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July 7

Saint Willibald

Saint Willibald of Eichstätt

Bishop

(700 – 781)

“They had caught the black plague. So great a hold had it got on them, that, scarcely able to move, worn out with fever and almost at the point of death, the breath of life had practically left their bodies. But God in His never failing providence and fatherly love deigned to listen to their prayers and come to their aid, so that each of them rested in turn for one week whilst they attended to each other’s needs.

Saint Hunebrec recounting the disease and miraculous recovery of the brothers Saints Willibald and Winebald

Saint’s Life Story

Birth and Near Death as an Infant

Willibald was born in Essex, England on October 21, 700. He was born a prince to his father, Saint Richard the King. His brother Winnebald of Heidenhelm and sister Walburga were also both saints. His uncle from his mother was St. Boniface. He nearly died as an infant, leading his parents to pray for his life, vowing  that that he would be dedicated to God if he survived.

First English man to travel to the Holy Land

Willibald entered the Abbey of Waltham in Hampshire, England at the age of five and was educated by Egwald, a Benedictine monk. He went on a pilgrimage to Rome, Italy in 722 with his father, who died unexpectedly after developing a fever in Lucca, Tuscany, Italy. Willibald suffered from malaria while he was there. Willibald continued onto Rome in 724 and then reached Jerusalem in 725.  Willibald is known as the first English man to travel to the Holy Land and the book of his travels, Hodoeporicon, (written by St Hunebrec), is the first known English travelogue.

Captured and Released

Willibald was captured by the Saracens at Emessa, who thought he was a spy. However, he was eventually released and continued onto many other holy places. Then his travels took him to Constantinope (modern day Istanbul, Turkey), where he visited numerous lauras (monasteries).  As Willibald was returning to Italy, he went to Monte Cassino, where he stayed for 10 years helping Saint Petronax restore the monastery. There he served as sacrist, dean, and porter.

Bishop of Eichstatt, Germany

On a visit to Rome, Italy he met Pope St Gregory III, who sent Willibald to Germany to assist his cousin St. Boniface on his important missionary evangelism endeavors. Willibald was ordained by St Boniface on October 21, 741. Soon St. Boniface appointed him as Bishop of Eichstatt, Franconia (modern day Germany). With his brother Winnebald in 752, he founded a double monastery at Heidenheim where Willibald named Winnebald as abbot and his sister Walburga abbess. Willibad served as bishop for 40 years.

Beatified:           Pre-Congregation

Canonized:        Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:          July 7

Patron Saint:    Diocese and City of Eichstätt, Germany  

Reflection

While Saint Willibald was the first Englishman to travel to Holy Lands visiting many of the same places that Jesus lived his life, he put all his travels aside and became a missionary later in life when requested by Pope Gregory VII. Saint Willibald founded a double monastery with his brother, Winnebald,  his sister, Saint Walburga, in Eichstatt, Germany. May we be open to whatever the Lord asks of us as we grow older. May we know that Jesus will always give us the grace, wisdom, and strength to do his will at any age.

Prayers

St. Willibald of Eichstatt, you went to the foreign lands of Franconia (Germany) as a missionary to evangelize. We may not be able to go to foreign lands as a missionary. However, all of us can evangelize to others the glories of God through the example of our lives every day, no matter where you are living.

St Willibald of Eichstatt, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Anastpaul – Saint Willibald of Eichstätt

Catholic Online – Saint Willibald of Eichstätt

Catholic Readings – Saint Willibald of Eichstätt: Saint of the Day

CatholicSaints.info – Saint Willibald of Eichstätt

CatholicSaints.info  – The Itinerary of Saint Willibald, by Father Thomas Meyrick, SJ

New Advent – Saint Willibald of Eichstätt

Wikipedia