Willibrord set out with 11 disciples for the Netherlands. They became missionaries to the Frisians. On the way back from Denmark he was shipwrecked on Heligoland, an island controlled by Radbod. There he confronted pagan superstitions by slaughtering sacred animals and by loudly baptizing three people in a pool where absolute silence was required. To appease his god, an angry Radbod martyred one of Willibrord’s party. Then the king summoned Willibrord and upbraided him.
The king demanded to know why he had violated their sacred places and insulted their god. The herald of truth answered him with steady courage: “O king, you do not adore God but the devil. He has foully deluded you so that he can thrust your soul into everlasting fire. For there is no God but one. He created sky, earth, sea, and everything that is in them. Whoever worships him with true faith will have life forever. I urge you finally to renounce that foolish delusion of your ancestors, and to believe in the one Almighty God and Our Lord Jesus Christ. I call on you to be baptized in the font of life and wash away all your sins. Then with all wickedness and wrongdoing cast away from you, you may live as a new man in all reasonableness, righteousness and holiness. If you do this you will win an eternal life of glory with God and his saints. But if instead you reject the path of salvation, then be most assured that you will suffer eternal tortures and hellish flames along with the devil to whom you pay court.”
Astounded, the king replied: “I see that you truly had no fear of our threats, and that your words match your deeds.” Although he refused to believe in the truth that Willibrord preached, still he respectfully sent him back to Pepin.
In 715, Radbod regained Lower Frisia and temporarily undid much of Willibrord’s work. However, after the king’s death in 719, Willibrord with the aid of Boniface repaired the damage. In his remaining years he planted the church there so firmly that he earned the title “Apostle of the Frisians.” Willibrord died in 739 on retreat at Echternach, Luxembourg, a monastery that he had founded.
from Voices of the Saints, by Bert Ghezzi
Image credit: Saint Willibrord with the Dom Tower of Utrecht in His Right Hand by Abraham Bloemaert, 1700. Public Domain via Wikimedia.