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Saint Willibald

Saint Willibald was the first known Englishman to visit the Holy Land and supported Saint Boniface in his missionary efforts.

Saint Willibald was born in Wessex on October 21st, in the year 700 AD. His parents were both well known - his mother, Saint Wuna of Wessex was a sister of Saint Boniface and his father Saint Richard the Pilgrim was a local chieftain. When Saint Willibald turned three years old he fell ill from a terrible illness. His parents, believing Saint Willibald to be close to death from this illness, vowed in prayer to God that they would commit their son to a monastic life if only he would be spared. When he did live through the illness, his parents brought him to the Benedictine monastery at Waldheim and began an education under Abbot Egwald.

In 721, Saint Willibald joined his father and brother on an pilgrimage to Rome. Tragically, when the family reached Lucca in northern Italy, his father fell ill and died. The two brothers continued their journey and spent some time in Rome recovering and grieving their father. It was also at Rome, however, that the brothers fell ill from the Black Plague and both had a miraculous recovery from the illness. In 724, three years after setting out for Rome, the brothers and a small group of companions left Rome, visited Sicily and Greece before arriving in Asia Minor.

In Asia Minor, Saint Willibald visited the tomb of Saint John the Evangelist, Patara in Lycia, Mount Chelidonium and then departed for Cyprus. At Cyprus he met with a Greek Bishop and visited the Church of Saint John the Baptist. Not content with the extent of his travels, Saint Willibald and his companions then travelled to Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Egypt. On his returned trip he travelled to Cana, Capharnaum and Jerusalem. His journey continued through the Church of the Nativity, Thecua, Gaza, Hebron, Lydda, Joppa, and eventually to Tyre where he departed via boat to Constantinople. For two years he lived in Constantinople , staying in a small room in an annex of the Church of the Holy Apostles. He then left Constantinople and sailed for Naples, seven years after he originally had left Italy for the Holy Land.

At Naples, Saint Willibald joined the Benedictine community at Monte Cassino and he taught the monks there about his travels. In 738 Saint Boniface met with Pope Gregory III, and after receiving his missionary orders for Germany, asked that Saint Willibald be send with him. He did, and at Eichstatt on July 22nd, 741, Saint Boniface ordained Saint Willibald a Priest. A year later Saint Willibald was able to meet with his brother at Thuringia - it had been a full eight years since the two had been together. In 746 Saint Boniface consecrated Saint Willibald the Bishop of Eichstatt.

Saint Willibald died on June 6th, 787 AD, at Eichstatt. Pope Leo VII formally canonized him a Saint in 938 AD and his feast day continues to be celebrated on June 7th.

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