Bro. Peter Dimond
St. Willibrord (A.D. 658-739) was known as the Apostle to the Frisians. He was a missionary to the area that would today be the Netherlands. He preached the Gospel to the pagan Frisians and Danes. Powerful quotes about baptism and the necessity of the Catholic faith are frequently found in the lives of Catholics from this period, especially missionaries, saints and popes.
In the passage below we find a description of St. Willibrord’s view about the eternal fate of pagans who die without the faith and water baptism. St. Willibrord’s life was written by Alcuin, an 8th century Catholic scholar.
After preaching the Gospel among the Danes, St. Willibrord recognized that they were “steeped in evil practices.” Consequently, he decided to bring 30 young pagans with him when he returned to the land of the Franks. Since the journey would be dangerous, he made sure to instruct the pagans in the faith and baptize them; for, as Alcuin makes clear, Willibrord knew that if they died without faith and baptism they would be lost.
ST. WILLIBRORD ON NO SALVATION WITHOUT FAITH AND BAPTISM
“The man of God tried also to propagate the Gospel teaching outside the boundaries of the Frankish kingdom. He had the boldness to present himself at the court of Radbod, at that time King of the Frisians and like his subjects, a pagan. Wherever he travelled he proclaimed the Word of God without fear; but though the Frisian king received the man of God in a kind and humble spirit, his heart was hardened against the Word of Life. So when the man of God saw that his efforts were of no avail he turned his missionary course towards the fierce tribes of the Danes. At that time, so we are told, the Danish ruler was Ongendus, a man more savage than any wild beast and harder than stone, who nevertheless, through divine intervention, received the herald of truth with every mark of honor. But when the latter [St. Willibrord] found that the people were steeped in evil practices, abandoned to idolatry and indifferent to any hope of a better life, he chose thirty boys from among them and hastily returned with them to the chosen people of the Franks. On the journey he instructed the youths in the faith and baptized them, so that if they perished from the long sea voyage or through the ambushes of the savage dwellers of those parts he should suffer no loss in their regard.” (The Life of St. Willibrord by Alcuin)
As this quote makes clear, Willibrord clearly believed they would be lost if they died unbaptized.
ST. WILLIBRORD JUDGING AND CONDEMNING PAGANISM
When St. Willibrord condemned the superstitions of the pagans, the king of the Danes was enraged.
“The king was roused to intense fury and had a mind to avenge on the priest of the living God the insults which had been offered to his deities. For three whole days he cast lots three times every day to find out who should die; but as the true God protected his own servants, the lots of death never fell upon Willibrord nor upon any of his company, except in the case of one of the party, who thus won the martyr’s crown. The holy man was then summoned before the king and severely upbraided for having violated the king’s sanctuary and offered insult to his god.”
St. Willibrord replied. His reply (cited below) constitutes a powerful articulation of the Catholic position on faith, baptism and judging. Take note of the language St. Willibrord uses and the certitude with which he delivers his message. The definitive judgment he makes (about a soul who doesn’t have or respond to the true faith) flows from his conviction in the truths of faith. However, his assertion would be anathema and foreign to all modern-day ‘baptism of desire’ supporters – adherents of the ‘You Can’t Judge’ Heresy.
“‘The object of your worship, O King, is not a god but a devil, and he holds you ensnared in rank falsehood in order that he may deliver your soul to eternal fire. For there is no God but one, who created heaven and earth, the seas and all that is in them; and those who worship Him in true faith will possess eternal life. As His servant I call upon you this day to renounce the empty and inveterate errors to which your forebears have given their assent and to believe in the one almighty God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Be baptized in the fountain of life and wash away all your sins, so that, forsaking all wickedness and unrighteousness, you may henceforth live as a new man in temperance, justice and holiness. If you do this you will enjoy everlasting glory with God and His saints; but if you spurn me, who set before you the way of life, be assured that with the devil whom you obey you will suffer unending punishment and the flames of hell.’ At this the king was astonished and replied: ‘It is clear to me that my threats leave you unmoved and that your words are as uncompromising as your deeds.’ But although he would not believe the preaching of the truth, he sent back Willibrord with all honor to Pippin, King of the Franks.” (The Life of St. Willibrord by Alcuin)
In St. Willibrord’s speech we notice the following things: 1) he declares (consistent with Catholic truth) that the gods of the heathens are devils (Psalm 95:5; 1 Cor. 10:20) – just imagine what he would think of alleged ‘popes’ esteeming the religion and worship of pagans and non-Christians; 2) he judges and declares with certainty that if the king does not embrace the faith he will be lost – he clearly did not adhere to the ‘You Can’t Judge’ Heresy, which is held by essentially all ‘baptism of desire’ supporters; and 3) he proclaims that the king will assuredly suffer eternal punishment if he is not baptized. This is the true Catholic faith, despite what a multitude of heretics and false traditionalists in our day hold and teach. This is the position taught by the Catholic Church in all her infallible pronouncements.
St. Willibrord, pray for us.