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Light In The Dark Places by Augustus Neander


AMONGST the most active of the scholars of Boniface, besides Abbot Gregory, may be mentioned Sturm, a man of a noble Bavarian family, who was early given up by his parents to Boniface to be educated. After having assisted Boniface, during three years, in the office of a preacher, the idea, seized him of founding a convent in one of those enormous wildernesses which then covered Germany, and which were only to be reclaimed by the civilizing influence of Christianity. As Boniface looked on monasteries as an especial instrument of civilization both for the people and the country, he was quite content with this project. He gave Sturm two travelling companions, and when he had prayed for them and given them his blessing, he said: |Go into the beech forest (Buchoma, the forest which then covered Hesse) -- God can prepare his servants a place in the desert.| Two days they journeyed through the wilderness, and saw nothing but heaven and earth, and gigantic trees. On the third day, they came to a place, which seemed to them calculated for building, (then Hersfeld, Heroldesfeld, now Hirschfeld.) After calling on Christ to give his blessing, that this place might become a dwelling for them, they erected little huts roofed with bark, and abode there for a time. Then Sturm repaired to his beloved master, and was required by Boniface, who prudently considered all sides of a question, and did not reckon only for the moment, to give an accurate account of the situation, the nature of the soil, and the springs. Boniface did not immediately tell Sturm his opinion, but made him rest awhile near him, and refreshed him by spiritual converse. Then he candidly told him that the chosen place was too much exposed to the ravages of the barbarous Saxons, and that they must seek some spot lying deeper in the wood. Long did Sturm and his companions search in vain; they could find no suitable place, corresponding to the wishes of their bishop. At length Sturm set out quite alone. Alone, he rode on an ass through the wildest regions, singing psalms as he went, and lifting up his heart to heaven with sighs, -- praying to God. He only rested when night came upon him. The earth was his couch. With a sword which he carried with him he cut down a quantity of wood from the trees, and built a fortification with it around his ass, to guard it from the wild beasts with which the forest abounded, whilst he himself, having called upon the Lord and signed the cross upon his brow in token that he resigned himself wholly to Him, lay peacefully down to sleep. Once a troop of wild Slavonians, who were bathing in the Fulda, met him, and naked as they were, presented a terrific spectacle, receiving him with a shout of derision. Their interpreter asked him whither he was going. He replied calmly, |Deeper into the wilderness;| and the hand of God guarded him. The Slavonians suffered him to go quietly onwards. At last he reached the goal of his difficult and dangerous journey, and found a place with which Boniface was quite satisfied. There, in the year 744, was erected the Abbey of Fulda, from which the clearing of the forest commenced, and in which the most eminent doctors of the German Church were afterwards trained. Charlemagne employed Sturm especially to preach the Gospel amongst the wild Saxons, who, often conquered, were as often rebelling against the Frankish domination, and the Church, which was forced on them with it, and hated by them on that account. But preachers of the Gospel, in the train of armies, could hardly find true access to the hearts of men. Sturm excited the rage of the heathen against himself, and the Abbey of Fulda was often the object of their devastations.

On the day before his death, Sturm assembled all his people together and said to them: |Ye know my endeavour, how until this day I have laboured and carefully provided for your welfare and peace, that this convent after my death may remain faithful to the will of Christ, and that ye may be able here to serve the Lord in love unfeigned. Persevere, then, all the days of your lives, in the course you have begun. Pray for me to the Highest, and forgive me, if I have done any evil amongst you, or wronged any man. I forgive you all from my heart, all your reproaches against me; also Lall who was ever against me.| He meant Lall, Archbishop of Mainz, who had been engaged in many hot conflicts with Abbot Sturm, and had not behaved towards him in the spirit of Christian love, although there may have been much right and wrong on both sides.

When, on the next day, the signs of approaching death began to show themselves in him, the monks begged him to be their intercessor with the Lord, to whom he was going. He replied: |Show yourselves worthy, and be such in your lives, that I may justly pray for you, and then I will do what you desire.|

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