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A letter from Boniface (732-54)



Translated letter: 

To his venerable and much beloved sister, Bugga, Boniface called also Winfred sends heartfelt greetings in the love of Christ.
Since we have so long been separated, beloved sister, through the fear of Christ and my love of wandering, by a wide space of land and sea, I have learned from many reports of the storms of troubles which with God's permission have befallen you in your old age. I have deeply regretted that after you had thrown off the pressing cares of monastic rule in your desire for a life of contemplation, still more insistent and more weighty troubles have come upon you.
And so now, my revered sister, in sympathy with your misfortunes and mindful of your kindnesses to me and of our ancient friendship, I am sending you a brotherly letter of comfort and exhortation. Remember that word of the Truth: "Possess your souls in patience," and the saying of Solomon the Wise, "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth and every son in whom he delighteth." Also the word of the Psalmist, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all"; and elsewhere, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." And remember the saying of the Apostle: "Through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God." And again: "Let us rejoice in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, probation; and probation, hope; and hope putteth not to shame."
In that hope, beloved sister, rejoice and be glad always, for you shall not be put to shame. Scorn earthly trials with your whole soul; for all soldiers of Christ of either sex have despised temporal troubles and tempests and have held the frailties of this world as naught — witness the word of St. Paul: "When I am weak, then am I strong." And again: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation?" and so forth to "him that loved us." The same Father and lover of your virgin purity who called you to Himself with the voice of fatherly love in your early youth, saying in the words of the Prophet: "Hearken, O daughter, and consider and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father's house; for the king has desired thy beauty," He it is who now, in your old age desires to adorn the beauty of your soul with labor and sorrow.
Do you then, beloved, rejoicing in the hope of a heavenly fatherland, hold the shield of faith and patience against all adversity of mind or body. With the help of your bridegroom Christ carry through in your beautiful old age to the glory of God the building of that Gospel tower begun in your early youth, so that at the coming of Christ you may be found worthy to meet Him among the wise virgins, bearing a lamp with the oil burning.
Meanwhile I pray earnestly that you will remember your ancient promise to pray for me that the Lord, who is the Redeemer and Savior of us all, may rescue my soul from its manifold perils to my spiritual advantage.
Farewell in Christ.

Original letter: 

Venerande ac dilectissime sorori Buggan Bonifatius, qui et Wynfrethus, servus servorum Dei optabilem in Christo caritatis salutem.
0 soror karissima, postquam nos timor Christi et amor peregrinationis longa et lata terrarum ac maris intercapidine separavit, multorum relatu audivi tempestates tribulationum, quae tibi in senectute Deo permittente supervenerunt. Merore contristatus ingemui, reputans, quia, postquam quietem contemplativae vitae quaerendo maiores monasteriorum sollicitudines abiecisti, frequentiores et validiores tribulationes occurrerunt.
Nune autem, soror veneranda, tribulationibus tuis conpatiens, fraternas et hortatorias et consolatorias, beneficiorum tuorum et antiquarum amicitiarum memor, litteras ad te transmitto; rogans, ut mente non excedat sententia veritatis, qua dixit: "In patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestras"; et verbum sapientissimi Salomonis: "Quem diligit Deus, corripit omnem filium, quem recipit"; et psalmigraphi sententia: "Multae tribulationes iustorum, et de his omnibus liberavit eos Dominus"; et alibi: "Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus; cor contritum et humiliatum Deus non spernit." Et recordare apostolicae sententiae, qua dixit: "Per multas tribulationes oportet nos intrare in regnum Dei"; et alibi: "Gloriamur in tribulationibus, scientes, quod tribulatio patientiam operatur, patientia autem probationem, probatio vero spem; spes autem non confundit." De ista spe, soror karissima, semper gaude et laetare, quia non confunderis; et tribulationes mundanas toto mentis adnisu contemne, quia omnes milites Christi utriusque sexus tempestates et tribulationes infirmitatesque huius saeculi despexerunt pro nihiloque duxerunt, sancto Paulo attestante, qui ait: "Quando infirmor, tunc potens sum"; et alibi: "Quis nos separabit a caritate Christi? tribulatio?" et reliqua usque "qui nos dilexit." Qui pater et amator castae virginitatis tuae, qui te primevo tempore iuventutis tuae, paterne dilectionis voce ad se invitans, filiam vocavit, dicendo per prophetam: "Audi, filia, et vide et inclina aurem tuam et obliviscere populum tuum et domum patris tui; quia concupivit rex speciem tuam," ipse est, qui modo in senectute tua laboribus et tribulationibus speciem et pulchritudinem animae tuae decorare et adornare desiderat. Tu autem, karissima, de futura hereditate patriae caelestis in spe gaudens, contra omnes adversitates sive cordis sive corporis scutum fidei et patientiae obpone; ut et, Christo sponso cooperante, turris evangelicae aedificium, quod in bona iuventute caepisti, in senectute bella ad gloriam Dei perficias, ut, Christo veniente, cum sapientibus virginibus lampadem cum oleo fulgentem in obviam portare merearis. Interea intimis obsecro precibus, ut, memor promissionis antique, pro me orare digneris, ut Dominus, qui est redemptor noster et salus omnium, de istis multifariis periculis animam meam eripiat in fructu spiritali.
Vale in Christo.

Historical context: 

Bugga has resigned her abbacy but still has unspecified problems to deal with. Boniface offers spiritual consolation for her "beautiful old age" (senectute bella) and asks for her prayers.

Printed source: 

MGH, Epistolae Merovingici et Karolini Aevi, 6, S.Bonifacii et Lulli Epistolae, ep.94; translation, Ephraim Emerton, The Letters of Saint Boniface (New York: Columbia University Press, 1940, repr.2000), pp.148-50. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.