The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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December 14, 2001 Issue
Saint of the Day

Sometimes a name just sticks

Sturm wasn't very successful at converting Saxons,
but is still called their apostle

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Sometimes the way the church works seems contrary to our way of thinking. Consider for example, St. Sturm (or Sturmi), who is known as the "Apostle of the Saxons."

A title like that would lead most to believe that he converted thousands of Saxons to Christianity. In truth, he had little success, for reasons that were probably beyond his control. But the title sticks.

St. Sturm was born in 8th century Bavaria to Christian parents. They placed him under the care of St. Boniface, who sent him to the newly established Fritzlar Abbey, where he was educated by St. Wigbert, an English missionary.

After Sturm's ordination, Boniface sent him to work for three years as a missionary in Westphalia -- a region in western Germany bordering the Netherlands -- in preparation for evangelizing the Saxons. He then was a hermit at Hersfeld, until raiding Saxons drove him from his unprotected hermitage.

Boniface then instructed Sturm to start a monastery in Central Germany at Fulda, which became a seminary and model monastery for all Germany.

In 744, Boniface named Sturm abbot at Fulda. Four years later, he and two other monks left for Italy so they could study the Benedictine life and establish it at Fulda. They spent a year at Monte Cassino -- St. Benedict's abbey -- and other Benedictine abbeys learning how the monks lived.

Before returning to Fulda, Sturm met with Pope St. Zachary, who placed the monastery under the jurisdiction of the Vatican, rather than under the bishop.

Under Sturm's leadership, the monastery thrived. But after Boniface was martyred in 754, Sturm became involved in a long feud with St. Lull, the new Bishop of Mainz, who insisted that Fulda was under his jurisdiction.

In 763, Lull convinced King Pepin to banish Sturm from Fulda. Lull named a new abbot, whom the monks refused to accept. Eventually, Lull allowed them to elect their own abbot and within two years they convinced Pepin to allow Sturm to return to Fulda.

Sturm's attempts to convert the Saxons proved largely fruitless, mainly because of the 30-year war waged against them first by Pepin and then, after his death in 768, by his son, Charlemagne, and the harsh treatment they received after their conquest.

When Charlemagne left the area to battle the Moors in Spain, the Saxons revolted and drove out the monks. Charlemagne returned in 779 and, with Sturm accompanying him, subdued the Saxons again.

Soon after, Sturm became ill. He died in 779 on Dec. 17, the day on which we celebrate his feast. Sturm -- the first German Benedictine -- was canonized in 1139.

St. Sturm's life invites us to consider how often we could learn from our own failures and go on to succeed.

(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints and Voices of the Saints.)

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