St. Williborod, Bishop of Utrecht, Apostle to the Frisians (+November 7, 739)
Commemorated November 7
St. Willibrord’s father, Wilgils or Hilgis, was a Sanon of Northumbria. Newly converted to Christianity, Wilgils entrusted his son to the Abbey of Ripon
St. Willibrord grew up under the influence of St. Wilfrid, Bishop of York. Later he joined the Benedictinesand spent the years between the ages of 20 and 32 in the Abbey of Rathmelsigi,in Ireland, which was a centre of European learning in the 7th century.
During this time he studied underSt. Egbert, who sent him and eleven companions to Christianise the pagan Frisians of the North Sea coast. St. Willibrord travelled to Rome twice, and he was not on the usual pilgrimage to the graves of the apostles Peter and Paul and the martyrs. “He made haste to Rome where Pope Sergius presided over the apostolical see, that he might undertake the desired work of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, with his license and blessing.” St. Willibrord came to the Pope specifically as a missionary. The second time he went to Rome in November 695, Pope Sergius Igave him a palliumand consecrated him as bishop of the Frisians.He returned to Frisia to preach and establish churches, among them a monastery at Utrecht, where he built his cathedral. Willibrord is counted the first Bishop of Utrecht.
In 698, St. Willibrord established the Abbey of Echternachon the site of a Roman villa. In 716 the pagan king Radbod took possession of Frisia, burning churches and killing many missionaries. St. Willibrord and his monks were forced to flee. After the death of Radbod in 719, St. Willibrord returned to resume his work. He died at the age of 81 on November 7, 739.