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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
February 15, 2002 Issue

He wanted to do well, but just didn't fit in

This St. Boniface resigned from being a bishop

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

St. Boniface of Lausanne

When: (c. 1205-1260)

Where: Belgium, France and Germany

What: Teacher and bishop

Feast: Feb. 19

Canonized saints are persons who led good, virtuous and holy lives and have been judged as doing so by an official church body. They also must have two miracles attributed to their intercession before the pope infallibly rules that they are in heaven and worthy of honor and imitation by the faithful.

At least those are the standards in effect now. At earlier times in church history, different customs and rules prevailed on how someone was recognized as a saint. Regardless of the procedures, the need for a virtuous and holy life was a constant.

But standards of holiness vary. Thus, St. Jerome, the great Bible translator, was known for his bad temper. St. Vincent de Paul also was not known for how easily he got along with others.

Other saints, like the Old Testament prophets, were known for how they challenged the practices of the time. It's easy, decades or centuries later, to look back and admire such saints, but it would be much more difficult to view them that way if they were our contemporaries and we were among those whose lives or beliefs were being challenged.

That bring us to St. Boniface of Lausanne (not the more famous Apostle of Germany whose feast we celebrate June 5).

Boniface, a native of Belgium, studied at Paris where, for seven years, he was a popular lecturer. He left there for the cathedral school in Cologne after students in Paris became embroiled in a dispute with their teachers and began boycotting classes.

Two years later, in 1230, Boniface was elected Bishop of Lausanne. Boniface eagerly accepted his new position and devoted all his energies to the spiritual leadership of the church.

But throughout his tenure as bishop, he was caught up in disputes, particularly when he criticized and denounced the clergy from the pulpit for abuses.

Next, he angered Emperor Frederick II. It's one thing to upset the clergy and another to upset the emperor. In 1239, Boniface learned that when he was attacked and wounded by Frederick's men.

Boniface decided he was not bishop material and asked Pope Gregory IX for permission to resign. The pope agreed.

Next, he returned to his native Belgium and began living at the Cistercian convent at La Cambre. Although he stayed there for the rest of his life and wore the habit of the order, he apparently never became a Cistercian.

Boniface was canonized in 1702. His life reminds us that eventually the truth will prevail, though it may take centuries.

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

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