Today, March 26, we remember Saint Ludgero, the great missionary of Europe in the Middle Ages. He is known as the great evangelizer of the Frisian (Netherlands) and Saxon (Germany) peoples; he was the founder of Werden Abbey and the first bishop of Münster, Westphalia (Germany). His life was characterized by the delivery and dedication put at the service of the proclamation of the Gospel among the European pagans of his time, and by the impetus he gave to the foundation of monasteries, churches and schools. He is venerated today in a special way in Holland, Denmark and Germany.
Ludgero – sometimes “Lüdiger” or “Liudger” – was born in Friesland around the year 745, into a noble family. He lived in the times of Charlemagne and the expansion of the Carolingian empire, produced between 772 and 804. Those were days in which Christianity was also in the process of expansion, especially in the regions belonging to the so-called “Germania Magna”, a province founded centuries before by Julius Caesar. This province was located between the Rhine and Elbe rivers. It is often said that the evangelization of those lands had two great impulses: the first, headed by Saint Boniface -the great evangelizer of Germany-; and the second, led by San Ludgero.
Our saint lived for a time in the British Isles with the aim of training, becoming a disciple of the famous theologian Alcuin of York. In 777 he was ordained a priest in Cologne (Germany) and then sent to his homeland Friesland as a missionary.
Missionary of Grace released
His work there was marked by a spirit of respect and freedom, unlike other evangelizing efforts of the time. Precisely for this reason, tradition suggests that Saint Ludgero was very successful, achieving the conversion of many people. Ludgero’s pastoral attitude was considered exemplary and a strong counterpoint to Charlemagne’s way of acting, who in his attempt to spread Christianity succumbed more than once to the use of force.
Some time later, he would make a trip to the Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino, located south of Rome, with the desire to get away from the conflict between the forces of Charlemagne and his main Saxon opponent, the warrior Widukind. There he would remain for a long period, until Charlemagne went to look for him personally to ask him to return to Friesland and continue preaching. The emperor also wanted Ludgero to assume the episcopate of Trier, whose see was vacant. With that in mind, he petitioned the Pope to make Ludgero a bishop. Unfortunately, the saint did not accept the proposal and returned to Friesland as a simple missionary. Back in his land, he erected a monastery on the territory where the city of Münster is located today, then belonging to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Cologne.
In 804 he was appointed bishop of Münster and five years later he died on March 26, 809. Today his remains rest in Werden, a place that has become a destination for hundreds of pilgrims and devotees. The Roman Martyrology points out that his apostolic work was very fruitful thanks to the fact that he knew how to reconcile preaching, prayer and action.