Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Burchard, Bishop

detail of a photograph of a statute of Saint Burkhard of Wurzburg on the Old Main Bridge, Wurzburg, Germany; taken on 14 December 2009 by Str1977; swiped off WikipediaArticle

Burchard, first Bishop of Wurzburg, was born in England, of noble and very pious parents. The signs of his future holiness were already perceptible in early childhood. Nothing of what generally delights children gave him any pleasure. Praying and visiting the churches were his only joy. When he was old enough to study, it was observed that he was unwearied in his industry to acquire all that knowledge which in time might serve him to labor for the honor of God and the salvation of souls. Not less was he solicitous to preserve his purity of body and soul among the many dangers which he could not avoid. He had not the least desire to obtain temporal honors or possessions; all his thoughts being directed to one end – to serve God and to further His honor. For this reason he left his home when he had completed his studies, and went, unknown, as a pilgrim, to France.

Saint Boniface, the great apostle of Germany, was at that period looking for some men, well armed with virtue and knowledge, to assist him in laboring in the vineyard of the Lord; as he alone was unable to convert the heathen in Germany, and preserve the newly converted in the true faith. Burchard, when informed of this, went immediately to the Saint, and humbly requested to be received among the number of his spiritual laborers, as he desired nothing more earnestly than to have an opportunity to work for the salvation of souls. Saint Boniface received Burchard with joy, and having become acquainted with his great virtues and learning, he made him his travelling companion when he went to Rome to Pope Zachary, with whom he had to arrange important affairs for the continuation of his apostolic work in Germany. The Pope, at the request of Saint Boniface, consecrated Burchard bishop, and ordered him to make Wurzburg his see. Although Burchard refused to accept so high a dignity, and protested, on his knees and with a flood of tears, that he was unworthy of it, he was at last forced to obey Divine Providence. Having returned to Germany with Saint Boniface, he was introduced to the inhabitants of Wurzburg as their bishop. The newly converted received him with joy, and Burchard administered the affairs of the church entrusted to him with apostolic zeal. To the heathens, who were still there, he represented the truth of the Christian faith so forcibly that they soon abandoned idolatry and joined the faithful. He carefully instructed the converts how to order their lives in accordance with the Christian faith, and how to avoid sin, as otherwise the true faith would not lead them to salvation, but increase their responsibilities and punishment He prayed daily to the Almighty, as the Author of the true faith, to give him strength to attain the end and aim of all his endeavors. His blameless life gave great power to his words, and God blessed his labor. He was very severe towards himself, and chastised his body by fasting and other penances; but towards the poor and forsaken he always manifested great compassion and charity. All were received by him with kindness and gentleness, which failed not to win all hearts. The slanders of some ill-disposed persons he did not regard, but consoled himself with his good conscience. He hated all pride and magnificence. Hence he did not use a crozier glittering with gold and silver, but a reed from an alder-bush, which, after his death, was laid in the coffin beside his holy body, as a proof of his humility. But the more the holy bishop humbled himself, the greater became his influence, which gave him many opportunities for disseminating the Christian faith. During the second year of his episcopate he conceived the idea of taking up the bodies of Saint Kilian and his companions, and placing them in a splendid tomb. After having prepared himself by prayer and fasting, he went, with all the clergy and a multitude of people, to the place where it was believed that the holy relics were reposing. There he took a shovel and began to remove the earth which covered them; others followed his example, and they continued the work until the bodies were found. The whole air was pervaded by a sweet odor when the coffins were opened, and God honored the saints still more by many miracles which were wrought on the sick. From that hour the faithful began to venerate Saint Kilian and his companions, who had shed their blood for the true faith. Saint Burchard continued to discharge his functions with untiring vigilance, until, after forty years, he felt that death was no longer far away. He therefore requested permission to retire from his see, and spend the few remaining days of his life in preparing himself, in a quiet retreat, for a happy end. Having received this permission, he called the people together in the church, exhorted them to perseverance in their faith, blessed them, and then went, with six religious, to the village of Hohenburg, where he remained until God called him, in 790, or, as others say, in 791, to a better life. His holy body was conveyed to Wurzburg, and God made His faithful servant known throughout the whole Christian world by many miracles.

Practical Considerations

• Saint Burchard was not content with converting the heathen to the true faith, but he taught them also how to live in accordance with its doctrines, as otherwise their faith would not save them. You are, by the grace of God, in the true faith, if you are really a Catholic. This, however, does not insure your salvation. You must live according to the rules of the true faith, obey the commandments, avoid all sin, and constantly practise good works. I say, avoid all sin. There are persons who, refraining from some sin, or observing some of the commandments, promise themselves salvation, although they are the slaves of some vice, or transgress wantonly some of the commandments. This is a great error. It is a deceit of Satan. Christ has emphatically told His disciples, that they must observe all the commandments. (Matthhew 8) “All,” said He, not merely this and that. Hence, we are obliged to avoid all sin. Saint Mark relates of King Herod, that he observed a great part of what John had preached; (Mark 6) but this was not enough for his salvation; he ought to have kept all the commandments; he ought to have avoided all vices. Not having done this, everything else that he did could not open the gate of heaven for him. Unchastity alone was enough to condemn him. “The devil does not care that you lock the door to all other sins, so long as you allow a single sin to enter,” says Saint Gregory. In like manner writes Saint James of Nisibis: “It does not grieve the devil that you keep nine commandments of the Lord, so long as you break the tenth;” just as the enemy who besieges a city is not much distressed that all other places are well fortified, so long as one place is not fortified and without guards. Examine yourself whether you have not until now been in a similar condition, and take measures to reform in time.

• The holy bishop heeded not the slanders of his enemies, but consoled himself with his good conscience. You are immoderately sad or indignant when you hear that evil is spoken of you, or when you are reproached with vices. What avails your sadness or indignation? Of what use to you are the invectives, the blasphemies, the curses which you utter? You lose all the merit which otherwise you might gain, and besides this, you become guilty of great sin. If you are reproached with faults which are true, correct them; if not true, console yourself with your good conscience. Saint Gregory says: “What does it avail when men praise us and our own conscience accuses us? Or how can we be sad when everybody accuses us, and our own conscience acquits us? If we have a witness in heaven and another in our own heart, let the fools say what they like.” Saint Augustine says: “Think of Augustine as you please; say of him, judge him as you like; if only my own conscience accuses me not.” A modest defense of your honor is not forbidden you; but cursing these who speak evil of you, abusing them, bearing enmity towards them, desiring to take revenge, these are most assuredly forbidden to you. Experience shows, also, that generally more good is done by patient silence, than by much opposition. “A malignant person,” says Saint Chrysostom, “is more easily conquered when you are silent, than when you answer much. Wickedness only increases when one talks and defends himself too much.” Hence, suffer and be silent. Offer the wrong done to you to the Almighty; and this will be more useful to you, and more meritorious than murmurs, complaints or abuse.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Burchard, Bishop”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 May 2018. Web. 24 September 2018. <>