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November 7, 2012

Feast of St. Willibrord

November 7th, the universal church celebrates the Feast of St. Willibrord, the Apostle to the Low Lands. Around the world, Old Catholics and Anglicans celebrate this Feast as the founding of the Church of Utrecht, center of Old Catholicism. 

History of St. Willibrord

In about 678 Willibrord, a 20-year-old monk, left his Yorkshire monastery at Ripon and moved to Ireland. Inspired by the great tradition of Irish missionaries, he set out in 690 for the northwest coast of continental Europe. The region of Frisia, or Friesland, was still pagan but had recently been conquered by Pepin, the founder of the Carolingian dynasty. 
Willibrord brought with him eleven companions (more modest in its apostolic implication than the twelve companions of the earlier Celtic tradition). After destroying idols, Willibrord and his companions were thrown into jail and their lives were gambled for with the pulling of lots. Only one of the companions was given the martyr's crown. When Willibrord was faced with the pagan King Radbod, he answered his questions so boldly, that the king did not kill Willibrord but returned him to Pepin with great honors. 
The missionaries rapidly established a foothold in the region. With Pepin's support, Willibrord was in a position by 695 to be consecrated archbishop of a new see in Utrecht.
Willibrord also founded a great monastery at Echternach, where he died in 739. 

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