happened.
That angered Biltrudis, who started a war of words against Corbinian, labeling him a foreign interloper and a British bishop. Finally, she arranged to have him murdered.
Hearing of her plans, Corbinian fled to Meran, where he lived in semi-exile until Grimoald, who had rejoined Biltrudis, was killed in battle and Biltrudis captured by the Franks.
Grimoald's successor asked Corbinian to resume to his ministry as a missionary.
Corbinian was buried in Meran at Obermais monastery, which he founded. In 765, his second successor and biographer, Aribo, had his body moved in Freising.
His symbol is a bear because of a legend that when a bear killed his pack horse he made the animal take the horse's place.
As St. Corbinian reminds us, our goal is not to follow our plan, but make God's plan our plan.
(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints and Dictionary of Saints)