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A letter from Boniface (before 738)



Translated letter: 

To the beloved lady, Abbess Bugga, sister and dearest of all women in Christ, Boniface, a humble and unworthy bishop, wishes eternal salvation in Christ.
I desire you to know, dearest sister, that in the matter about which you wrote asking advice of me, unworthy though I am, I dare neither forbid your pilgrimage on my own responsibility nor rashly persuade you to it. I will only say how the matter appears to me. If, for the sake of rest and divine contemplation, you have laid aside the care for the servants and maids of God and for the monastic life which you once had, how could you now subject yourself with labor and wearing anxiety to the words and wishes of men of this world? It would seem to me better, if you can in no wise have freedom and a quiet mind at home on account of worldly men, that you should obtain freedom of contemplation by means of a pilgrimage, if you so desire and are able, as our sister Wiethburga did. She has written me that she has found at the shrine of St. Peter the kind of quiet life which she had long sought in vain. With regard to your wishes, she sent me word, since I had written to her about you, that you would do better to wait until the rebellious assaults and threats of the Saracens who have recently appeared about Rome should have subsided. God willing, she will then send you an invitation. To me also this seems the best plan. Make ready what you will need for the journey, wait for word from her, and then act as God's grace shall command.
In regard to the writings which you have requested of me, you must excuse my remissness, for I have been prevented by pressure of work and by my continual travels from completing the book you ask for. When I have finished it, I shall see that it is sent to you.
In return for the gifts and garments you have sent me, I offer my grateful prayers to God that he may give you a reward with the angels and the archangels in the highest heavens. I exhort you, then, in God's name, my very dear sister — nay mother and most sweet lady — to pray earnestly for me, since for my sins I am wearied with many sorrows and am far more disturbed by anxiety of mind than by the labor of my body. May you rest assured that the long-tried friendship between us shall never be found wanting.
Farewell in Christ.

Original letter: 

Dominae dilectissimae et in amore Christi omnibus ceteris femini sexus preferendae sorori Buggan abbatissae Bonifacius exiguus, indignus episcopus, aeternam in Christo salutem.
Notum sit tibi, soror carissima, de illo consilio, quo me indignum per litteras interrogasti, quod ego tibi iter peregrinum nec interdicere per me nec audenter suadere presumo. Sed, quod visum est, dicam. Si enim sollicitudinem, quam erga servos, Dei et ancillas et monasterialem vitam habuisti, propter adquirendam quietem et contemplationem Dei dimisisti, quomodo debes nunc saecularium hominum verbis et voluntatibus servire cum labore et tediosa sollicitudine? Melius enim mihi videtur, si propter saeculares in patria libertatem quiete mentis habere nullatenus possis, ut per peregrinationem libertatem contemplationis, si volueris et possis, adquiras; quem ad modum soror nostra Wiethburga faciebat. Quae mihi per suas litteras intimavit, quod talem vitae quietem invenisset iuxta limina sancti Petri, qualem longum tempus desiderando quaesivit. De isto autem tuo desiderio illa mihi mandavit — quia de te ad illam scripsi — ut expectes, donec rebelliones et temptationes et minae Sarracenorum, quae apud Romanos nuper emerserunt, conquieverint, et quoad usque illa, Deo volente, suas litteras invitatorias ad te dirigat. Et hoc mihi optimum videtur esse. Et prepares tibi necessaria itineris et sustineas verbum eius et postea, quod pietas Domini iusserit, facias.
De conscriptione autem sententiarum, de qua rogasti, peccatis meis indulgere habes, quia propter instantes labores et itinera continua adhuc perfecte conscriptum, quod rogasti, non habeam; sed, cum inplevero, ad presentiam dilectionis tuae transmittere curabo.
De muneribus namque et vestimentis, quae misisti, gratias agentes, Deum omnipotentem rogamus, ut tibi premium remunerationis aeternae cum angelis et archangelis in alto caelorum culmine reponet. Obsecro igitur per Deum sororem carissimam, immo matrem ac dominam dulcissimam, ut adsidue pro me orare dignetur, quia pro peccatis meis multis tribulationibus fatigor et multo maiore mentis tribulatione et sollicitudine quam corporis labore conturbor. Fidem antiquam inter numquam deficere scias. Vale in Christo.

Historical context: 

Bugga had asked Boniface's advice about going on a pilgrimage, something her mother had also asked him about (ep.14). Though he refuses to tell her what to do, he does encourage her to seek peace in Rome from her problems with laymen at home. The number of women from England who made pilgrimages to Rome and in this period, some of whom were seduced along the way, would eventually lead him to speak against the practice (ep.70). Boniface apologizes that he has not finished the book Bugga asked for, thanks her for her gifts and asks her prayers.

Printed source: 

MGH, Epistolae Merovingici et Karolini Aevi, 6, S.Bonifacii et Lulli Epistolae, ep.27; translation, Ephraim Emerton, The Letters of Saint Boniface (New York: Columbia University Press, 1940, repr.2000), pp.34-5. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.


before 738