June 5 – Constantine of Kiev; Boniface of Crediton

Constantine, Metropolitan of Kiev (d. 1159), was sent by Grand Prince Yuri to get the Seal of Approval™ from the Ecumenical Patriarch to become the Metropolitan of Kiev. It seems Yuri’s predecessor Izyaslav had forced the bishops of Russia to elect Schemamonk Clement as metropolitan without Constantinopolitan approval. (Not all the bishops acceded, bless their hearts.) Constantine returned carrying the patriarchal imprimatur, deposed Clement, and disordained Clement’s ordainees. (Unordained? De-ordained?) When Yuri went to the great Kremlin in the sky, bickering arose as to who was the rightful Metropolitan. The princes decided to reshuffle the deck and re-deal—they asked the Patriarch to depose both Constantine and Clement, and send them somebody new. The Patriarch agreed, and Theodore was made Metropolitan. Constantine quietly withdrew to Chernigov.

Constantine got the bishop to promise to carry out his will sight unseen (don’t try this at home), and when the will was read, the assembly was horrified—it specified that his body be dragged out of the city and left for the dogs to eat, as penance for the troubles he felt he had caused. The bishop felt constrained by his word, so the body was dumped in a field outside the city limits. Immediately there arose strong winds, earthquakes, thunder, lightning, and other elements of the pathetic fallacy. (Eight people were struck by lightning simultaneously, which ought to be in Guinness if it’s not.) At night, three pillars of fire appeared above the body. After three days of this, Prince Svyatoslav ordered that he be buried with fitting honors. The clouds parted, birds sang, the earthquakes stopped, and the people praised God.

Boniface of Crediton (680–755) (né Winfrid) decided at age 5 to become a monk. At 7 he started school in Exeter. At 14 he moved to the abbey school in Winchester, studied under Winbert, and was monkified. He eventually became director of the school, and wrote the first Latin grammar published in England. He was priested at 30, and went off (with Winbert’s grudging consent) to join a mission to Friesland. The mission failed due to the “ascendancy of the pagans.” What exactly that means is left as an exercise for the reader.

When Winbert died the monks tried to abbotify Winfred, but he escaped to Rome, where Pope (St.) Gregory II gave him the name Boniface and sent him to evangelize Hesse (the region in Bavaria, not Herman). When the local ruler Radbod (stop that) died, Boniface fell back to Friesland, but when Willibrord tried to make him his successor, he returned to Bavaria.

After a whirlwind trip to Rome to be bishopified, Boniface took an axe to the Oak of Thor, a sacred tree near Fritzlar. He then stood on the stump and said to the aghast pagans, “My God’s bigger than your god.” When nothing happened, many of the pagans realized their gods were powerless. We’re not told what the other ones thought. In another place, he found the locals playing a game involving throwing sticks to knock down other sticks (this was before lacrosse had been invented, and entertainment was thin). Boniface reinterpreted the game to signify purity of spirit knocking down demons. Our source doesn’t say if he changed the scoring rubrics.

Eventually he was made Metropolitan of trans-Rhine Germany. He created sees, founded monasteries, presided over synods, and even crowned a king. In his old age he heard that Christian Friesenlanders were deconverting, so he resigned his see and headed back. After he had enjoyed some success there, his camp was one day attacked by a hostile band (perhaps Megadeth). He was killed while reading a book, and for centuries the blood-stained book was displayed as a relic. He is called the “Apostle of Germany,” and is the patron saint of brewers, which seems wonderfully fitting.