Missionary Saints – St. Ansgar

Missionaries are like gardeners. They till the soil, plant the bulb, and then wait through the long cold winter with hope. Some of their bulbs may bloom and others won’t. Good gardeners are not easily frustrated. They don’t give up.

Saint Ansgar, who is known as the “apostle of the north” shares his feast day of February 3 with Saint Blaise. So even on his feast day, Saint Ansgar is not often the “winner” as many parishes celebrate the feast of Saint Blaise with the blessing of throats.

Saint Ansgar (801-865) was a Benedictine missionary who was undeterred in his efforts to convert northern Europe. First as a priest and then as Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen Saint Ansgar tried and tried to plant the faith of Jesus Christ in the Scandinavian region. However it would be nearly two centuries before Christianity would blossom in Sweden and Denmark.

Saint Ansgar is revered not for his success but for his faithfulness. He was devoted to the poor and sick, often washing their feet in imitation of Jesus. He was an extraordinary preacher, truly wedded to the Word of God. Perhaps most importantly, he lived a humble, holy life, even adopting ascetical practices that gave witness to the truth that the grace of God is enough.

May Saint Ansgar inspire us to courageously continue our missionary task of bringing others into friendship with Christ through the Church. We may not enjoy the visible flowering of our efforts, but let us not be discouraged. Let’s keep tilling the soil and planting. And at the same time let us also cultivate a holy life so that the seed of Divine life God planted in our own hearts is watered through the practice of virtue and reception of the sacraments. May God’s love, joy and tender mercy flower in our hearts regardless of success or failure in the mission field.

Saint Ansgar, pray for us.