St Winebald

Abbot (entered heaven this day in 761)

Dear Telly,

How blessed you are to be able to gather with your family at Christmas!  It is a grace I must once again do without this year, but I gladly offer up the sacrifice of another solitary Christmas for the benefit of you and your brother and sister.  I earnestly hope that the authentic spirit of Christmas flows freely among all of you during these last days of Advent and throughout the entire Christmas season.  If you can imagine how much I would value time spent with everyone now that I have been away for so long and knowing that I probably will never return (at least, not alive), you will have an inkling of what I mean about the “authentic” Christmas spirit.  Outdo everyone in your patience, your service to all, your deep spiritual peace and faith-filled gratitude to God for the inestimable blessing of having sent us his own Son to be our companion, our light, and our Savior.

Saints grow in clumps, you know, like grapes, and I have often seen that kind of potential in your family.  Perhaps you all will follow the footsteps of the family to which today’s saint belonged. You remember the history.  St Winebald and his brother St Willibald left England on a pilgrimage to Rome with their father, St Richard. The father died on the way, and the two sons took up temporary residence in the Eternal City.  Willibald, the heartier of the two, eventually went on to the Holy Land, but Winebald spent seven years in Rome, studying and dedicating himself to the divine liturgies. Afterward he went back home and convinced several friends and relatives to return with him to Rome and start up a small religious community.  There St Boniface (the untiring apostle of Germany and also an Englishman) met him and was so struck by the young monk’s zeal and scholarship that he enlisted him and his companions to come and help with the missionary work among the Germans.

Winebald courageously took up the invitation and headed north, where he joined in Boniface’s successes and failures, dodging dangers from nature and the difficult Saxons.  Eventually, again at Boniface’s suggestion, he took up the daunting task of founding a double monastery (his sister, St Walburga, was in charge of the female half) to provide a reference point of holiness for the missionaries, the new converts, and the clergy.  It thrived under his leadership, but his ill health and weak constitution soon got the better of him, and he died in the arms of his brother and sister – what a scene it must have been, three sibling saints who were sired by saints gathered together as one of them was being called to the eternal home.  Merely the thought fills me with wonder. Miracles began to occur almost at once at the site of his burial.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to picture you and your brother and sister forging a similar trail through life, and it would hardly be too late – the eighth-century Saxons needed the gospel no less urgently than the twentieth-century globalians (that’s a new word, by the way, which signifies “citizens of a globalized world”).

Sincerely, your uncle, Eddy

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