ST. LUDGER: UNTIRING WORKER of GOD
744 – 809
St. Ludger stands out as a model both for the religious and more for busy modern Christian living in today’s frenetic society. He worked for God with untiring zeal and passion all his life till the very last day of his life which happened to be Passion Sunday. After preaching the parish mass that morning at Coesfeld he hurried to Billerbeck to preach and say mass again in spite of the great pain he was already suffering. That evening of March 26, 809 God rewarded him with a peaceful death surrounded by his disciples and sister, the Abbess Gerburgie.
All his life his one most important priority was God. When reprimanded by emperor Charlemagne for not immediately coming when called he calmly said, “Because I believed that the service of God was to be preferred to yours or to that of any man. Such indeed was your will when you invested me with the office of a bishop and therefore I deemed it unseemly to interrupt the service of God, even at the command of your majesty.”
Born of wealthy and noble Frisian parents at Zullen near Utrecht, Netherlands Ludger even at the age of nine already knew what his career was to be: to be a servant of God. It was his meeting with St. Boniface, the great apostle of Germany that sealed his fate.
After studying in England three and a half years under the famous Alcuin who Ludger considered the most learned man and the greatest teacher of the age (and who became Ludger’s life long friend) he returned back to Utrecht.
He was then sent ironically as a missionary to eastern Friesland where St. Boniface was martyred. Here he made many converts and destroyed several pagan shrines. As Ludger was still only a deacon, he was sent to Cologne to be ordained to the priesthood in 777.
Returning back to Friesland Ludger worked incessantly and with great success to continue his work of converting pagans and bad Christians and founding churches.
Tragically all his hard work went up in smoke when the Saxons under Widukind invaded Friesland.
So Ludger left on a pilgrimage to Rome continuing on to visit the Benedictine monks at their great abbey in Monte Casino. It was here he spent three years studying their Rule for future use when he would be able to build his own monastery.
Returning back to Friesland in 785 since Charlemagne had defeated Windukind and reclaimed the land Ludger was introduced to the emperor. He formed such a high opinion of him that he gave him the spiritual charge of 5 provinces in Friesland and later on the province of Westphalia where he became known as “Apostle of Westphalia.”
Though hampered by poor health and lack of men to assist him Ludger with his usual zeal and eagerness went from one place to another teaching, preaching and baptizing. Because he was gentle, persuasive, had an attractive personality and knew the language all of his efforts met with great success. He even built a monastery in Warden which became one of the most important abbeys in Germany.
He made his headquarters at Mimigerneford where he also built a monastery which became his central monastery. The town’s name was later changed to Munster. Since it became necessary for the town to have a bishop because of the large number of its parishioners Ludger was consecrated the first bishop of Munster in 804.
But in spite of all his myriad activities Ludger never neglected his devotions. In fact he was most exacting not only with himself but with others in prayer and spiritual exercises.
Ludger is certainly a man worth imitating.
SOURCES of REFERENCE:
Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. I pp. 686 – 688;
The Book of Saints – p. 84;
A Calendar of Saint – p. 60; and others.